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Crash course: Intrapreneurship

Crash course: Intrapreneurship

Reading time: 4 minutes
From rideshare giants to space-transportation futurists, it's no secret successful entrepreneurs hustle, think big, and strategically assemble teams to turn humble startups into unicorn powerhouses. This pants-on-fire startup energy is being injected into many business operations, with leaders confident that the entrepreneurial mindset can help them become innovators and disruptors, industry leaders, and surging market players. They're driving change by promoting intrapreneurship—charging personnel throughout the organization to develop creative, spirited ideas to boost performance.

Intrapreneurship defined

Intrapreneurship is the act of bringing an entrepreneurial mindset to an established organization. Leaders leverage the backbone of the existing business, such as its resources, data, human capital, infrastructure, and experience, to address pain points or challenges within the organization.
Intrapreneurship involves gathering various people throughout the business—young and old, managers and front-line workers—together to brainstorm new business-building ideas. For instance, intrapreneurs might investigate strategies to break into a new market, improve customer service, or increase customer retention rates.
These intrapreneurs are emboldened to take risks, to break the rules, and to carve creative workarounds for compelling ideas rather than being limited by perceived or real constraints. As a result, both employee and employer benefit. Intrapreneurs get the rush of helping a business grow minus the personal risk, while organizations generate rich, tangible ideas to bolster performance.

How intrapreneurship can help your business

It's natural for established businesses to become conservative and be more invested in keeping pace rather than trying to surge ahead with ambitious though potentially risky or costly strategies. The world, of course, is full of companies—Blockbuster Video being one oft-cited example—that struggled to evolve and adapt even as disruptive forces entered the fray and challenged their livelihood.
Intrapreneurship, however, can push businesses to be more innovative and groundbreaking, to confront an ever-evolving business climate, and to better serve customers and employees. A champion of intrapreneurship, Virgin Group CEO Sir Richard Branson credits a robust intrapreneurial culture with delivering some of his corporation's transformative ideas, including private sleeper suites on long-haul flights and hosting local vendor pop-up shops in his train stations.
But beyond the tangible ideas to spur business results, intrapreneurship provides many workers, particularly Millennials, what they crave most: the opportunity to be creative, productive contributors to the business rather than simply cogs on the wheel—and that can boost worker engagement and retention.

5 ways to implement intrapreneurship into your business

1. Be on the lookout for entrepreneurial souls Form a task team by recruiting staff members unafraid to take risks and think creatively. The best intrapreneurs are often self-motivated, ambitious, inquisitive, and experts in specific areas.
2. Focus on a specific problem Dictating that a group “improve results” is too monumental and ambiguous a task. Instead, start with a precise need or problem that the team can solve by setting comprehensive goals.
3. Provide resources Provide your intrapreneurs regular time, comfortable space, and resources—funding, key company data, and technology to name just a few—to develop their ideas. Allow them access to people and resources both in and out of the organization that can help them test and advance promising solutions.
4. Get out of the way Give autonomy and independence to your intrapreneurs. This will encourage them to take ownership of ideas, push innovation, and investigate potential game-changing ideas without pause. Ensure them that mistakes will not be penalized, but are rather a part of the development process.
5. Take action It's only natural that an established business may hesitate to roll out something new, but businesses in today's competitive climate cannot be afraid to evolve and take calculated risks. Trust your intrapreneurs have studied the problem and have crafted worthy, relevant solutions.

Launching intrapreneurship

From creativity and hustle to flexibility and transparency, the same attributes that spur entrepreneurial success can similarly spark an established organization to new levels of success. By giving intrapreneurs within your business permission to challenge the status quo and a charge to embrace ideas that can elevate the organization's performance and marketplace standing, your business can position itself for long-term, sustained success with a team more connected to the business and energized to innovate.

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