There is a widespread belief that it is impossible to integrate entrepreneurs into the corporate ecosystem. They’re only made for nimble startups and small businesses, or so goes the thinking. Organizations, on the other hand, are stifling and bureaucratic—kryptonite for the entrepreneurial spirit.

But that outlook is deadly. In the new world of rapid-fire disruption, organizations must instill and drive the entrepreneurial spirit. For it’s only through this mindset that organizations can strategically unleash innovation and catalyze breakthroughs.

But how can entrepreneurship be cultivated within an organization where the elements have coalesced — perhaps even calcified — around the processes that have historically generated success? It’s a given that as an organization grows, the more bureaucratic it becomes, and the harder it is to maintain growth and drive revenue.

Yet it’s not impossible. Think of companies like Apple and Google. As they grew and became more bureaucratic, they also created cultures that valued innovation and entrepreneurial thinking.

Enter the Intrapreneurs

The key is intrapreneurship, or entrepreneurship embedded in the organizational DNA. Intrapreneurship fosters a freethinking, dynamic culture where innovation becomes a strategic goal. This culture fosters a mindset that inspires the rank and file to be on the hunt for opportunities, take risks, and drive enterprise growth. It recognizes the value of “troublemakers,” those change-agents driven by an enthusiasm to break molds, question processes, and innovate solutions.

Intrapreneurship is anchored by four basic elements:

  • Intrapreneurial leaders facilitate the cultivation of ideas and breakthroughs from the lowest levels of the organization on up.
  • Intrapreneurs flourish in environments that are transparent There must be no hidden agendas. Visions must be clear and concise with walk that plainly follows talk.
  • Most organizational operations are bureaucratic or oligarchic. Intrapreneurial organizations inspire autonomy among the ranks, and incorporate processes for entrepreneurial thinking. They support innovation with clear lines of authority defined by mutual respect and agreement.
  • It’s vital that enterprise leaders credit and reward those responsible for breakthroughs. Intrapreneurs won’t share ideas in a climate that doesn’t recognize those directly responsible for new ideas.

For intraprenuership to thrive, smart risk-taking must be a part of the organizational DNA. This DNA must drive a climate that allows employees to work on projects that they are passionate about, and it must grant them a personal stake in their success. It instills resourcefulness and enlightens. Instead of teaching employees the skills they need to do their jobs, it counters corporate myopia by teaching them the business: the scope of the industry, how revenue is generated, and the nature of its customer base.

Failure is the Viable Option

Intrapreneurship provides the opportunity for failure as well as success. Innovation by its nature is a risk-taking enterprise — the possibility of failure is ever present. Breakthrough innovation happens only after a series of failures and incremental improvements.

The key is to gain valuable insight from these failures. Think of the Apple Lisa. The first personal computer to use a graphical user interface, the Lisa was an abysmal market failure. But in a way, it was the precursor to the highly successful Macintosh platform, which incorporated many of the breakthroughs of the Lisa.

That’s why while it’s critical to recognize and reward success, it is equally important to recognize failure as a crucial element of success. Leaders must realize that a high percentage of innovative ideas will fail to make the leap from ideation to implementation. But each failure adds to enterprise intelligence and increases ideation success rates.

Intraprenueurship seamlessly aligns with Insigniam’s drive to attune corporate senses to innovation. When the corporate culture, infrastructure and processes are aligned with entrepreneurship, the organization drives innovation, rather than inhibits it. At Insigniam we strive to make innovation a core enterprise competency.

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