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Intrapreneurship...the silver bullet for success


Published on 30/01/2015

Federico will uncover why ‘intrapreneurs’ are urgently needed for the future success and prosperity of every organisation.

I recently attended a networking event in Melbourne, geared towards business executives including CEO’s, Company Directors, and HR Managers. When asked the question about my profession, with my response being that I specialise in ‘intrapreneurial leadership’, I received a perplexed look of intrigue, confusion, and amazement from the majority of participants.

I soon realised that the use of the word ‘intrapreneurial’ was the root of my problem, despite that fact that I was dealing with professionals with substantial human resources experience, and considerable knowledge of business leadership. Again, I witnessed the interesting phenomenon that a very large percentage of business professionals are still unaware of the meaning of intrapreneurship and the high importance this has in the Australian workforce for business leaders.

Let’s Define ‘Intrapreneurship’:

Intrapreneurship is about developing an entrepreneurial environment within the workplace, leveraging on its ‘intrapreneurs’ to fuel innovation and change, and to generate profitable realities for the company.

Successful organisations like NikeSyngenta3MSamsung, and Virgin have embraced their intrapreneurs since day one, to fuel innovation, competition, change, and ultimately the ‘silver bullet’ for long term success and business growth.

Richard Branson firmly believes that ‘while it’s true that every company needs an entrepreneur to get it under way, healthy growth requires a smattering of intrapreneurs who drive new projects and explore new and unexpected directions for business development’.

Intrapreneurial Leadership:

As I continued my endeavour to explain the definition of this term during the event, I experienced the urge to ask two thought provoking questions to those people who were genuinely keen to understand more about intrapreneurial leadership.

My first question was blunt and straight to the point – “Have you heard of Google?’, followed by, “Do you know that Google’s success is 99% attributed to its entrepreneurial employees, and the healthy entrepreneurial culture that has been imbedded by its leaders ?

At this point, I made my point quite clear, and it was best for me to leave the subject alone. I was hoping that these business leaders would soon realise that intrapreneurial leadership can no longer be ignored, and decisive action must be taken on their part to ensure the competitiveness and long-term survival of their organisations.

Intrapreneurial Intelligence:

Intrapreneurial leadership requires a deep understanding of what drives and motivates the intrapreneur to perform at their best. A common misconception is that entrepreneurially minded employees are experimental and a distraction to the organisation. There is also the myth that intrapreneurs prefer to focus on creative thoughts, pioneering of new concepts and abstract ideas that would not be commercially viable to the organisation.

The truth however is that intrapreneurs have much more to offer, and are driven by deep rooted ambitions. Yes, they are typically different to conventional employees, possessing the entrepreneurial spirit and a strong desire to make a difference to society as a whole.

Let’s explore how intrapreneurs think and how they can be nurtured to fuel growth within an organisation:

  • Vision for Change: with the proliferation of new technologies and associated devices, social media, and new consumer trends, intrapreneurs are constantly seeking to develop faster / better services or products that provide meaningful solutions to everyday problems;
  • Corporate Responsibility: a growing number of intrapreneurs are stemming from the new millennial generation, with a strong awareness and concern for the environment, and a desire to embrace sustainable practices. They seek strong support from upper management to address global issues through new product developments, and for their ‘socially conscious’ ideas to be brought to the market in a speedier manner;
  • Incentives & Rewards: intrapreneurs seek public acknowledgment from their managers for their efforts and unique ideas. This is equally important as a financial reward. As with the case of 3M, employees who created the “Post-It” product, received additional financial resources to incubate and commercialise new ideas, as well as time off, in lieu of their efforts and success of the product they had developed for the marketplace;

At Google, staff are given 20% ‘creative time-off’, to pursue other external ambitions or ideas that might eventually be useful to the company itself. This in fact is how G-mail was developed, by the improvised thoughts of one of its employees;

  • Competitive Spirit: most entrepreneurs as we know are competitive in nature, with a risk-taking attitude, and a strong desire to operate outside of their comfort zone to seek opportunity. Intrapreneurs are equally free-spirited and like to push the boundaries, as well as challenge the status quo. As a result of their competitive nature, these employees must be allowed to experiment with their ideas, even at the risk of failure. The management team must openly accept these risks and learn effective methods to combat criticism, maintain the enthusiasm, and just move on with new ideas;

The Future:

Intrapreneurship is here to stay. Companies need to adapt fast to ensure long term survival and meet the demands and approval of their clients, stakeholders, and society as a whole.

Success no longer lies in traditional style leadership, but a blend of creative, entrepreneurially spirited, and unconventional management practices that fuels innovation and attracts the genius and talent of the intrapreneurial workforce.

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This article has been exclusively written by Federico Re for 'Business First Magazine' - January, 2015 Edition.

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