Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.
Related: What is corporate venturing?
What is intrapreneurship?
Entrepreneurs tend to start out as lone wolves—they come up with some zany idea on a walk or in a garage or on the treadmill or skydiving or whatever. But then—very rapidly, and if they are good—these entrepreneurs become part of a pack. They somehow enlist enough people in that vision to make the dream become a reality. Great entrepreneurs bring out the best in themselves and their team.
When you empower people to think and act entrepreneurially within your business or organisation, it is called “intrapreneurship.” Intrapreneurship is all about encouraging employees to think, dream, act, and create as though they were entrepreneurs themselves. It might be an employee who comes up with a very good idea or a staffer in a social enterprise who sees a powerful new way to move the cause forward. Either way, it’s internal entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship.
How do you do that, how do you get people to act intrapreneurially? It requires doing many things right, including:
- Giving incentives
- Creating an entrepreneurial culture
- Rewarding, and not penalising, risk-taking
“An intrapreneur is an employee who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services and systems, who does not have to follow the company’s usual routines or protocols.” -Sir Richard Branson in Entrepreneur magazine
That last point is critical. You cannot create a culture of intrapreneurship if employees are not expected to innovate, are not motivated to innovate, and are not rewarded for innovating. To have a thriving culture of intrapreneurship, a business must not only invite innovation, but it must also reward risk-taking as well.
Why should your business be thinking about intrapreneurship?
Many forward-thinking corporations now are welcoming and encouraging their employees to make innovative and thoughtful entrepreneurial contributions. Gifford Pinchot, who first made the term intrapreneurship popular in his 1985 book, Intrapreneuring, wrote, “Look back at any great business or invention at just about any big company, and you can find that intrapreneurs created it.” This statement sums up why any company looking to effectively prosper and advance in today’s business climate should be thinking about providing the time, resources, culture, and encouragement that fosters intrapreneurship.
Creating an intrapreneurial culture
When companies set up an intrapreneurial environment, an environment that encourages risk-taking and innovation, they benefit in very tangible ways. For starters, they will likely see a rise in the reliability, happiness, diligence, and productivity of their employees. Employees become more enthusiastic in general when they are able to work on projects that are:
- Personally fulfilling
- Financially rewarding
- Capable of making a difference
This enthusiasm will carry over to their work in general. Corporations have also found that encouraging intrapreneurship is an effective tactic when it comes to attracting and keeping the best talent. When employees can act creatively, explore their ideas, and have a chance to succeed and prosper with these concepts, they experience higher levels of job satisfaction. Ultimately, intrapreneurship then increases employee retention rates, boosts productivity, and fosters an exceptional culture. Here are ten more ways you can create and support intrapreneurship in your business.
1. Look for it
“Building an intrapreneurial culture isn’t about ‘creating’ intrapreneurs; invariably they already exist within the organisation, and they just need to be discovered, nurtured, and loved.”
2. Be inclusive
“An intrapreneurial culture builds value across the workforce, which is predicated upon giving people a voice in their own work.”
3. Give people ownership
“To create an intrapreneurial culture, people must be empowered to make decisions—empowered to have ownership. In this respect, employees need to be encouraged to create solutions independently of the chain of command.”
4. Make risk-taking okay
“As intrapreneurs make decisions, they must be willing to take intelligent risks and, although fully prepared to be held accountable, not fear persecution or ridicule if they fail.”
5. Include all employees
“DreamWorks, a famously inclusive and intrapreneurial business, encourages creativity from all its employees, even support staff such as accountants and lawyers. According to Dan Satterthwaite, Head of Human Resources, they actively solicit ideas and regularly receive hundreds from staff across the business.”
6. Offer room to play around
“A method for promoting intrapreneurship is to give individuals allocated time away from their ‘day jobs’ in order to encourage their creative processes.”
7. Celebrate and reward intrapreneurial behaviour
“Celebrate intrapreneurial successes and the people behind them—whether individuals or teams. Recognition and reward will act as significant affirmations for the intrapreneur and provide them with reasons to stay, continue to add value, and grow their contributions in the future.”
8. Encourage collaboration
“A great misconception of intrapreneurship is that it is an individual sport. For any intrapreneurial venture to succeed, collaboration is required.”
9. Get to “yes” quickly
“By shortening or circumventing the [process of getting to yes], companies can be more reactive to opportunities; drive innovation by activating a constant stream of, and create a broad intrapreneurial culture leading to more engaged and empowered employees.”
10. Create and allocate a funding pot for intrapreneurial initiatives
“One of the biggest hurdles for intrapreneurial ventures is the inability to secure the necessary resources, at the right time, in order to move the project forward. By carving out a funding pool specifically to be used to seed intrapreneurs, companies can enable greater traction for new ideas and thus increase the likelihood of creating new, sustainable business streams.”
It is rare for companies to be able to hang onto their best talent. Yet, organisations (and not just businesses) that foster intrapreneurship have a distinct advantage. By encouraging staff to be innovative within the workplace, by giving them the tools, resources, and recognition that makes playing in this arena worthwhile, innovative, intrapreneurial organisations reap numerous benefits, including, and especially, a highly engaged workforce, and better products and services to sell.
Intrapreneurship is a powerful way to tap into, and get the best out of, your staff and your business. With it, you not only create a highly engaged workforce, but you will help foster the best in your business and create some incredible products and services as a result. That is the power of intrapreneurship
Related: What is entrepreneurship?