Intrapreneurship: a recipe for impactful change, not a spelling mistake
Intrapreneurs are known as ‘the dreamers that do’. One thing’s for sure: they do a lot more than just brainstorm ideas. From boosting revenue and driving growth, changing company culture, and improving retention and recruitment, intrapreneurship has the ability to enhance a business from top to bottom. And for startups transitioning from bootstrapping into a more established identity with an increasing number of employees, it’s critical to nurture an intrapreneurial outlook.
In its 2020 ‘Future of Jobs Report’, the World Economic Forum predicted that by 2025, analytical thinking and innovation will be the two most sought-after skills in the workplace, but organisations are already increasingly understanding that accommodating internal ventures is a win-win for employers and employees alike.
It’s crucial for businesses to identify new ways to generate growth. A look at the list of Fortune 500 companies from 1955 shows that 88% of those organisations no longer exist. While some were merged, and others acquired, the majority either went bankrupt or were sapped of significance by advancing competitors. This data underlines the pace at which companies must adapt and overcome in the new face of changing landscapes and shifting consumer needs. This pace has only increased after a year of unparalleled upheaval.
So, what’s my golden advice for companies wishing to remain relevant? To create an environment that supports and encourages meaningful internal innovation. Intrapreneurship encourages employees to behave like entrepreneurs within their own company. When implemented successfully, this leads to an environment that breeds creativity, boosts engagement, and results in actionable innovation that can result in increased revenues. To give you an idea of how effective intrapreneurship can be, consider that the Post-It Note, Sony PlayStation, and the Facebook ‘Like’ buttons were all devised, developed and launched by internal teams.
A recent study by Deloitte found that organisations which foster intrapreneurship reap a number of tangible business advantages, providing aggressive top line growth with new product and service development; cultivating the bottom line by leveraging existing resources; and cutting time-to-market to maintain a competitive edge.
The digitisation of companies, which has reached meteoric speeds as a result of the pandemic, is forcing companies to welcome change, work smarter, and adopt a future-centric outlook. Organisations that are unwilling to adapt, evolve and take risks might soon find themselves with the bankrupt ex-Fortune 500s: left behind and superseded.
A common pattern seen throughout history is that companies establish themselves, become narrow-minded in their approach, and lose all entrepreneurial or innovative spirit, which in turn impedes growth. Nokia followed this trajectory. In 1998, it was the best-selling mobile phone brand in the world, and in 2007 had a market share of over 50%. However, by failing to adapt to rapid technological advancement, and relying too heavily on being the first mover and shaker in the industry, Nokia’s market share dropped to less than 5% by 2013.
Maintaining business continuity is one thing, but investing in innovation is another. This shift, from focussing on the present to forecasting for the unpredictable future, is imperative if companies are to be able to adapt their central aims and services to meet the ever-shifting climate. Through supporting intrapreneurial ventures, an organisation can encourage individuals with creative problem solving skills and abilities to identify new opportunities, and foster an internal willingness to disrupt the status quo. Intrapreneurs are natural change assets: they will not only drive change, but create the blueprint for others to follow. By supporting a few people to change their mindsets, in time, it can lead to the overhaul of an organisation’s outlook.
The best existing resource that an organisation can leverage is its employees, and companies that foster a culture of innovation reap the benefits of improved recruitment and retention. By hosting intrapreneurial programmes, encouraging autonomous thinking, executing new strategies, and supporting an innovative environment for ideas to gather and grow, companies can both retain and attract top talent. A study by Gallup found that 70% of American employees are failing to reach their full working potential, which in turn slows down economic growth, and it’s estimated that disengaged employees cost US organisations around $450bn in lost productivity.
Intrapreneurship has been proven to effectively engage employees, boost morale and increase productivity as workers are given a platform which is challenging and meaningful. Fueled by curiosity, passion and determination, employees are willing to try new things, question outdated processes and in turn grow in tandem with the organisation itself. On an individual level, employees can accelerate their career, explore new skills and trial different roles. For the senior team, this growth can help to identify future leaders, while training them up for new roles in the process.
For organisations, intrapreneurship is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ scheme, but a ‘need-to-survive’ imperative. Companies that leverage employee-driven innovation are able to cut out a competitive edge for themselves, while also elevating employee engagement and productivity, and boosting revenue and growth. Intrapreneurial thinking is crucial for startups to embrace as they transition from first to second generation, with a growing workforce, a second tier of management and a shift in focus from solely cash flow to consolidation of systems. By injecting an entrepreneurial spirit, and promoting creativity and innovation, a company might just be able to ride the turbulent times, retain their market share, and enjoy ongoing business growth.