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Driving Change: Why Companies Should Value Intrapreneurship The importance of intrapreneurship, whereby employees exhibit entrepreneurial behaviors within larger organizations such as multinational companies, cannot be understated.

By Irfan Malik

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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The only constant in life is change, as the old adage goes. And those who fail to adapt and change, risk becoming stagnant, and then, eventually, obsolete.

Businesses that have found their success have often done so due to their entrepreneurial spirit. Yet, many successful businesses tend to lose that spirit as they grow larger. Companies must not rest on their laurels, but they should instead recognize that the key to continuing growth is maintaining an entrepreneurial spirit that has fueled their growth into the large, successful organizations we see today.

And this is where the intrapreneur comes to the fore. The importance of intrapreneurship, whereby employees exhibit entrepreneurial behaviors within larger organizations such as multinational companies, cannot be understated. While many look externally for innovation, with companies acquiring, merging, or partnering with other external entities, employers should start their search for inspiration within for a whole host of reasons.

The key to a company's innovation is first and foremost its people. This is why an intrapreneurial culture is invaluable in creating an environment where employees have the space to be creative and develop their ideas, which leads to the development of new products and services. It also helps cut time to market as intrapreneurs, much like entrepreneurs, focus on minimizing cost and risk, whilst developing a minimum viable product. Through this innovation, intrapreneurship helps companies gain a competitive advantage. Not only are intrapreneurs bringing new products and services to market, but they are also pushing the company outside of its comfort zone, identifying opportunities and risks, and taking advantage of them.

Related: Seven Ways To Foster Innovation In Your Company

Intrapreneurship can also be key to attracting, recruiting, and retaining talent. The reopening of economies across the world as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed a historic shortage of talent, with three-quarters of companies reporting difficulties in hiring the right talent –a 16-year high– according to the ManpowerGroup Talent Shortage Survey. Large companies in particular are finding it challenging to attract, recruit, and retain talent, and offering innovative ways to work, including significantly increased global remote working options.

Fostering a workplace culture where intrapreneurship is cultivated can serve to overcome this challenge. Such a culture can attract top entrepreneurial talent who can realize their ambitions within the structured setup of an established large business. Intrapreneurship empowers employees to take ownership of their work, providing them with meaningful experiences, and room to create and innovate. It gives employees opportunities to learn and grow, developing the necessary skills to become the next generation of leaders. And in so doing, companies can retain talent, as employees who enjoy their work and have opportunities for career progression are much less likely to leave. Creating an intrapreneurial mindset can also make a company culture even richer in ideas and diversity. Intrapreneurs will develop highly productive and engaged teams which in turn help the company to grow. As success stories emerge, employees will feel motivated and valued, boosting morale and wellbeing.

Multinational companies are increasingly expected to find the leaders of tomorrow from within their own ranks, whilst expecting them to be ready to face an evolving business landscape. Welcoming internal innovation with open arms unlocks a competitive advantage inaccessible to the competition. Is this our best opportunity to continuously drive positive change for people, planet, and, of course, profit, and enabling an agility in business systems not seen before? The value created by our own intrapreneurs is immeasurable, but one can rest assured that we will be able to appreciate it in the years to come.

Related: Igniting Innovation: Spearheading Intrapreneurship In Organizations

Irfan Malik

Senior Vice President, Safety and Industrial Business Group, 3M EMEA

Irfan Malik is Senior Vice President, Safety and Industrial Business Group, for the EMEA region at 3M.

Irfan has been in the company for nearly 30 years, and he has held various roles in finance, supply chain, Six Sigma, and multiple managing director roles throughout Europe and the Middle East. He has also led finance for 3M’s international operations as Vice President between 2014 and 2017. Most recently, he has been Regional Managing Diector for North Europe, following which, in 2019, he was appointed as Senior Vice President, EMEA for Safety and Industrial Business.

Irfan was born in Lahore, Pakistan. He was educated as a chartered cost and management account in the United Kingdom. 

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