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Innovation is the name of the game when it comes to standing out. While you may have heard this before, it isn’t just another trite piece of advice. If you don’t want your company to become stagnant and obsolete, you need to start paying more attention to innovation and how you foster it. The data proves it too.
A 2023 study found that organizations that prioritize innovation grow at rates 16% higher than those that don’t. Leaders are realising this. Nearly 80% of companies polled by BCG in a 2023 report ranked innovation among their top three business priorities, with 66% planning to further increase spending on it.
But what does this have to do with intrapreneurship–what even is that? It’s when those inside an organization take the initiative to make it evolve. Both intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship stem from a well of self-initiative, creativity, problem-solving, and energetic work ethic – all in quest of innovation.
Where entrepreneurship is often a product of individual drives, intrapreneurship needs to be fostered and encouraged–that means your organization’s practices and policies can create intrapreneurs. Intrapreneurship promotes both leadership and learning & development, which are recognized as the top drivers of employee engagement across industries.
Interested in finding out how? Read on for a deep dive into fostering innovation in organizations using intrapreneurship.
The anatomy of intrapreneurship
Intrapreneurship is not a one-size-fits-all concept. As we’ve said, it requires careful planning and nurturing. Employees must feel safe to voice their ideas and experiment without fear. Practices and policies must encourage open communication, collaboration, and a free flow of ideas.
The truth is that not every employee will have the same level of intrapreneurial spirit. And that’s okay. What you need to do is identify those with a natural inclination for innovation. Look for traits such as curiosity, ambition, initiative, and a willingness to challenge the status quo. Here’s Deloitte’s stance on the subject:
“It’s not about creating intrapreneurs, it’s about finding and recognizing them”
Following through on their words, they created a £25 million fund for their employees to access and fulfill their business ideas.
Providing the right tools, resources, and autonomy to bring the ideas of intrapreneurs to life can include innovation labs, budgets for experimentation, the freedom to make decisions independently, mentorship, cross-functional teams, and access to subject matter experts.
Finally, you should recognize employees who make these efforts. Think beyond financial incentives, along the lines of public recognition, promotions, and career growth opportunities.
Intrapreneurship success stories
Let’s look at some real-world intrapreneurship success stories.
Google is famous for its ‘20% Time’ policy, which allows employees to spend 20% of their work hours on projects of their choosing. Among the many Google employees who enthusiastically engaged with this initiative, Paul Buchheit stands out.
Over the course of 4 years, he spent his ‘20% Time’ on creating Gmail, which is now the world’s most popular email platform. Other Google products that have resulted from this initiative include Google Maps.
Another similar success was the iconic ‘Post-It’ note, the brainchild of 3M scientist Spencer Silver, who was trying to create a strong adhesive but ended up with a weak one. Another 3M employee, Art Fry, recognized the potential of this weak adhesive in creating bookmarks and notes.
This is a great example of why collaboration and an open flow of ideas are so important. If Spencer didn’t feel empowered to share what he had worked on, despite it failing, Art Fry wouldn’t have been able to add his contribution. Today, this innovation is a ubiquitous office staple.
Challenges of intrapreneurship
Intrapreneurship, like any worthwhile pursuit, is not without its challenges.
You need to consider the fact that intrapreneurial projects may require significant resources, which can strain budgets. Just like entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs take risks. By definition, risks don’t always pay off. Therefore, these budgets can end up going down the drain. Companies need a risk management strategy to mitigate the downsides.
A secondary consideration involves the ramifications of the culture of intrapreneurship, which will naturally lead to clashes of perspectives, ideas, and methods. That’s why true intrapreneurship needs to run deeper and sustain a culture over the long term.
Intrapreneurship & Innovation
When Gifford Pinchot III coined the term ‘intrapreneur’ in 1978, little did he imagine there would be entire organizations dedicated to supporting intrapreneurial efforts in businesses.
One such organization is Planview IdeaPlace, a platform for businesses to create customizable idea portals where stakeholders can submit their ideas and feedback. This platform is used by 6 million employees across 500 companies. Similarly, you’ll find many other tools to help you create a valuable culture of intrapreneurship at your workplace.
Innovation is your best weapon to adapt to changing markets, meet customer demands, and outpace competitors. So pay attention to it. At the same time, innovation via intrapreneurship also helps the growth of your employees.
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