How To Foster Innovation through Intrapreneurship in Your Company

In this article, we’re going to unpack the concept of intrapreneurship. You’ll learn:

What is intrapreneurship?

  • How intrapreneurship can benefit your company
  • 3 ways to promote innovation through intrapreneurship
  • Some cool examples of intrapreneurship in action

Your business growth thrives on new ideas and innovation. The more ideas you welcome, the greater your chances of long-term survival and success. But to keep these ideas and innovations coming, you can’t rely solely on the innovation and product teams to be the thinkers in your company. Innovation can come from anyone – be it the new intern or the supply chain manager. In fact, the most successful innovations like the Sony PlayStation to the Post-it Note, all originated as offbeat ideas from ‘self-starting’ employees with an entrepreneurial spirit. These thinkers and doers, who take direct responsibility to generate ideas and turn them into new products or services within an organisation are known as intrapreneurs. Essentially, an intrapreneur brings entrepreneurial thinking and skills to induce a positive change within an existing organisation.

While entrepreneurs use their ideas and thinking to build and run their own companies, intrapreneurs innovate inside an existing organisation to shake up their surroundings and accelerate the entity’s success. From this, it may seem that intrapreneurs have it made – no personal financial risks, safety net for failure, and ready infrastructure. But in reality, these thinkers face their own challenges. They need to innovate in a set business environment, while also convincing the organisation of the value of their ideas.

In today’s rapidly shifting digital era, these individuals serve as the drivers of change, introducing exciting ideas that lead to business success.

“Intrapreneurs don’t have it better; they simply have it different. Indeed, the reality is that they probably have it worse because they are fighting against ingrained, inbred, and inept management.” - Guy Kawasaki

3 Ways You Can Foster Innovation Through Intrapreneurship

To create value through intrapreneurship, you first need to create a work culture that encourages it. With the right structure and support, your employees could come up with a disruptive idea that takes your business to new heights. We believe there must be 3 fundamental elements in your company culture to empower your employees to drive innovation.

Given the evolving and flexible nature of the tech, chatbots working under conversational AI are a significant asset for multi-segmented businesses across industries. Let’s unpack a few of these direct business benefits:

1) Offer Dedicated Training & Time

How can you foster and encourage an employee who exhibits a forward-thinking and innovative mindset? Initiating their growth by offering chances for skill development and allocating dedicated time to pursuit an idea is a strong beginning.

a. Upskilling Initiatives: Embracing innovation at the heart of your culture, means you need to support your employees in developing their entrepreneurial skills and qualities. Invest in upskilling opportunities for employees such as trainings and workshops to equip them with the tools needed to drive organizational growth.

b. Dedicated Time: Innovation needs time and space. Encourage your employees to take time to brainstorm ideas, extend outside their scope of work, and investigate their ideas. Give them the necessary liberty and resources required to innovate. Google does this with its 20% time initiative. The technology encourages its engineers to spend 20% of their workday focusing on projects that interest them. The result? Everyday applications like Gmail, Google Maps, AdSense, and more.

2) Allow Freedom to Experiment (and Fail)

Intrapreneurs need a certain amount of experimental freedom to put their entrepreneurial skills to good use. When you try something new, you can either win or fail. And to breed innovation, your employees will need a safe space to take intrapreneurial risks, without having to worry about failure.

So, you need to ensure that your employees have the freedom to explore, test and experiment their ideas. Instead of fearing mistakes, they should be able to embrace them as motivators to innovate further. After all, failure and experimentation are the ladders to business success.

3) Build Structural Support for Innovation

While the first two points are undeniably important, they can only reach their full potential if your organization is primed for innovation. Creating an environment where employees are inspired to innovate doesn't happen by chance; it requires deliberate structural adjustments within your organization. Depending on your company's current innovation culture, this could range from organizing a one-off Hackathon to orchestrating a profound transformation in your corporate structure, one that ensures resources are allocated effectively for innovation and streamlined central innovation processes are firmly in place. Regardless of the specific approach, one common thread remains vital—securing the full support of your C-Suite executives, as this unequivocally communicates the significance of innovation.

a. Hackathons: Consider organizing competitive and collaborative events, such as Hackathons, where your employees engage in intensive problem-solving activities to spur innovation. These events gather intrapreneurs from various teams, encouraging them to work together to generate novel ideas and address internal challenges across the organization. For example, Meta famously holds regular Hackathons that have led to the creation of new features and innovations on their platform.

b. Organizational Change: Cultivating an intrapreneurship culture requires more than just a single event; it necessitates ongoing effort to create an inclusive platform for innovation. To achieve this, consider two fundamental organizational moves, some of which can be implemented immediately while others require time to fully take effect due to their transformative impact on corporate culture.

  • Invest resources : Allocate financial resources, personnel, and technological capabilities toward venturing into new markets and crafting innovative business models. This not only communicates a clear strategic commitment to intrapreneurial activities but also acts as a catalyst for efficient innovation within your core business.

  • Simplify innovation: Simplify and optimize your central innovation processes to facilitate intrapreneurs in sharing, testing, developing, and scaling their ideas. For instance, you can draw inspiration from companies like Bosch, which has received acclaim for its transparent and high-quality eight-stage innovation framework, founded on the principles of the lean startup methodology.

  • C-Suite Sponsorship: Intrapreneurs and their innovation initiatives greatly benefit from the support and endorsement of top-level executives, including CEOs and other C-Suite leaders. Their commitment not only catalyzes and strengthens these projects but also ensures the allocation of essential time and resources critical to the success of innovation endeavors.

Key takeaway

Intrapreneurship holds direct dual benefits for the individual and the organization they’re a part of. To unlock the power of intrapreneurs within your company, prioritize (1) equipping them with the time and skills for idea exploration, (2) granting the freedom to experiment and learn from setbacks, and, most importantly (3) establish an organizational structure that fosters and sustains a culture of innovation.

Want to know more about how to foster innovation in your company? Seven Beaufort has created the Intrapreneurship course to encourage, upskill and support the intrapreneurs in your company!

Interested in discovering intrapreneurship in your company?

Thanks for reading!

Astrid Lebrun.jpg

Astrid Lebrun

Management Consultant