3 Ways to Support Intrapreneurship
A culture of innovation spurs entrepreneurship and inspires intrapreneurship.
Our businesses can and should encourage intrapreneurship to better cannibalize ourselves. Our communities can and should promote an entrepreneurial ecosystem to better push intrapreneurs to innovate.
An innovative culture should not be limited to people willing to quit their job, take a leap, and start their own project. It should also welcome and encourage innovation from the inside out.
Meet the Intrapreneur
The majority of people in our communities are not entrepreneurs. They are not ready or able to start their own business or project. They might be perfectly happy in their career and even happier to have a steady paycheck and health benefits.
This profile does not disqualify them from being entrepreneurial. On the contrary, these people can be equally innovative. In fact, their potential power can be even greater than an entrepreneur because they create from inside an existing structure.
Meet the intrapreneur.
The intrapreneur might work in government, business, or education. Whatever the case, they are not satisfied with the way things are. They are looking for a better way of doing their job (and might even want to get get noticed by Obama).
The urges to improve and experiment are key traits of an intrapreneur. Too often, however, intrapreneurs are stifled. Their ideas may be rejected, ignored, or — worst of all — never even shared because of a culture that does not welcome innovation.
Inspire Intrapreneurs with an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem in a community is not just for entrepreneurs. An innovative culture in a community has the secondary benefit of encouraging intrapreneurship.
When your community attends entrepreneurial events, rubs shoulders with creators in their new shops, and (gasp!) sees hope in millennials, those people are more likely to want to share their ideas within their own companies or organizations.
Businesses are thus a second center of innovation. Even if the ecosystem around a business is innovative, it is up to the business to encourage intrapreneurship.
3 Ways to Support Intrapreneurship
Businesses can encourage intrapreneurship by supporting the external entrepreneurial environment, building the internal intrapreneurial environment, and rewarding the intrapreneur.
1. Support the External Entrepreneurial Environment
Financing the ecosystem is the easiest way for a business to help. Sponsoring, donating, and purchasing work from entrepreneurs all help sustain startups and offer confidence to those just starting a new project, event, or business.
Attending events and visiting new businesses are small gestures that have a large impact. Validation, especially from established businesses, is fuel for the entrepreneur, encouraging them to soldier on — and strengthening the culture in the process.
Celebrating the local ecosystem is another way businesses can help grow a culture of innovation. Showcasing entrepreneurs, thanking them for their work, and taking time to mentor or talk with them are all ways established businesses can celebrate entrepreneurs in their communities.
2. Build the Internal Intrapreneur Environment
Internally, businesses can encourage intrapreneurship among their staff.
Cross-pollinating is an organic approach to building intrapreneurship. Simply having employees from different departments working together sparks new conversation and uncovers ways to improve the overall organization.
Prioritizing innovation explicitly promotes intrapreneurship. As Lemonly shows, having time set aside for the entire company to think innovatively has dramatic results. Not only will the time set aside for innovation create something new, it will also encourage staff to think outside the box and bring new ideas to their daily tasks.
Assigning intrapreneurship guarantees that it is considered in a more structured approach. At 9 Clouds, we regularly ask a specific person to look at how we do a task (such as reporting, marketing, or entering time). That person can come back and suggest ways to improve our methodology or simply tell us that everything is working well. Both conclusions are helpful.
Intuit, P&G, Google, and others give a “Failure Award” for an unsuccessful project that offered the best learning for the team. Businesses should ask their employees to push the envelope — and reward them for doing so, whatever the outcome.
3. Reward the Intrapreneur
Businesses can reward an action, but they should also provide the resources needed to train intrapreneurs.
Funding education and attending entrepreneurial events are great ways to spark new thoughts. Many ideas and best practices from other workplaces or industries can be borrowed to great success. If intrapreneurs are on the lookout for ideas and given the opportunity to see how others work, they will bring new ideas home to their companies.
Providing malleable job descriptions opens opportunities for intrapreneurship. When employees bring new ideas or tasks that will help the company, management should consider giving them the opportunity to expand their responsibilities. Even if an employee doesn’t take advantage of this potential freedom, knowing that they can grow their position based on what they know and what the company needs will keep them searching for intrapreneurial opportunities.
Offering financial reward is always a good motivator. It might take the form of a failure award or a more explicit reward-sharing program, in which employees receive part of the benefit of their ideas.
Complete the Ecosystem
Provide resources for your employees to be intrapreneurial, and your business will benefit. Support the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and your community will see more entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.
When your employees and residents see that innovation is possible, thought processes change. Every job suddenly has the potential be a source of innovation.
Entrepreneurs get the attention, but intrapreneurs have the unique opportunity to change a business and community from the inside out.
Large entities, such as governments, corporations, and educational institutes, often feel too established to be centers of innovation. With an encouraging environment, however, these massive organizations can adopt the lessons, vision, and energy shared by entrepreneurs.
You don’t have to quit your job to be innovative. Just be an intrapreneur.
Interested in being intrapreneurial? Join us at 9 Clouds. We’re hiring.