Meet the Intrapreneurs. They already work for you. They have ideas and insights that will elevate the company’s impact and are prepared to take on and lead this challenge. They are the source of ideas that could rejuvenate your company, get you back on top of your game in difficult times and be the attractor for extraordinary talent to seek your company out. But, how do you find them, retain them and partner with them to make this happen?
Intrapreneurship has never been more timely or relevant. Markets, business models, ways of working and customers lives are shifting as we speak. This is creating amazing opportunities for those who are connected to their customers and are ready to respond.
This was the topic we wrestled with at last week’s FirstHuman Executive Roundtable, producing some excellent insights on a topic close to our heart. In every organisation we support, in every leadership programme we run, and in every team that we help cause breakthroughs, we create a space where individuals show up that have great ideas on how to make a real difference to their organisation. They have seen something new to be possible, be it something for customers, ways of working, or a new cause that would increase the company’s social impact, and they are ready to step up and make it happen. The distinction that captures this brilliantly is ‘Intrapreneur’.
So, how do we find our Intrapreneurs, retain them and partner with them to make this happen? How do we create a culture of Intrapreneurship? Learning from Styart Mills, an Intrapreneur and champion of this cause at Salesforce, we quickly saw that there is no formula for success in this area. Every company is unique and every success story is different. Here are some of my personal reflections and insights:
The very word “Intrapreneur” has power. Introducing this distinction and giving it recognition as something that the business values will empower the Intrapreneurs in your organisation. It will give language to what they are interested in and provide an opening for them to find people to listen to them – probably something they have been looking for quite some time.
The Intrapreneurs and their ideas need a space to show up in. This space can take many forms. It can be a dedicated person that holds the space through their role, it can be a forum/network dedicated to this cause, it can be a regular occasion in the business calendar or any other construct that gives the Intrapreneur a place to go with their idea and get it heard, challenged and supported.
Set a low hurdle for ideas to be offered and considered. Support Intrapreneurs with seemingly good ideas to conduct experiments that give clear and quick feedback and allow them to build their case for scaling up their idea. Consider that traditional ways of planning, executing and governing projects and initiatives might get challenged when the Intrapreneurs get into action. Experimentation, rapid learning and adjustment (or even termination) is the foundation for implementing ideas that shift businesses.
Leaders as Angel Investors
“Hard-code” the leadership of the organisation with Intrapreneurship through the most direct tool available – money. Imagine every leader in the organisation having a fixed budget for supporting new intrapreneurial ideas. It would turn them from critiquing gatekeepers into opportunity hunters.
Strengthen the Intrapreneur
Taking on legacy views and established ways of working demands not just a great idea, but also courage and resilience. Ideas that shift businesses inevitably impact a lot of people at all levels of the organisation and it often demands continuous, and even repetitive, effort to keep stakeholders aligned and maintain their support. If the idea is worth supporting, do not just lean back and ‘see if they can make it’. Support and elevate the Intrapreneur’s leadership impact through coaching, mentoring and other development.
Intrapreneurship has never been more timely or relevant. Markets, business models, ways of working and customers lives are shifting as we speak. This is creating amazing opportunities for those who are connected to their customers and are ready to respond. Often it is the people closest to the front line that spot shifts and opportunities, and amongst them there are Intrapreneurs waiting for a place to go with their ideas.