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Intrapreneurship: Leveraging Organisational Talent

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Intrapreneurship: Leveraging Organisational Talent

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The global talent war has seen organisational leaders scratching their heads to understand how they can attract and retain the very best talent that is going to directly impact their organisational worth to shareholders, stakeholders, employees and of course customers.

As the ever present headaches of...

  • trying to balance focus on maximising profit and margin v investing for growth

  • implementing short term high impact initiatives v long term strategic thinking and planning

  • focusing on a business as a whole ("corporate think" and control) or on its constituent parts (functional, geographical, product/service streams)

...cause CEOs and their senior executives to consistently strive for the next big thing or the next big idea, all too often the obvious is overlooked.

What is so obvious? Leveraging the talent already within their organisations.

As options such as outsourcing have become commonplace as a means to cost cutting and handing over "non-core" activities to other specialists, the core value of what is left, people, processes and resources, is not always improved or optimised for future benefit.

When organisations downsize, again the main focus is often cost cutting and again this leaves fewer people and/or the "wrong" people to create for, deliver for and service customers.

With fewer of the "right" people, (right being of the right cultural fit, appropriately skilled and with the right mindset to fit an organisation's stated mission and deliver its objectives successfully) there may be a need to take people through a transition programme to make clear what the future now looks like and/or to recruit more people to complement existing capability and acquire new capability. 

Key to making the organisational choices work will be the behaviour and attitude of the people who choose to play their part. The cultural mindset - an organisation's core values and principles - needs to be defined and recruited for; it cannot be trained and as fitting in with an organisational culture or not causes so many problems it is almost more important than skill – which can be trained.

This is an opportunity to create a culture where an "entrepreneurial spirit" is a core value. This is an opportunity to create a culture of "intrapreneurship".

Should this be a chosen course of action there are 3 key elements to consider

  1. What are the core attributes of intrapreneurs?

  2. What kind of environment will enable intrapreneurs to flourish and create value?

  3. How can individuals develop and be recognised as an intrapreneur?

Intrapreneurial Core Attributes

Intrapreneurs are Confident – 
feel comfortable in themselves and with their ideas and opinions.

Politically and business savvy – 
Know "how things are done around here" and how to influence across levels and functions, know how their whole business works well, what the corporate agenda is and what the key business priorities are.

Networkers – 
know who to know, how to find and use resources and actively build beneficial relationships. They are givers and supporters and not just in it for themselves. They think collaboration not isolation.

Innovators – 
see opportunities to improve, change or introduce radical new ideas and thinking. They can galvanise support and make it happen.

Risk takers – 
willing to have a go, make decisions even in the face of opposition or adversity because they believe in their idea and action. Willing to get it wrong, make mistakes and to learn.

An Intrapreneurial Environment

There are 5 actions an organisation can take to create an intrapreneurial environment

Reward the behaviour you seek – if you want team behaviour reward team behaviour; if you want innovative ideas, reward the idea and the successful implementation of the idea. When there is conflict between how people think they will be rewarded and recognised and what actually happens many people take account of only what is real not what is said. 

Make it OK for people to take risks – for many organisations this can seem quite scary, because it means allowing people to make mistakes. However, many innovative ideas are by their very nature risky but equally they can also deliver a greater benefit when successful. Blind and reckless risk taking is obviously not appropriate so parameters of for example time, resource or context may "qualify" progression of an idea or activity. In saying that too many restrictions can have a negative effect on intrapreneurship. 

Give people ownership – create an open and accountable environment where intrapreneurs have control over content and process so that they can make things happen in the way they see fit. This may mean having appropriate reporting and support mechanisms in place so that some degree of monitoring and assessment can take place. 

Promote transparency across the business – Make it very clear what the business strategy is, where the focus for growth and development is and how innovation is a key part of the future of the business through for example, creation of new products and services, realignment of value through process improvements or organisational changes.

Make the business about learning – innovation may occur in pockets by function, geographic region or service area. To gain maximum organisational advantage from success and learning there must be some process for knowledge and ideas management which must be open, accessible to everyone and actively used and reviewed so that learning can be actively disseminated across an organisation. Just having an intranet where people write reports is not enough to gain the most advantage.

Developing as an Intrapreneur

As a budding intrapreneur what can an employee do to create value make an impact and be recognised for their contribution?

Know thyself! – understand their strengths and where they have skill or knowledge gaps. Be able and willing to acknowledge these strengths and gaps in order to seek out complementary skills and knowledge to make an idea better and/or to bring an idea to fruition.

Create a "Brand You" – businesses have a brand which drives there place in their market and what they stand for. It is also what attracts customers and sponsors to them. Having a personal brand can have the same benefit for an intrapreneur. As someone becomes recognised for certain things or ways of getting things done so people will look to the person to support or work with them. Developing a personal intrapreneurial brand within an organisation can make a budding intrapreneur attractive and recognisable.

Network, Network, Network – the saying that knowledge is power is still true but its meaning and application are starting to change. The power has a more positive connotation; one which implies influence, cooperation, inclusion and collaboration rather than isolated control and "power over". Equally if not more important is the power of an internal and external network. Who you know, who knows you and how relationships can be leveraged for the greater good. Getting to know colleagues for more than their immediate role, getting to know what is important for people across all parts of the business and getting to be known are key activities for an intrapreneur. Networking for intrapreneurs is about leveraging people's skill knowledge and talents for mutual benefit and to benefit the organisation.

Leverage Your Talents - look for opportunities to expand your role, create new opportunities that maximise what you are good at and enjoy and be proactive in solving problems that will have a real impact on the business. At any level in an organisation there are gaps in process, delivery, service, development and problem solving and these areas are a good place to start to make a measurable difference. 

One way an organisation can create an intrapreneurial environment is through the establishment of peer group networks. These are internal groups of people with a common purpose, a common trait or a completely disparate group who come together on a regular basis in a semi formal forum to create, share, learn, support and build relationships. Many large organisations have internal women's networks. As an example BT as an executive women's network and an Asian network.

Gaining and maintaining a competitive edge, creating value that leads a market and offering new products and services that wow customers are all high level objectives for most organisations. 

The monopoly on good ideas, ways of improving new product development, ways of reducing cost and increasing profit as examples, are not limited to the boardroom or senior executives. Across and within organisations there are budding intrapreneurs looking for the opportunity to make a real difference. 

Let them have their say, empower them to take accountability for change and in doing so your organisation can create not only more rounded, motivated and engaged employees but it may also have a bottom and top line impact on the organisation's success. As an example Google encourages employees to use 20% of their time for pursuing entrepreneurial ideas.

One definition of an entrepreneur is a person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture. An intrapreneur is exactly the same but he operates within an organisation. Make intrapreneurship a strategic objective and start to reap the real benefits it can bring.

This Article is authored / contributed by ▸ Albert Einstein who travels from Ulm, Germany. Albert is available for Professional Training Work both Virtually and In-Person. ▸ Enquire Now.

Comments (3)
What's your opinion?

Bob Po
I am a lawyer by profession-Barrister (Grays Inn)I have lived in SA for many years,> I am in semi retirement-but for many years have trainied in business (M&A entrepreneurship etc) For the past few years I have researched Intrapreneuship-and in the present economic environment could be given more scope in SA-where it is hardly known. Bearing these commments in mind I would like to open a dialogue with you on introducing the concept of Intrapreneurship in SA. I have written a paper on the topic-but now would like to discuss with professionals Regards Bob Power
Bob Po from South Africa
I am a lecturer and one of my interests is entrepreneurship education in which I am doing my PhD. One of the topics I am interested in teaching the entrepreneurship course to my students is intrapreneurship. I am now thinking of how we can develop this into a training modules for executives of companies. I need guidance on the course content based on the "real world" practices. Are there some universities I can link with to do this. I shall be grateful to receive your response.
Jacob from Uganda
Bob Po
I lecture on business, including entrepreneurship. I am a lawyer by profession. I have a relationship with the Wits University Business School and we have been discussing the introduction of a programme on Intrapreneurship next year in SA. Intrapreneurship is hardly known is SA and with the present economic situation, this concept has merit. I would appreciate your comments especially how to commence the progamme-buying in by corporates etc. We have read quite alot of literature and have a good idea of the concept-it would however be of interest to know how other countries have started and developed the concept. Apprfeciate your comments
Bob Po from South Africa

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