Six Powerful Ways to Build a Culture of Intrapreneurship
“Build it and they will come.” This famous quote popularized in “Field of Dreams” provides the perfect amount of wisdom for business owners and managers trying to get their heads around how to approach intrapreneurship programs within their organizations. More business leaders are discovering why intrapreneurs might be the key to success in their companies. Much to their credit, they are wasting no time in building an intrapreneurship program within their organization.
However, these proactive managers are currently a small minority in the overall business environment. While a growing number of prudent leaders have “seen the intrapreneurial light,” most companies are in the dark both figuratively and literally when it comes to intrapreneurship. The predictable outcome is what you would expect — when managers don’t understand what intrapreneurs are, management is highly unlikely to support and build a culture of intrapreneurship.
You Have to Know What Intrapreneurship Is Before You Build It
In today’s media-driven climate, entrepreneurs like Bill Gates get almost daily publicity. One recent example was a ranking of the wealthiest individuals on the planet. As more than one individual has noted, a thriving business economy needs entrepreneurs to succeed. But there is a relatively small population of successful entrepreneurs.
If we are looking for a massive way to benefit the overall economy, one practical solution is for individual employees within an established organization to think and act like entrepreneurs but with the operational and financial support of their company. This is the essence of what intrapreneurship is — an atmosphere of entrepreneurship within an existing enterprise.
This is not a new idea. Steve Jobs attributed the early successes at Apple with the Macintosh computer to the practice of intrapreneurship. More recently Sir Richard Branson has given full credit to intrapreneurs within his company for creating ongoing success with several hundred companies in the Virgin Group.
Four Practical Action Steps on the Road to Intrapreneurship
Business managers, owners and employees might not currently be on the same intrapreneurship page for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they just “don’t get it.” For anyone still wondering what role intrapreneurs and intrapreneurship could play in their business life, here are four relatively-easy steps to follow:
• Watch “Intrapreneurship Matters” (a three-minute YouTube video included below).
• Read “Intrapreneurship: Ignite Innovation!” (a 130-page book by Howard E. Haller).
• Watch “TiEcon 2013 Women - Women Intrapreneurs” (a 25-minute video also shown here).
• Ask an intrapreneurship expert to help your organization find and keep intrapreneurs.
The second video (“Women Intrapreneurs”) illustrates an important point that deserves special emphasis. The world of entrepreneurs continues to be dominated by more men than women. While this is a work in progress and positive changes can be seen all the time, the realistic opportunities for intrapreneurs do appear to have fewer “glass ceiling” barriers for women.
The need for intrapreneurship experts also should not be overlooked. Watching these two videos and reading Dr. Haller’s insightful book will provide an excellent intrapreneurship foundation. To continue the construction analogy, the foundation by itself is not enough. The building process can take many forms. Intrapreneurship is not a “one size fits all” concept.
What Happens If Businesses Don’t Build an Intrapreneurship Program?
If “Build it and they will come” is a smart thing to do with intrapreneurship processes, what happens if organizations don’t build it? The sad fact is that intrapreneurs will leave many employers behind if a company does not establish a supportive atmosphere to support the most innovative and entrepreneurial employees. Before Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple Computer, he tried to persuade Hewlett-Packard (his employer at the time) to let him create a personal computer designed for individual consumers. They said “No.”
It is true that some intrapreneurs will still leave to establish their own firms even after a viable intrapreneurship program is established. However, many individuals do not want to bear the financial and emotional risks associated with operating independently. Many productive innovators would prefer working with a “corporate safety net” rather than the alternative — “without a net” as an entrepreneur on their own.
Most companies desperately want a thriving culture that fosters new ideas and innovation. This is precisely the mindset of an intrapreneur. Why risk losing them? Build it and they will stay.
Building a Culture of Intrapreneurship
Chapter one of Dr. Haller’s book (“Intrapreneurship: Ignite Innovation!”) starts with a needed comparison of intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship. He wastes no time in getting to the important building process in chapter two. Here is a brief summary of what he refers to as six key ways to build a culture of intrapreneurship:
• Showing that you mean business: formalize the process.
• Including the entire organization: collaboration that involves everyone.
• Seeking out current intrapreneurs: find the existing innovative and creative employees.
• Making time for creativity and innovation: set aside time for intrapreneurial projects.
• Actively promoting intrapreneurial activities: emphasize publicity, transparency and credit.
• Rewarding success and making failure acceptable: make risk-taking possible.
Building intrapreneurship programs, however, will require more than reading a book on the subject. Nevertheless, this is currently the best book to get you started on your journey as an intrapreneur or as a leader of intrapreneurs. In particular, readers should not overlook the ample collection of case studies thoughtfully assembled by Dr. Haller. The case study approach is a brilliant strategy used by Dr. Haller to illustrate the inevitable overlapping intersection of intrapreneurship with planning, management, innovation, communication and leadership.
As noted above, one of the keys to a successful “building program” for intrapreneurship is to ensure that individuals never feel excluded from the process. This starts with the formative stages when everyone is learning about what an intrapreneurship program is in the most practical terms. While a book might not be enough by itself, it will nevertheless be ideal if everyone reads the book as a way of providing a common starting point. This is especially doable with “Intrapreneurship: Ignite Innovation!” because it is available in both a paperback and Amazon Kindle version. Let the building process begin.