In this blog we’ve examined the importance of business innovation on the common assumption that digital transformation is a fundamental to a company’s survival.
Taking an innovative idea and actually putting it into practice requires, among other things, new roles and leaderships, the articulation of a true digital culture and the implementation of new ways of working. But beyond the basics, any kind of innovation is the result of an intrapreneurial figure taking the bull by the horns and actually making change happen within a company.
In this post, we offer 5 key ways of promoting a spirit of intrapreneurship in any organization.
This post is also available in Spanish.
Some companies invest their innovative muscle in Research & Development (R&D) while others look to corporate accelerators and financial startups operating in the same field of activity. There is a third way of innovating within a company, which is by fostering intrapreneurship: exploiting the creativity, specialist knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit of a company’s existing employees.
While these options are not mutually exclusive, intrapreneurship clearly offers great transformative potential. However, capturing the ideas laid down by free thinkers and running with them can be a very complicated process.
What are the five keys to promoting intrapreneurship in a company?
1. Facilitate and promote active listening
Although it may seem obvious, intrapreneurship tends to develop in a climate of exchange in which employees are invited to share ideas on anything, from improving existing processes to developing new products and services. But the key here is active listening: attentiveness on the part of management in particular requires the establishing of transparent and inclusive spaces for the sharing of ideas, empowering budding intrapreneurs by making them responsible for the execution of their own initiative, and giving those interested the opportunity to get involved in projects that arise. Without such opportunities, organizations would lack an enabling environment in which employees feel encouraged to go beyond their assigned duties.
2. Actively involve senior management
As with other corporate processes, intrapreneurship can quickly reach a dead end if senior management is not involved in its development and deployment. Acceptance and support from above is essential to motivate and encourage employee participation. If such ratification is sorely lacking, workers will not feel they are entitled (or perceived well) if they spend their work hours developing new ideas that go beyond their job role. Support from executives must also go beyond just “helping out” during the early stage of a project’s realization. The most successful intrapreneurial endeavors are ones in which employees get direct advice and mentorship from an organization’s key decision-maker throughout.
3. Define a structure for the intrapreneurship process
Intrapreneurial initiatives that lack clear game rules are often doomed to failure. All calls for proposals should feature an initial brainstorming stage (for this, companies have various software solutions at their disposal to carry it out efficiently); a second selection stage that should ideally be twofold - firstly a popular vote and secondly with feedback from senior management; then a third and final stage, which should be the project’s execution. During this end stage, companies must be willing to allow those who proposed the winning idea to develop it during work hours without being penalized for any dip in productivity regarding their daily tasks.
When a worker is given time and space to develop innovative ideas for the company’s benefit, knowing that senior management is paying attention and willing to let those ideas be executed, all the elements are in place for the emergence of a strong intrapreneurial spirit within an organization. That said, it is still necessary to create an incentive system to ensure that the said projects reach fruition. Intrapreneurial incentives may include public recognition, promotions or bonuses.
5. Anticipate and accept failure
Finally, it is very likely that many intrapreneurial projects will not dramatically accelerate productivity, win greater market share or create groundbreaking products or services, although they probably will lead a company into incurring development costs. However, it is of the utmost importance not to blame or punish the promoters of failed ideas. By not stigmatizing any individuals, you can avoid discouraging the rest of the intrapreneurs within your business who might not otherwise share their innovations for fear of ridicule or even dismissal.
In short, intrapreneurship can be a real win-win situation for companies and workers if handled with care. It is a winning force that can motivate employees, make companies more efficient in identifying where their best opportunities lie and give them huge clues on how to develop new disruptive products and services.
Since the path to establishing a spirit of intrapreneurship is not likely to run smoothly, organizations should avoid forcing their workers to come up with ideas. Instead, they should focus on providing opportunities for free-thinking with the support of senior management; implementing systems that encourage innovation from within the company; and providing symbolic as well as tangible incentives and positive reinforcement when ideas don’t work out. Such innovation is a powerful resource, and when enabled across an organization can effectively be a catalyst to growth.
This post is also available in Spanish.
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