Companies of all shapes and sizes face similar challenges, namely attracting, keeping and engaging the most talented employees whilst making a profit. What if there was only one thing a company needed to do that could achieve all those things? Well, there is and it is the little known or discussed concept of Intrapreneurship. If you list a few companies that consistently make huge profits, regularly top the ‘best company to work for’ list and are known to easily attract the top talent, Google, Virgin, Facebook, Pepsi, John Lewis and 3M for example, chances are they are also at the forefront of embracing Intrapreneurs in to their company.
The word was first coined by Gifford and Elizabeth Pinchot in 1978 and is defined as the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working within a large organization. Intrapreneurship is known as the practice of a corporate management style that integrates risk-taking and innovation approaches, as well as the reward and motivational techniques that are more traditionally thought of as being the province of entrepreneurship.
If an employee comes up with an idea that could radically change the fortunes of their company simply by doing things another way or coming up with a new product or service idea that has great potential, they have two choices; they are given time, space and a budget within their existing company to develop their idea, or they go it alone and start their own company and turn into a competitor. On the face of it, the first option would seem the obvious choice for an employer, the second for an employee but it isn’t that straightforward.
Many organizations understandably fear failure and don’t want to try new things and many individuals with innovative ideas fail to get them to market either through lack of funding or experience. Innovation can’t happen without doing things differently, taking risks, and above all else, failing and learning from it. So, collaboration between an employee with a great idea and a company with a creative vision can often bring about innovation that results in greater profits and industry prestige. It is therefore vitally important not only to make room for Intrapreneurs in an organization but also to provide incentives for them to stay.
Google is well known for its innovative approach and they set up a formal process for encouraging internal entrepreneurship, implementing ‘Innovation Time Off’ to encourage creativity among its employees and support continuous innovation. About 20% of an employee’s time is spent on company-related work that is of personal interest. Almost half of Google’s new-product launches, including Gmail, Google Earth and Google Glass, are said to have originated from the Innovation Time Off programme.
At LinkedIn, employees can pitch an idea to the executive team and if their idea is approved, they are able to spend up to three months dedicated to turning the idea into reality. At Facebook, they have ‘hackathons’ where they encourage teams to collaborate on projects. The “Like button”, one of the most important innovations in the company’s history, was the product of a hackathon. And it isn’t just tech companies that embrace Intrapreneurs, John Lewis has invested in the ‘JLab’, which will give start-ups office space and advice, with the overall aim of rolling out the project across its 40 stores.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found UK growth could be boosted if large firms adopted the entrepreneurial spirit of start-ups, but also discovered that only 12 per cent of employers are doing anything about nurturing it. For many large, long-established companies, becoming more entrepreneurial in outlook requires a sea change in attitude and structure but mayprove to be the only way to survive in the modern economy.
According to EY, there are five key points to look out for:
There are clear advantages to creating an entrepreneurial culture in any organisation:
In today’s ‘adapt or die’ corporate world, an organization has to be able to adapt and adjust their future plans on an almost continual basis. Innovative and successful organizations have a fluid, agile attitude, and accept that there may be several “right” ways to innovate. But, with great employee communication and change managers in place, Intrapreneurs can open up new ways of thinking that can lead to greater innovation and commercial success.
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