Chief Internal Ambassador: The Bridge Builder For Your Company’s Future

Added on by Alexander Osterwalder.

One of the only advantages a large company enjoys over startups is access to resources--brand, sales, technology, etc. Yet those who are responsible for innovation inside of a company may not have access or trust to leverage those resources, and are stuck building future ventures in chains. In this post, I'll outline how a new role can transform the relationship between the execution and innovation engines inside of a company, and help innovators get access to those resources. 

Imagine you are tasked with building a new venture inside a large company, and you are labelled as something rebellious like a pirate. You are treated differently. You have to build your venture in chains, and constantly have the established company shoot you down, take your budget, and make your life difficult. That sucks. But what if there was a role that could build positive relationships between the execution and innovation engines?

In my org chart for the future, I pointed out a role that I believe can help build a positive bridge between the execution engine and the innovation engine of the company. In my post, I called this person the Chief Internal Ambassador (CIA).

Chief_Entrepreneur_Org_Chart

So who exactly is the CIA? What skills are required to do this job well? Similar to my Chief Entrepreneur post on HBR, I’ve started the framework for a job description that Fortune 50 companies can use to find their own CIA:

Are you a Chief Internal Ambassador?

Fortune 50 company seeks a Chief Internal Ambassador (CIA) to negotiate resources and build relationships between the existing business and its innovation counterpart. The CIA is the internal diplomat and lobbyist responsible for representing the Chief Entrepreneur within the company.

As CIA, you will negotiate access to brand, existing customers, and even sales resources when needed. The candidate will build trust with every department in the company, and ensure that the innovation engine will leverage internal resources in a positive way.

Background

Ideally, the right candidate for this role is someone already inside the organization. Here’s why:

  • Your tenure at the organization has given you the ability to see what’s going on in several parts of the company.
     
  • You are already in a management capacity, but not an operational one. Your job is purely about making connections, and putting those connections to use for the Chief Entrepreneur and this team.

Characteristics

Do you match any of these characteristics?

  • Effective Communicator: This is the biggest trait the candidate exhibits. You are able to create great relationships with people throughout the company by listening and understanding everybody. How you communicate what you’ve learned will be important to the negotiating process that you will lead. For example, an internal sales team may be fearful of sharing their contacts or selling something they aren’t familiar with. It’s your job to quell those fears and find harmony in the relationship. 
     
  • Political StrengthYou understand the art of negotiating. This isn’t politics that can harm internal teams, it’s politics that will further the interest of the entrepreneurs in the innovation engine of the company. You’re not playing dirty, you’re playing fair.
     
  • Perseverance: You never give up and push through to negotiate and hammer out a deal even in the most frustrating of situations.
     
  • CuriosityYou have the curiosity to understand what’s going on how new things can be done

Tasks

Here’s what a regular day looks like for the CIA:

  • Internal Bridge Builder. Your job is to understand what’s going in the company, and that will mean attending a lot of meetings. There will be meetings for building goodwill, and there will be meetings where you use that goodwill to negotiate access for intrapreneurs. You’ll have to build positive bridges with everyone in the company, but also be a professional negotiator.

  • Research what’s going on where. You must have a really good idea of the innovation portfolio, but also understand how the world is evolving. You are intimate with how the execution engine works, but also close to the Chief VC and Chief Portfolio manager. Disruptive tech will be on your radar and you will ask internally: Are we doing anything in this space? Do we have any patents in this space? Is there something we can bring in from the outside?

  • Work at every level of the company. You are the go-to person for anyone that wants to know what’s happening in the company. Your ongoing bridge building will be integral to developing positive relationships with the heads of every part of the business--even the most obscure of departments.

I pointed out earlier that the role of the CIA will be a very difficult job. More importantly, as  a representative of the Chief Entrepreneur, the CIA must also be endorsed by the CEO in order to be taken seriously within the organization. Without this backing, the CIA will be seen as a toothless role inside of the company.

These are some first thoughts on what I believe to be an integral role for both sides of a company. 

What else would you add to this description of the Chief Internal Ambassador?