We all know entrepreneurs: those individuals who have identified a solution to a problem and have set off to start their own venture.
While entrepreneurship may sound exciting, the reality is that nine out of 10 startups fail. Some of us may be able to stomach that risk, but many people are not in a position to leave their jobs and hope that their dream idea will be one of the lucky 10 percent that fall within the “startup success” category. However, many people with that self-starter spirit will want to find other ways to feed their entrepreneurial passion, for example, within their current work environment.
What is an intrapreneur?
Intrapreneurs are “usually highly self-motivated, proactive and action-oriented people who are comfortable with taking the initiative, even within the boundaries of an organization, in pursuit of an innovative product or service.” They are typically given creative freedom and financial support to create new products or processes within a corporation.
Intrapreneurs are naturally entrepreneurial, have a high level of self-autonomy, are highly motivated and viewed by others as a leader.
Benefits to the employer and employee
Allowing employees to be intrapreneurs is an opportunity for natural self-starters to fuel their entrepreneurial fire and make them feel more connected and loyal to their current employer. Supporting an intrapreneurial spirit can help retain talent and help employees feel more fulfilled, which may be an effective strategy with millennials, who generally feel underutilized at work.
Adopting an intrapreneurial culture is also critical for the long term health of a company, to ensure that a company remains relevant. According to Deloitte, 88% of Fortune 500 companies in 1955 are no longer present in 2015. It is important for leadership to recognize and embrace that ideas and innovation can come from anywhere within the company and not just from the C-suite and senior leadership. Companies need to actively innovate, embrace the talent of all employees and allow people the freedom and time to be creative.
Companies with an intrapreneurial mindset
Companies are realizing the critical importance of what a vibrant intrapreneurial environment can offer to the long term health of a company. For example, 3M Corporation, Accenture and Barclays have formal programs to encourage their employees to create new projects and roles.
The 3M Corporation intrapreneurship policy allows employees to spend 15% of their time working on their own ideas. From this initiative, new products such as Post-It notes were born!
Barclays takes an interesting approach to intrapreneurship through its Social Innovation Facility initiative, which invests in social initiatives around the world that range from education to clean energy to agriculture. Damian Payiatakis, a Barclays employees says, “The Social Innovation Facility has provided funding and support for me, and other colleagues irrespective of location or level, to become intrapreneurs and develop our ambitious ideas into profitable business opportunities that create social impact.”
Deloitte is also very supportive of creating an intrapreneurial environment and offers a guidebook for how companies can accelerate innovation. They share that:
- Intrapreneurship describes a people-centric approach to developing innovative employees within a firm
- Intrapreneurship’s return on investment related to company growth, culture and talent pays off many times over
- It’s not about creating intrapreneurs in an organization, it’s about finding and cultivating them
- Intrapreneurs respect company policy, but know that in order to fuel disruptive innovation, rules and norms must sometimes be broken
- A different management approach is needed to embrace intrapreneurship
Where to start
If your company already supports intrapreneurs, use them as a case study to start building a more formal intrapreneurship initiative. Issues such as getting buy in from management, how to review intrapreneurs’ ideas and overall structure of program will be key to adopting this more formally within a company. Employees look for meaningful work, and want to be part of a movement where creativity and innovation are encouraged and rewarded. Creating a positive space within your company continue to help drive an impactful company culture.