Six Tips to Help You Be a Great 'Intrapreneur'

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Entrepreneurs often pride themselves on being creative, innovative, forward-thinking people. They're always cooking up new ideas, even whole new companies.

But when it comes to encouraging innovation inside their companies -- between departments and amongst workers -- entrepreneurs sometimes fall short. A new, global study conducted by Ernst & Young aims to help with this problem, identifying best practices for helping your whole organization be entrepreneurial. 

It's a strategy they call "intrapreneurship" -- the art of fueling company growth from within. Effective intrapreneurial organizations, the study found, have six key factors at work. They are:

  1. Set up a formal structure for intrapreneurship. A defined process empowers workers to take time away from day-to-day work to focus on creative projects.
  2. Ask workers for ideas. Cultivate a culture that values everyone's opinions about how things could be done better. Actively encourage workers to contribute. IBM has online brainstorming conferences with many stakeholders known as "jams" to help stimulate innovative ideas. A 2006 "jam" involved 150,000 workers and their family members, business partners, clients, and university researchers. (I'd add that having a prize for the best idea seems to spark a lot of participation, in my personal experience.)
  3. Create a diverse workforce. The more varied the backgrounds of your workers, the more different ideas they will bring forward. Think about innovation as you're hiring and cultivate a workforce that will innovate in different ways.
  4. Design a career path. Entrepreneurs often feel stifled working for someone else and end up quitting. E&Y reports that's what the founders of Adobe did, quitting their day jobs to start the now-famous software giant. Whoops -- there's $3 billion of revenue that got away. Tie promotions to creativity to keep innovative workers excited about their jobs.
  5. Find government incentives. For instance, here in the U.S. there's a hefty research and development tax credit. Find funding so you can more easily take innovative ideas, develop them, and take them to market.
  6. Prepare for the pitfalls. Good intrapreneurial organizations know that failure is part of the idea game. Workers should never be penalized for bringing forward an idea that doesn't pan out.
Are you a good intrapreneur? Leave us a comment and let us know how you encourage new ideas at your company. If you've used a worker's idea successfully, tell us about that, too.

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