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How to nurture intrapreneurship and innovate within and beyond the organisation

Intrapreneurship is a relatively recent concept that focuses on employees of a company that have many of the attributes of entrepreneurs. The Post-It note, Facebook’s “like” button or the Sony PlayStation videogame console – they stand out as brilliant examples of the power of intrapreneurship.

On the 21st February, Melbourne Lean In members gathered with experts in Intrapreneurship:

Janett Egber – Leader of Melbourne Chapter of Global League of Intrapreneurs,

David Pisker – National Customer Experience & eCommerce, Officeworks,

Katherine Leong – Impact Strategist at SparkBeyond,

for panel discussion led by Sonali Shah and sponsored by Ernst & Young.

What is Intrapreneurship?

Intrapreneurs are often called “dreamers who do”, those who take hands-on responsibility for creating innovation of any kind within a business. But why the organisations shall nurture them?

Nowadays the organisations are facing 3 main challenges:

  • Global competition
  • Employees retention
  • Role of business in society

Intrapreneurship’s benefits are transforming these possible problems into evolving guidelines out of them, getting organizations to achieve these objectives and outdo their competition facing the same challenges:

  • Keep people innovative and improve organisation competitiveness. If an organisation wants to be innovative , their people need to change and lead the change ultimately engaging all stakeholders to do something new and different.
  • Gives people a sense of purpose – once people reach certain level, it’s not only about the role and compensation, it is about feeling as part of a bigger picture and having an impact. Fostering people’s needs to make the difference is helping organizations to have higher retention rates.
  • Bringing innovation is now a role business plays in society.

What skills do Intrapreneurs need?

Intrapreneurship is an art, not a science and is driven by certain type of personalities – people who can get others on board and shape the ideas. These are entrepreneurs, networkers and sellers. Intrapreneurs must influence people, have creative design thinking and apply agile methodologies.

All those skills are crucial to facilitate new ideas.  Intrapreneurs are a bit like a middleman – they are connecting the dots, translating between teams, story telling, pitching the ideas and understanding other people and their needs.

To be a successful intrapreneur you need to understand who you are, what drives you, what skills you have and how it fits the organization you work for. That’s crucial to drive the organizational change.

How to bring your ideas to life?

It’s not easy to make your idea happen, especially in larger organisations. Often procedures hold up innovations, but there are ways to overcome the obstacles. Here are the pieces of advice our experts shared with us:

  • Take time to understand how the organisation works
  • Understand the narrative – what’s important for the organization and what special language the managers are using
  • Understand perspective – where your idea fits in the organisation
  • Democratise the idea – invite people to join it, find right people and get sponsors. Focus on master collaborators that understand your idea.
  • Create the right team – it’s all about connections. Look for skills everywhere – distance shouldn’t matter. Intrapreneurship is a team sport not individual, cultural shift needs to happen within the team. Sometimes it might be needed to cross the silos within organization. Use company events to talk to people outside your silo and build the tribe.
  • Partner with commercial owner of the outcome. Look beyond the horizon and partner with people who will benefit from your idea in 5 year time.
  • Find out what is motivating the sponsor and start building the business case.
  • Find ways to demonstrate the value – show different way of thinking
  • Show that your idea can deliver results. When pitching the idea, start with writing PR that would explain it to the world. Press release can be your first prototype.
  • Learn how to fail and be comfortable with it – learn to repackage the failure into learning. It’s important part of validating of the idea.
  • And the last but not least – remember that you are not selling yourself but you are selling the idea.

Companies that promote internal growth will prevail in an ever expanding world, otherwise they will turn themselves only in mentoring grounds that ultimately will be left by their more capable alumni eager to take on bigger challenges where autonomy and innovation in outside roles that will make them feel that they make a true difference.

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