Companies do a lot of effort to find sources of ideas, they hire different consultancies and specialists in search of inspiration and results for their ambitions. However, the number of leaders who see, in their network of employees, a machine of ideas that every organization aspires to have is still small. Exploring the innovation potential of employees themselves, at all corporate levels, is a practical and efficient way to achieve your goals. Let’s talk a bit more about this.
What is intrapreneurship?
Intrapreneurship is a relatively new concept that focuses on employees who present the qualities of entrepreneurs, whether they are creating new businesses or transforming internal processes. Using one’s internal strength for business progress is a practical and sensible way to foster corporate innovation, but this type of initiative imposes some challenges for leaders that should not be ignored. Here are the ones that we find most relevant.
Thinking about intrapreneurship as an isolated event.
Intrapreneurship aims to help companies innovate by using their own workforce. However, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding what innovation is and what it means for each company.
First of all, it is important to remember that innovation and creativity are not the same thing. Creativity is an integral part of the innovation process, but it is not what makes it happen. If the idea of a creative process is not carefully planned and put into practice, it will never translate into a business or any relevant improvement for stakeholders.
In order to apply innovation in companies, it is essential that the first step to be taken is determining what it represents for the business. Have a clear vision of where you want to innovate and why it is of the utmost importance for the results of intrapreneurship to be what is expected and, in fact, benefit the company.
Once that point is determined, the next step is ‘how’ and this is where intrapreneurship comes in. In many companies, intrapreneurship is put into practice through hackathons, boot camps and idea jams. However, when proposing this type of initiative, it is crucial to keep in mind that intrapreneurship (as well as innovation itself) is not an isolated event.
In order for intrapreneurship to bear results in the long term and be an effective tool for corporate innovation, it is necessary to foster a culture of intrapreneurship; A permanent mechanism for the creation and development of ideas, based on innovative thinking – which must also be fostered through a process that is planned and applied at all corporate levels.
We need to look at innovation as an ecosystem: it is not only about launching new products, but rather building an innovation machine that will last.
Not having a strategy (and structure) to implement intrapreneurship.
Any initiative requires a minimum of planning to be successful. It would not be different for intrapreneurship. Simply communicating to employees that they are now allowed to propose new businesses and initiatives, without any plans or devices, may sound like innovation theater. The establishment of a strategy and a structure that favors the development of intrapreneurship guarantees the desired results are achieved.
First of all, the workforce must be trained so that the ideas arising from the intrapreneurship process are created and developed according to the company’s objectives; They should be aligned with the strategic planning established by the board. This is intrapreneurship with a purpose.
For this to happen, employees (of all levels) must be educated about entrepreneurship: expectations must be aligned, tools must be made available, and intrapreneurship must be institutionalized. It should be part of the business routine. The selected proposals should be embraced by the leadership as a way of recognizing the work, facilitating its adoption by the rest of the company in an organic way.
In order for the proposed initiatives to fit the strategic planning of the company, it is recommended to set up a framework for creating, developing and applying the ideas so that they meet the company’s objectives while granting the employee freedom of creation and movement. In intrapreneurship, the framework is not a set of rules to follow, it is a set of guidelines to be considered and possibly adapted during the process.
Do not give up control over the process.
One of the greatest challenges to be overcome by companies that wish to make intrapreneurship a tool for innovation is learning how to give autonomy to intrapreneurs.
The culture that fosters intrapreneurship opposes the traditional mechanisms found in large companies, whose leaders are keen to control everything that is being developed. Excessive appreciation for control generates a culture of reports, meetings, rules, and other bureaucracies, processes, and policies that affect the disruptive potential of the project by imposing obstacles to creativity and agility.
The intrapreneur must feel that he/she is being guided and not being controlled, otherwise it may become a hindrance to employee engagement in the various challenges that arise along the tortuous path to a successful endeavor. Leaders should act as facilitators.
The company’s methodology must be adjusted to the agility of intrapreneurship, whose operation resembles that of startups: decisions are made quickly and ideas are quickly prototyped.
A new perspective
Intrapreneurship is surrounded by challenges that require executives to take a fresh look at how to create and operate initiatives. This new perspective can generate an untold number of discoveries and lessons learned on business, and reveal the full potential of the internal workforce. It is a continuous work that, if well planned and structured, can generate consistent results.