As Millennials make their way into the workforce, they bring with them a strong spirit of entrepreneurship influenced by great innovators such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.
Within an organization, this entrepreneurial spirit is known as intrapreneurship. The Intrapreneurially-minded are the ones who created the Xbox, iPod and tablet -- they think and act like entrepreneurs, but their ideas help a company profit.
Fostering intrapreneurship within an organization can help bring it to new levels of success and innovation. While many posses intrapreneurial traits, not everyone knows how to harness them. Therefore, it is up to your leaders to cultivate, hone in and strategically unleash it.
The underlying key to cultivating intrapreneurship within your organization? Transparency. It’s up to an organization’s leaders to foster a transparent culture to create a healthy environment where intrapreneurs can flourish.
Foster intrapreneurship in any organization by doing the following:
Keep an open line of communication. An intrapreneur may not be open to sharing their ideas in environments that don’t recognize those responsible for the ideas. This can unintentionally lead to a less inspired environment.
To avoid this, encourage transparency at all stages of innovation. Whether it’s a finished product, or something clearly still in its infancy, it all needs to be laid out on the table. It’s vitally important to give credit to the person or people responsible for the ideas, as well as collaborate on ways to improve.
Playing it close to the vest will lead to stunted growth. Communicate these ideas and updates with the team on a regular basis. Allow the innovator to show progress and explain its potential impact.
Support disruptive innovation with clear lines of authority. While all great ideas are generally disruptive to their industry, most are successful because they come at the right time. Transparent lines of authority must be put in place to ensure the idea isn’t released before the market is ready for it. The organization also must be at a point in its growth to support and achieve these new ideas.
Create lines of authority without force, but rather respect and mutual agreement. Eager intrapreneurs are much more likely to follow authority when they view them as a positive contributor -- not roadblock -- to achieving something great. Based on an individual's personality, these mutual lines of respect can be cultivated through openly communicating intent with the idea, providing support and stepping aside when appropriate.
Manage and foster an innovative culture. Change is constant within these types of cultures and when working with an intrapreneur. Therefore, it’s critical to have strong leaders who can handle and take charge of this type of environment. Leaders must be completely transparent and open in communication with each individual within the organization to build an innovative culture.
With this foundation, consider developing a peer-driven networked model that feels somewhat leaderless. The standard hierarchy of leadership may be void within the organization, but there are still individuals who maintain sight of the company’s vision and reality of the market to drive success. This will require the establishment of regular updates with each intrapreneur to ensure boundaries are maintained and everyone is working toward the same goal. Do this through in-person meetings or take it online with video chats.
Celebrate successes -- and failures. In a culture of innovation, there are many things to celebrate, but they may not be what one would expect. Understand what’s worthy of celebrating, and ensure everyone knows why.
For instance, failures by an intrapreneur may be celebrated, but with an intention for everyone to learn and grow from them. Sit down and commend anyone who played a role in the idea and then discuss how it can be improved upon.
Celebrate those small change agents that will eventually turn into large ones. This will slowly but surely create a healthy culture for innovation and motivate intrapreneurs throughout the organization to share and try more ideas. It’s also a great idea to encourage mentorship that isn’t forced by leadership, but rather born out of the same general drive for everyone to be part of something great.
Game-changing innovation happens only after multiple failures and improvements to one great idea. Inspire people to do their jobs to the best of their ability and let them know radical is not necessary -- every little thing they contribute to plays into a much bigger outcome.
Being open and transparent about how they are playing into the bigger picture will foster intrapreneurship -- and, in the end, will result in new levels of success.