Why is intrapreneurship a great approach to building innovation in tough times?

Recessions always come along with risks and fears, but also chances and opportunities. So, companies should definitely not give up on recognizing new market needs in the upcoming years as driving innovation is crucial to stay competitive and keep up with industry changes.

In tough times, where we may lack external inspiration and motivation, intrapreneurship is definitely one of the most efficient approaches that can boost innovation in the company. What is intrapreneurship, why is it helpful and how can it contribute to the company’s growth?

What is intrapreneurship?

Intrapreneurship is a concept of promoting employees to act like entrepreneurs within the enterprise. Such employees are typically more proactive, action-oriented, self-driven, independent in problem-solving and ready to test creative ideas. It usually comes from easier understanding of where the company is going and higher level of engagement in company’s activities. Nevertheless, they also need an environment which gives them the possibility to develop their skills and fulfill ambitions.

The difference between intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs is financial responsibility. Intrapreneurs don’t use their own resources and it’s still the company taking the risk of failure. As there’s no need to carry personal risk, intrapreneurs can fully spread their wings and be more confident in coming up with innovative ideas.

Intrapreneurship is a style of work commonly embraced by Millenials and Gen Z. Younger generations typically expect more creativity and autonomy at work as well as working on meaningful tasks.

Benefits of intrapreneurship

The 2008 recession provided us with a few successful startups, with Stripe or AirBnb as the most vivid examples. Despite the unfavorable market conditions, they managed to recognize market needs and respond to them accurately.

However, downtime is not the best time for looking passively how startups are addressing your customers needs., Companies should allow their best talent to act . Intrapreneurship benefits not only the employee but also the company. Promoting intrapreneurship can be a massive change to a company’s culture and work style. Some of the most important benefits of intrapreneurship are:

  • Improved employee morale, productivity, proactivity and motivation

  • Increased job satisfaction and loyalty, which results in lower staff turnover

  • Employees stay more motivated, goal-oriented, and engaged in the tasks, which boosts overall creativity in the company

  • Improved leadership and independence within teams, which creates a more innovative approach to problem-solving

  • Higher proactivity and increased efficiency and productivity in projects, which effects in shortened delivery time

  • Bigger chances for accurate identification of new market opportunities and creating more revenue-generating projects and ideas for cost optimization

  • Possibility to improve existing solutions or create new ones while using resources carefully and wisely

  • Increased agility of the organization and improved thinking outside the box

  • Contribution to the company’s growth and building a positive image and culture

  • Attracting competent and creative people thanks to the supportive work environment

How to promote intrapreneurship?

It’s getting pretty obvious that the culture promoting intrapreneurship may be crucial to unlocking innovative ideas. It also allows company to grow, learns that change is important element of business and gives the possibility to show leadership skills. Unfortunately, many organizations still tend to preserve the status quo and find changes challenging. So, how to successfully promote intrapreneurship in your organization?

For instance, Google is using their “20% time” rule meaning that their employees spend 20% of their workday focusing on their passion projects. However, you don’t need to be so radical at the beginning.

We prepared for you a few easy-to-implement tips that will already strongly support you in building your desired work culture:

1. Recognize intrapreneurs and prepare yourself

Your first thing to do on the way to promoting intrapreneurship is actually detect employees with such skills and attitudes. An intrapreneur is not someone you can create, but someone you need to discover. Start with promoting the need for intrapreneurship for your company, that you want to support such incentives. Intrapreneurship driven people will find the way to you. Once they open the discussion on topic, try to empower them with higher independence, trust and support them with some mentoring and coaching. Encouraging intrapreneurs and letting them act will immediately influence their teams and will be a great kick-off for enhancing the company’s culture. To do that, you need to keep in mind that it’s about authonomy and it leads to different work culture than before. You need to give a lot of trust to those ones and be prepared for unknown situations which will come along.

2. Provide transparency and context

If your employees are supposed to find creative solutions to problems, they need to be aware of what the problems actually are. Providing them with context and relevant information will turn their actions in the right direction which is not possible when the picture they have is always blurred. Discussing the problems openly may accelerate the problem-solving process and lead to finding solutions and new ideas faster and more accurately. Share problems, not solutions! You don’t need to have answers for problems, that’s on intrapreneurship driven people to take ownership on those problems. At first, it may look counterintuitive for you, but with more working examples you will get more confident.

3. Promote proactivity and ideas

There’s nothing worse for the company’s growth than ignoring the employees’ suggestions for improvements. People who perform their tasks on regular basis and are fully aware of their own challenges and struggles may develop a lot of ideas that will improve the overall cost-efficiency. Not letting them speak is simply a waste of the most valuable resources. To recognize their proactivity, you can provide them with some incentives, but actually implementing their ideas will be the greatest reward.

4. Give freedom and feedback

If you really wish to promote intrapreneurship, you simply cannot every single step and watch over the shoulders of your staff. There’s nothing more demotivating than micromanaging an independent employee. To maintain their high job satisfaction and productivity, set clear borders in the decision-making process and step back when supervising is not crucial. This will let intrapreneurs take ownership and accelerate work thanks to avoiding unnecessary approvals and wiser resource utilization. People in new roles need honest feedback. Prepare them for that, say that you will be straightforward and you will share any feedback that comes to your mind, sometimes mostly negative or corrective. Tell them it’s to protect them, they can use it whatever they want, but mostly to improve their idea. You probably may have bigger experience in the field, you might feel things proposed by a novice won’t work. Don’t discourage, be a help for them. Be inspired by the Albert Einstein quote “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

5. Support personal growth

Being a leader is not only about developing technical competencies but also gaining soft skills and the right attitudes. A mentorship program might be a great idea to support the personal development of your most independent employees. Giving them a helping hand and advice may strongly contribute to building a culture of trust, support and boosting creativity. In addition, you can provide your employees with external training opportunities.

6. Promote networking

It’s pretty common that the best ideas are the outcome of cooperation. Letting your employees get to know each other better will strongly contribute to the company’s growth and new project development. To address this issue, you can organize special events or hire someone to facilitate professional networking.

Obviously, the changes mentioned above will not happen overnight. Transforming the company's culture is a long-term goal that requires gaining trust and employees’ commitment. However, if you remain open to changes and neglect micromanagement, soon you will witness outstanding results.

It’s just a first step

Last but not least, how to manage resources for building an intrapreneurship culture? Some companies have a special budget for training and networking activities which might be a great practice to implement. To keep this work style cost-efficient, you can also check with your intrapreneurs what kind of resources they need for their projects to make sure they will be used wisely. You can also discuss the initiative with a third party before the implementation.

Remember to make small bets and risks that you can bear with. If you need to form a team to support intrapreneurship idea, you can always use safe way by engaging external team that can support you and your people. We explained in one of our recent articles how we work with companies to drive innovation and co create a supportive working environment for intrapreneurship driven employees.

If you need to analyze whether your employee’s idea is worth the effort, or you need extra ideas for promoting intrapreneurship, feel free to contact us. As technology experts regularly cooperating with startups, we will provide you with our feedback and potential assessment to increase your chances for success.