Let me begin with a story. Virgin Atlantic took on the project to improve the design of their reclining chairs on their airplanes. Many stalwart designers were roped in. Many designs were presented. But none of the designs was a hit. Then on the horizon came a young designer, Joe Ferry. Ferry was already working at Virgin in the capacity of a designer. He asked if he could give this project a go and was, in return, given a free hand. And then the herringbone-configured Virgin private sleeper suites were born. Had Virgin Founder, Richard Branson not given Ferry this creative freedom, would Virgin be ahead of the pack with millions of happy fliers? All Branson did here was that he gave an intrapreneur the opportunity he/she needs. Intrapreneurs, much like entrepreneurs, are a breed of achievers who drive the organisation, explore unexpected directions and give a business an interesting new dimension that spurs growth…but they do so from within the organisation.
As I look around and see the constantly shape-shifting market dynamics and growing challenges, it becomes clear that only the innovative will survive. We have to constantly work towards building intrapreneurs within our organisations. Why am I such a big fan of intrapreneurship? Here is a basic laundry list
The millennials are here – how will you retain them?
We can’t ignore the fact that very soon 75% of the workforce is going to comprise of millennials. What does this have to do with intrapreneurship you ask? How’s this for a reason – research shows that millennials are the true entrepreneur generation. When the past generations dreamed of perks, the millennials are focused on doing more, delivering more value, and being their own boss.
The game of hiring and retaining top millennial talent has never before been so savage. High salaries no longer guarantee loyalty. Free food, on-site barbershops, and swimming pools are losing their charm. But if we want to get the attention of this generation, we have to enable their entrepreneurial spirit. ‘Entrepreneurship’ is the buzzword for the decade – and intrapreneurship helps millennials navigate challenges and drive value. With this, they no longer see themselves as cogs in the machine doing the same monotonous work every day.
The Entrepreneurial Zeitgeist – how will you establish this in your organisation?
Silicon Valley made entrepreneurship the popular kid on the block. Now everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. However, fact and feeling are two different things. While most of us want to be entrepreneurs, studies show that only 7% actually end up being successful ones.
However, if we begin to promote intrapreneurship within our organisation, we get to identify who our high-potential employees are and also the future leaders of the company.
If we think about it closely, would Steve Jobs have been able to build Apple into the giant that it is today Steve Wozniak? When we talk about growth, we have to account for pieces of the business that aren’t doing so well or ones that could do better and then reach out to people with entrepreneurial who can think creatively and come up with innovative solutions. And intrapreneurship enables this.
Thinking outside the box- are you just talking the talk and not walking the walk?
I also love intrapreneurship because it gives an organisation the capability to think outside the box. Innovation might be a term that might be groaning under its overuse; the fact remains that it is one key differentiator that separates a successful business from an unsuccessful one.
Organisations need to stay agile in an environment where technology and automation are changing the rules of engagement. Unless we are creative, we will lose market share or will be pushed out into the oblivion. We only have to look at established companies like Kodak and Nokia to understand the price we might have to pay if we don’t take innovation and creative thinking seriously.
Promoting intrapreneurship within an organisation builds an entrepreneurial culture within the organisation. This is extremely relevant today as organisational culture demands that we enable forward and creative thinkers who not only help organisations keep up with their growth path but also helps the organisation become a leader.
Google, for example, is famous for its ‘20% time’ policy which encourages their employees to spend to spend 20% of their time working on projects that they think will benefit Google. This policy has boosted entrepreneurial thinking. It has also helped Google remain one of the most innovative companies in the world.
Intrapreneurship is a tool – An intrapreneurial culture builds the bottom line
It is logical to assume that all companies want to stay competitive and to improve their bottom line. Intrapreneurship is a great tool to give employees opportunities to encourage them to come up with new ideas that will help the business. We need new ideas, but along with these new ideas, we need new ways to solve existing business problems. Employees are the best resources to understand the problems that plague the company. So it only makes sense to give them avenues to solve these issues and identify new areas of growth.
By building an intrapreneurial culture, organisations can set a precedent of growth by giving employees opportunities to bring their ideas into fruition without them having to leave their jobs and risk their livelihood. The positive impact on the bottom line becomes a consequence of these actions.
Organisations today and those of the future have to be agile, creative, and also open to the world. Those who leverage the entrepreneurial talent of their employees at all levels will be able to achieve this because the role of human resources has become critical in meandering organisational growth expectations. Given the status quo, promoting intrapreneurship injects speed and flexibility in an established organisation that could previously be imagined only in a start-up environment.
And with the complex dynamics at play, it is only a matter of time before intrapreneurship becomes the new normal for all forward-thinking organisations.