Leadership & Management December 13, 2016

How do you build a company of “intrapreneurs”?

What managers can learn from entrepreneurs

By Susanne Barth, Publications Manager 
 
Professionals with an entrepreneurial mindset can boost innovation and increase profitability. So, if you would like to stimulate "intrapreneurship” in your organisation, check our tips for getting the best out of the people around you.

 

Entrepreneurship is vital for economies, generating employment, wealth and social well-being. Successful young entrepreneurs from the tech industry are much admired, especially the ones who go from rags to riches. Entrepreneurial qualities are also highly valued in some organisations, which actively look for managers and professionals with an entrepreneurial mind-set. Some companies even want all of their employees to think and act in a more entrepreneurial way, and have added entrepreneurship to their corporate values.

This management rethink has happened because leaders are aware that they need to focus more on innovation instead of efficiency. A study by Vienna’s University of Economics shows that the top 100 German mid-sized companies make 55% of their turnover and 59% of their profits from products that are no more than 3 years old. So how do you shorten innovation cycles within bureaucratic structures and processes? How do you deal with hierarchies and get approval for unexpected and special actions which go beyond specific roles? How can you be more innovative with even less resources? This is the dilemma facing companies, and “intrapreneurship” is a concept that attempts to provide an answer. Indeed, there are good reasons for boosting “intrapreneurial” thinking when you realise that employees were behind great inventions such as the 3M Post-it note, Google Earth and the Apple iPod. Assuming that companies with an “intrapreneurial” culture can benefit from higher productivity, we will look at how companies can create an “intrapreneurial” spirit, with managers acting as stimulators.

What managers can learn from entrepreneurs

An entrepreneur has drive, and takes personal and financial risks by seeing opportunities rather than limitations. He creates something out of the blue by anticipating trends and having good intuition when it comes to new products and services. In a previous interview with Krauthammer, Arnaud Mourot, Director Ashoka Europe, described an entrepreneur as “someone who sees opportunities and has the self-confidence to take risks and build something without asking permission to do so.”

Unlike entrepreneurs, “intrapreneurs” act as employees within their company. They are loyal rebels who challenge the status quo and fight for change. They spot business opportunities, are more productive and cost-efficient, and create unexpected value. Prof. Dr. Franke explains that “intrapreneurship” implies a change in corporate cultures. Ownership and accountability, results instead of compliance, agility and risk acceptance are the new values, and complement the reporting systems, job descriptions and control mechanisms of traditional cultures. In her book “The Shift: The Future of Work is already here”, Lynda Gratton points out that employees want to do meaningful work and be more connected to the business. Consequently, management can play a leading role in building an “intrapreneurial” culture by introducing networking platforms, allowing time for new projects and providing incentives to innovative employees.

So if you want to be an influencer or even a role model for “intrapreneurship”, here are ten types of behaviour which favour “intrapreneurship”:

1. Think out of the box and be visionary. Don’t rely on proven methods. Be innovative in the way you deal with business opportunities, competition, price pressure, etc. Turn vision into reality by thinking holistically! Be a role model for collaboration and avoid departmental egoism!
2. Create incentives for employees to suggest ideas (competition, internal fairs, intranet, open space) and make it easy for them to approach you or other managers. When you spot an employee with great intrapreneurial potential, don’t hold him back, and accept that you might lose him from your team.
3. Push a transparent decision-making process. Opportunities for innovation and new possibilities too often stay hidden in people’s brains because corporate structures do not support pioneering. Give your people the green light and support them. Be inclusive and encourage everyone to contribute ideas if they have them. Build value across the workforce!
4. Empower people to make decisions which have an impact on their work. Hold them accountable for what happens next. If you want your employees to act like entrepreneurs, you should treat them like entrepreneurs!
5. Accept faults, otherwise it’s impossible to develop an “intrapreneurial” culture. Accept setbacks or failures in innovative projects and develop a kind of “safety net” for innovative employees in order to reduce their personal risk to an acceptable level.4 Make risk-taking OK and don’t punish! Arnaud Mourot concludes: “You can learn from a failure and start again. You learn not to give up since it is part of the journey. Failure is the first step to success.”
6. Make everyone a salesperson: Build a company spirit where everyone is proud to sell, not just the sales department. From the office manager welcoming customers through to the management team giving interviews, everyone should play a key part in this process.
7. Be persistent! “Entrepreneurs are committed and won’t easily give up on their ideas. In addition to being able to engage others, they are able to create a movement around their idea,” explains Arnaud Mourot. Do not separate passion, creativity and logic from each other. Work closely with others and inspire them with your passion and perseverance.
8. Follow your instincts the way entrepreneurs do, using your curiosity and intuition for markets, clients and trends as an impulse for innovation.
9. Provide ownership opportunities and share the equity. When people own part of the company, no matter how small, they are much more willing to contribute to its success. They become more of an entrepreneur and less of an employee.
10. Celebrate and reward “intrapreneurial” behaviour. Rewards and encouragement lead to greater contributions and creativity within the company. If your employees profit from the success of an idea, they will be much more motivated to contribute their own ideas.
 
A culture of “intrapreneurship” can help companies to innovate easier and make the business more profitable. By empowering employees to be innovative, and by giving them tools, time and resources, organisations will benefit from greater commitment and better products and services to sell. Krauthammer follows the principle of disciplined entrepreneurship by giving people the necessary freedom to work on new opportunities and challenges.
If you are interested in finding out your entrepreneurial profile and what kind of work environment will suit you best, try our online test: 
Are you a great entrepreneur?

Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Franke: “Intrapreneurship - Konzept und historischer Bezug”, Hernstein International Management Institute, Vienna

 

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