Everyone loves to drop buzzwords like “innovation,” but how many truly understand what that means or how to put it into practice? The crop that does is growing, thanks to The Cable Center’s Intrapreneurship Academy.

The program wrapped its pilot in November before the Center gave the greenlight to a full rollout this year, graduating a spring class and preparing to launch a fall session in August. The idea for the Academy was first discussed when Cable Center pres/CEO Jana Henthorn was pondering how to continue the Center’s legacy work, such as its Cable Hall of Fame and oral histories. At the same time, millennials in the industry were finding that while they thought cable was incredibly innovative and forward-thinking, their peers on the outside shared a much different view, calling it old-fashioned.

The younger generation’s desire to learn how to be entrepreneurial in a large company led to the idea of fostering intrapreneurship. “It helps rising stars be able to get their ideas across and feel like they have a say in what’s going on in the corporation,” Henthorn said, something that the Cable Center found is increasingly important to millennials nowadays. She also noted that giving young people this voice could lead to the Academy becoming a retention tool when many industries, not just cable, are struggling to hold on to their younger staff.

When it came down to the nuts and bolts of the Intrapreneurship Academy’s creation, she found inspiration in another top-notch industry training ground. “My model for this is [ WICT’s ] Betsy Magness Leadership Institute,” Henthorn said, who attended the Institute herself. “We want this Intrapreneurship Academy to be the gold standard for the industry and to still be growing and sought after in 24 years.” Next year, Betsy Magness will celebrate its 25th year of preparing senior level women for leadership responsibilities. The Academy appeals to a more junior audience.

Henthorn worked together with Robyn Bolton, dean of the Intrapreneurship Academy, to bring the program to life. Bolton, essentially the designer of the Academy, brought the curriculum together about a year ago. She’s now updating it, revising it and focusing on incorporating feedback from the pilot’s alumni. A key area of focus for her right now is in bolstering the bond between the intrapreneurs and their company sponsors.

“As much as I try to be there for the students and provide coaching, there’s no substitute for each intrapreneur having a sponsor within their organization,” Bolton said. The sponsor role was encouraged during the pilot program, but the role was certainly not official or formal. Feedback from the pilot class showed a need for greater sponsor guidance and incorporation into the process. Now, when the intrapreneurs are sent their lessons, their sponsors also receive them, allowing them to better guide the intrapreneurs while making the lesson relevant within each company. “That sponsor helps the participant open doors so their ideas can be heard, otherwise known as good old-fashioned mentoring,” Henthorn said. So what’s next for the program? Expansion.

While its focus right now is on the rising stars in the industry, The Cable Center would love to develop programs for alumni as well as those in more executive roles. Henthorn even mentioned the possibility of creating company-specific programs in the future, breaking down silos and departmental divides. Applications for the fall session were due Friday, July 6.

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