It is easy to spot the entrepreneur in your company ranks. They have the ability to magic budget from other departments. They wear strange coloured socks in a muted protest against conformity. And they are never, ever at their desk.
Businesses have long valued entrepreneurial personalities for their energy and constant desire to improve. But they often overshadow another type of employee who is just as valuable to your business –the “intrapreneur”.
Intrapreneurs are arguably a product of a British mentality, which breeds people with ideas, but who are also risk-averse and cynical. Companies are starting to realise that these intrapreneurs are buried in their offices, having been passengers on the company bus for a long time, watching longingly as others shoot past, afraid to join them.
They tend to sit tight because of other commitments, but they constitute a nascent talent pool which managers need to become better at recognising. Indeed, UK plc must unlock this resource if it is to continue to differentiate and embrace our heritage of entrepreneurialism.
So, how can the potential of the intrapreneur be nurtured? The most important decision for the parent company is to commit wholly to embracing the individual innovation of its employees.
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This is a brave decision, and is one only forward-thinking companies are willing to commit to properly. There are three steps to achieving this.
Transparent exchange of ideas
First, managers should encourage a transparent exchange of ideas among their staff.
Being entrepreneurial is about acknowledging a problem exists for a certain person, and coming up with ways of disrupting the status quo to solve it. Whether they work in HR or IT, people always have ideas for improving things, so having a dedicated resource for capturing this is vital.
This typically manifests itself in the form of an innovation team, given a remit by senior management to focus on pulling in a diverse range of concepts from all over the business.
Test the best
Second, take these ideas and test the best ones relentlessly.
Here the process begins to come to fruition, borrowing from the lean startup mantra of experimentation and continual improvement. There is no failure, just lessons to learn.
This approach will see some ideas discarded, and cause others to evolve. A few will end up proving themselves. This is innovation in action – the entrepreneurial equivalent of panning for gold.
Once proven, these innovations should be implemented more widely, and improved continuously, by furnishing them with more company resources and guidance.
Whether these ideas are trying to help people get from A to B more effectively, or something more routine like improving invoicing, the end goal is the same – a constant cycle of ideas to make things better.
As an intrapreneur who has been enabled by a global company myself, I can testify that the process itself is a continual learning experience. However, given enough encouragement, it becomes a truly differentiating force, capable of shifting whole companies forward.