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Intrapreneurs - The Next Wave

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It can be lonely as you dance to your own music on the fringes of what appears to be a symphony at larger companies with a broad reach, adequate headcounts with attractive benefits and deep pockets. As enthusiastic as you may be about your own business, the safety of a paycheck without risks and the comradery of a large group of people can feel like the siren’s call.

Safety can be an illusion whether you are an entrepreneur or entrenched in the corporate world. We have all lost one job or another due to cutbacks or mismatch. Or, we may have left on our own accord because we were disappointed with the direction of the company and our personal lack of measurable impact. Unfortunately, too many stay because of the safety myth, yearning to have their own business or at least to feel heard and valued. I, for one, have moved in and out of entrepreneurship and big business for years on a search for the Holy Grail.

And through the mist, a very interesting option for all of us is starting to surface with more regularity. Intrapreneurship, the concept of promoting entrepreneurship qualities and intrinsic rewards inside a bigger company. Entrepreneurs treasure their independence, creative control and the sense that they have created value that others can appreciate. They are self-starters and risk takers, tackling solutions for what they perceive to be a problem or a need.

Many Next Gens coming into the marketplace have great ideas, know the purchasing patterns of their peers, are goal oriented and interested in having their own businesses. Most, however, realize that they don’t have the capital and contacts and are seeking mentorship and companies that will invest in them. Having a strong employer brand to help recruit and retain this generation of talent is imperative in the New World of Work.

Does your company have a culture that supports this type independence or are control (processes and procedures, guidelines and checklists) and risk mitigation first and foremost in management’s mindset? If the latter is your answer, have you studied how it impacts innovation or the early adoption of new market trends? Which company leads in your industry and why?

Big companies with a history of intrapreneurship include 3M (we have all heard the Post It story), Lockheed Martin, Intel, Google, Sony, Virgin and Dreamworks. These companies have formal innovation programs that reward with cash prices or project funding, train employees how to pitch their ideas, give them personal time to work on their own projects as well as those of the company, structure day-long hack-a-thons and many other creative, motivating programs.

They give everyone a chance to voice their views and offer solutions or ideas freely - and I don’t mean an “idea box” in the cafeteria or a gripe fest. Owners are given the opportunity to come up with a plan and a time frame to implement new ideas. A healthy sense of competition with other team members is encouraged. But, it’s on a project by project basis. When it’s over, it’s over and they move on to the next quest. The quickest way to quash creativity is to apply penalties if new ideas don’t succeed. Failure is encouraged in innovative companies.

Entrepreneurs fear losing money and their business and employees fear losing their jobs. For entrepreneurial spirits to be able to innovate without fear can be a magical combination for the individual and the company. Changing culture is a long game, not always visible the first quarter. It is slow, sustainable change that eventually drops to the bottom line through increase in innovative products and sales, happy employees and less expensive churn, stronger vendor partnerships and a tighter supply chain. The perception by your stakeholders that you care about them and the planet becomes reality and part of the fabric of your company.

Copyright © 2019

All rights reserved – Linda Lattimore

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