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In my most recent article I talked about some different models and approaches that large organizations are taking to support intrapreneurs.

As I had outlined, there are a variety of flavors and styles of intrapreneur design and management for organizations to consider, but they generally share a consistent set of benefits, including:

  • Idea Development: Intrapreneurs are an effective channel to generate (sure), but more importantly execute, new thinking within a corporate environment (never that easy)
  • Innovation Activity Support: Positioned correctly, these individuals can act as a catalyst, champion and participants for other innovative activities that a centralized program may run including ideation focused challenges / campaigns, training efforts, etc.
  • Employee Engagement: Intrapreneurial efforts within an organization engage existing employees and attract new, high-potential individuals into the organization. Importantly, the value of these networks often spread beyond those who actively participate, especially when they are positioned as a premium offering for high achievers.
  • Skills Recognition: An intrapreneurial skillset is often quite different to the skills that an organization may traditionally reward. For example, highly regulated industries tend to reward process orientation, so focusing on intrapreneurs provides a counter-balance and over time helps drive a more flexible corporate culture or climate.
  • Cultural Change: These individuals support a culture that welcomes new thinking and ideas. Companies might say that they are innovative, but the reality is that the culture of an organization often pushes back on new thinking.
  • External positioning: Every company in the world talks about being innovative, but when you scratch the surface there is often not much activity taking place. Having an active intrapreneurial support program in place, allows an organization to promote this to their customers, partners, and investors as validation of the company’s innovative abilities.

There are a wide range of approaches and models for organizations to support and improve the effectiveness of intrapreneurs, with a few listed below:

  • Training: As I mentioned earlier, intrapreneurs require a different set of skills than many organizations have traditionally considered or actively supported. Accordingly, they are often training key employees around the skills of ideation, but also around organizational priorities and the appropriate resources / channels / processes that are available to support the development of those ideas. I have written about this in the past.
  • Incentives: Employee incentives often do not align with the cultural goals of an organization. While corporate leadership may claim to want to drive an innovative organization, or support a spirit of entrepreneurship, the reality is that the existing incentives can often drive very different models of behavior. Incentives that align with intrapreneurial thinking often do align with corporate priorities and drive behavioral change.
  • Provide support: I hang around practitioners within the innovation field every day of my life, and everyone talks about how interesting and fun it is to be innovative. Well I have spent plenty of time in large organizations and I can tell you from first hand experience, demonstrating intrapreneurial behaviors within these businesses is not easy, at all. As one of my managers once pointed out (as a negative) in my annual review “You just don’t think or act like everyone else in the room” No shit! So, long way of saying, these individuals often feel isolated and disengaged from their colleagues and need to have avenues for support and collaboration that make them feel engaged and able to drive value.
  • Leadership support: Securing active and visible leadership support around intrapreneurial efforts will encourage success at all levels (participation by individuals, business unit support, funding, etc.). Keep in mind that this kind of support is rarely enough as one individual leader, such as a CEO. While that is great, you will also need to secure BU support, as they will often have more sway over individual employees and control of resources.
  • Collaborate across functions: Building and supporting intrapreneurs effectively requires a variety of functional groups within a large organization to work together. Many times I have seen single groups try to support these individuals with less than stellar results. Functions may include Innovation Programs, HR, L&D/Training, C-suite, Business Unit leadership, etc.
  • Channels and Processes: It is one thing to recognize and make these individuals feel warm and fuzzy, but it is also important to have systems in place so that their new ideas can be effectively reviewed and built. Some examples might include: time credit pools where people can be taken out of their role to work on new ideas for a period of time, idea funding pools, idea review and development channels, risk controls, etc.
  • Communicate: There will be a healthy dose of skepticism within the organization about these efforts, so be sure to communicate about the efforts on a regular basis, to encourage awareness, participation and ongoing support.

These are just some really top line activities that you can take when considering ways to support these intrapreneurs and are based on my experience. In no way is this meant to be a definitive list, and I would welcome any of your comments or suggestions.

This article was previously published in Innovation Management.

About the Author

Anthony is the CEO of Culturevate, an organization that empowers a company’s employees to execute ideas and inspire a culture of innovation, through employee networks, a resource portal and training programs (developed in association with Professor Chris Labash from Carnegie Mellon University). Anthony is a widely read author, speaker and advisor to industry leaders at organizations such as Pfizer, U.S. Postal Service, Johnson & Johnson, ADP and Fidelity. He previously led the BNY Mellon innovation program and has a Masters of Commerce (University of Sydney) and Bachelor of Economics (University of Newcastle).

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Anthony Ferrier

Anthony Ferrier

Anthony is the CEO and Co-Founder of Culturevate, a company providing industry-leading innovation training and technology. Anthony is an accomplished innovation leader, presenter and author with over