Fernando Fischmann

Fostering Intrapreneurship And Innovation

3 March, 2015 / Articles
fernando fischmann

According to a recent report sponsored by Babson College, via Forbes, approximately “14% of the U.S. population was involved in starting or running businesses in 2014, up from a post-recession low of 7.6 in 2010.” Even more interesting, however, is the fact that in both the U.S. and Europe there was also growth in “intrapreneurship.”

Intrapreneurship, or essentially being an entrepreneur within an organization, may sound like it would be frowned upon by managers. This isn’t exactly the case, however. According to a 2013 study by Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm, and American Express, it was found that “58% of managers are either very willing or extremely willing in supporting” entrepreneurial ambitions.

If you’re looking to foster intrapreneurship and innovation within your organization, here are a couple of tips to get you started.

The Importance of the Leadership Role

According to Gib Bulloch, Founder and Managing Director, Accenture Development Partnerships, the role of leadership is vital. In fact, he states on The Huffington Post that during “the early stages of an innovation program, leadership must provide the air cover required to protect bottom-up ideas.

As the best ideas mature, they must be promoted within the organization and embraced from the top down.”

Andre Lavoie, CEO and Co-Founder of ClearCompany, echoes that sentiment by stating on Entrepreneur.com that there should be authoritative lines that are not forceful, but mutual and respectful. He adds that, “Eager intrapreneurs are much more likely to follow authority when they view them as a positive contributor — not roadblock — to achieving something great.”

Robyn Forman, VP at Searchmetrics notes “intrapreneurs learn leadership from their close acquaintances and bosses. If you find an intrapreneur in your company, pair them up with a leader to help grow them into the leader they need to be. Have that leader grow the relationship. All intrapreneurs learn by example. Make sure that example is amazing.”

Jennifer Prosek, founder and CEO of CJP Communications and author of Army of Entrepreneurs: Create an Engaged and Empowered Workforce for Exceptional Business Growth, informed Business Insider that, “Culture isn’t optional. To truly build an Army of Entrepreneurs, we try to maintain the right practices and outlook. The four elements of a core culture include authenticity, commitment to people, commitment to the business, and continuous effort.”

Brooke Paul, founder of Founders Factory and Taivara adds that this “is a long-term investment in developing a process, culture, and workforce that embraces change, doesn’t fear risk, and is constantly learning.”

This can be achieved by giving team members creative tasks that they are passionate about, as well as encouraging them to share their innovative ideas. No matter how disruptive these innovative ideas will be, “to foster intrapreneurship into a sustainable innovation program, senior managers need to actively support the effort.”

Also, don’t forget about the so-called troublemakers. As Bulloch notes, social intrapreneurs “march to a different drum beat and their passions fuel both their personal and work lives.” By “having a culture that both nurtures the change maker’s innovative spirit but also harnesses the troublemaker’s enthusiasm and energy to break molds and achieve where others have come up short will return significant rewards.”

Encourage Transparency

As Andre Lavoie mentions on Entrepreneur, “An intrapreneur may not be open to sharing their ideas in environments that don’t recognize those responsible for the ideas. This can unintentionally lead to a less inspired environment.” If you want to prevent this from happening, then make sure that you “encourage transparency at all stages of innovation.”

Remember, as Cyndi Laurin and her co-author in The Rudolph Factor: Finding the Bright Lights That Drive Innovation in Your Business stated on Business Insider, there are no deals being made behind closed doors. Make sure that you give people the credit and respect that they deserve. For example, when they have a remarkable idea, don’t’ hesitate to give them props.

Finally, make sure that you also clearly define “the mission and vision the executive staff has created and are engaged in its success.”

Offer Incentives

Remember, “One size does not fit all when it comes to motivational tactics and reward structures.” As Paul mentions, you can offer “monetary elements such as performance bonuses and cash compensation for good ideas. However, don’t limit your incentive options simply to monetary ones,” you can also reward them with “the opportunity to run with a successful innovation, public recognition for a job well done, extra time off, face-to-face opportunities with members of the senior management team, or access to accelerated career path opportunities.”

However, Laurin and her co-author suggest that you should build a “reward structure that encourages all employees to contribute to the success of the overall organization.”

Celebrate Success, Prepare for Failure

There are plenty of things to celebrate within a culture of innovation. However, not every idea will become a successful product. Failure is just a part of the game. That doesn’t that you can’t celebrate those failures. As Lavoie states, “failures by an intrapreneur may be celebrated, but with an intention for everyone to learn and grow from them. Sit down and commend anyone who played a role in the idea and then discuss how it can be improved upon.”

By giving team members a positive response, you’re rewarding them for taking a calculated risk, which in turn can lead to them taking more risks in the future from the lessons that they learned.

As Bill Gates once said, “It is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”



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