Since the 1980s, entrepreneurship has been spoken about in leadership circles in terms of a way to promote innovation and creativity within organisations.
Intrapreneurship is based on entrepreneurship principles, but practised within the boundaries of an enterprise. It gives employees the ability to experience entrepreneurship but with less risk and more resources to play with.
Like any good entrepreneur, the intrapreneur is a problem-solver who thinks outside the box.
Entrepreneurial thinking brings different viewpoints, solves problems and creates new solutions – imagine having a whole team of individuals like that. Competitive, confident, passionate and inspired – all working to solve the biggest problems for your brand.
This is the benefit that awaits the modern-day leader who invests in the future of talent with intrapreneurship top of mind.
And it is the future. More and more, companies are starting to the see the real value in nurturing the intrapreneur.
For example, Virgin and Apple encourage their workforce to spend a significant portion of their time working on new ideas, outside of their job scope. The results speak for themselves, with major business wins – from the iPhone, iPod and iCloud at Apple to numerous divisions launched by the Virgin Group – attributed to employees.
The speed of change occurring in workplaces due to technological advances and digital disruption means that companies that don’t embrace intrapreneurship will inevitably get left behind.
Leaders, it’s time to rethink the future of the workforce. Your team of intrapreneurs could bring new product ideas, revitalise your existing offerings and raise your bottom line. These empowered individuals will also be wholly invested in their work and be more satisfied with their job.
How can leaders leverage the competitive advantage of intrapreneurship? Here are three ways to promote intrapreneurship in your company:
- Redefine your workplace requirements. Think about what skills you need to future-proof your business and help nurture those skills in your staff. Hire people with the skillset of entrepreneurs, encourage risk-takers and give people the space to tackle big problems in a safe environment. Create a sandbox in your organisation for problem-solving creativity and you will see greater business results and increased motivation. Some of the main ways companies incentivise intrapreneurship is through idea fairs, internal hackathons, a well-managed sandbox fund and even just time set aside each week for discussion.
- Look to real-world entrepreneurship. Invite the entrepreneurial community into your space and look for real-world entrepreneurial mentors to work with your workforce. You don’t have to create intrapreneurs from scratch or find new ones – the potential already exists within your company.You merely have to cultivate it. Turn to the experts for guidance to help foster your intrapreneurship culture. However, even in the training process, it is important to remember that it is still not for everyone – employees need to come to this on their own for true commitment.
- Showing top-down commitment. It’s one thing to expect your team to step up and be innovative in their thinking but real effectiveness will come by leading through your own example. Be a leader who practises what they preach and inspire people by showing your own ability to think like an intrapreneur. Entrepreneurial leaders show confidence and a willingness to take action, strategic thinking and an ability to attract and inspire others. Top-down commitment is an essential driver of cultural transformation and will show employees it’s desirable to embrace their unique ways of thinking.
Ultimately, when organisations and C-level executives look at the future of skills and think about equipping their workforce, they should already be looking to intrapreneurship. The future of business lies in getting skills to help you stay competitive.
It may take a little working out but once you nail your workflow and culture with entrepreneurship in mind, your new team of intrapreneurs will help steer your company into a sustainable future.