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Tapping Into Creativity: The Concept of Intrapreneurship

InnovationIn the U.S., 12.3% of the population is identified as a nascent entrepreneur or owner of a business less than three years old. That is roughly 22 million people between the ages of 18-64. The number is even higher if you factor in the growing number of people who think about owning a business or work inside an organization. And who wouldn’t want to be an entrepreneur? They’re passionate, resilient, decisive and fearless. And because of these personality traits, they are often more innovative than their corporate counterparts.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could harness those personality traits in your own organization?

That’s exactly what some are trying to do, by identifying the necessary environmental factors that contribute to innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of attending a Babson Entrepreneur Experience Lab hosted by Babson College, which focused on the concept of intrapreneurship. The ability to tap into creativity within your own organization and foster intrapreneurship can lead to innovation.

By fostering a culture of intrapreneurship within an organization, one is opening the organization up to potential innovation opportunities. Of course it’s easy for anyone to say they want to foster intrapreneurship or generate innovation, it is a much different story when one tries to implement the concept in their own organization. So what does intrapreneurship need to exist in an organization?

After extensive interviews with traditional entrepreneurs and existing intrapreneurs, Babson identified nine fundamental categories, called the Elements of the Entrepreneur Experience. These nine categories must exist at any organization in order to ensure the success of intrapreneurs.

  • Identity: One has to be able to see oneself as an entrepreneur.
  • Storytelling: Teach each other through stories.
  • Community: There needs to be a safe place to share common experiences and values.
  • Ecosystem: Created through the intersection of organizational structure, strategy and people.
  • Social Capital: Staff needs to build trust and reputation to earn the freedom to act.
  • Uncertainty: It’s okay to experiment and fail.
  • Learning and Relearning: Be open to change how you learn and work.
  • Investment: One must work to gain support from executives.
  • Team: Create co-owners of an idea versus team members.

Babson isn’t the only one exploring the concept of intrapreneurship, EY conducted a series of surveys among senior business leaders as well as interviews with leading academics and industry authorities to identify the best ways to turn this concept of intrapreneurship into reality. The surveys' results found that effective intrapreneurship involves six tactics:

  1. Set up a formal structure for intrapreneurship. Give people enough time away from their “day jobs” to work on creative projects, but provide a formal process for new product development.
  2. Ask for ideas from your employees. They have their fingers on the pulse of the marketplace. Encourage them to contribute to the innovation dialogue.
  3. Assemble and unleash a diverse workforce. It’s no secret that diverse groups come up with more innovative ideas. Tap into this multifaceted source of power.
  4. Design a career path for your intrapreneurs. For the most part, intrapreneurs are mavericks who will quit — and take their best ideas with them — if they don’t see prospects for career advancement.
  5. Explore government incentives for innovation. Ask how these can support your intrapreneurial ventures. Governments all over the world are offering new tax breaks and other incentives for research and development — and corporations in turn are urging governments to support innovation.
  6. Prepare for the pitfalls of intrapreneurship. Not all ideas will produce successful new products. Failure is an important part of the process.

According to EY, these strategies institutionalize the concept of intrapreneurship so that it becomes an inseparable part of your organization’s operations and continued efforts to think creatively. Plus, it helps one’s industry rise to the challenges of a changing world.

By deeply understanding the needs for an intrapreneurship environment, one can advance entrepreneurship as a natural behavior for problem-solving and creating, and replicate it in the workplace or the world.

Would intrapreneurship work at your organization? What do you see as potential barriers to implementing it?

, AICPA Staff.

Innovation image via Shutterstock


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