Intrapreneurship (also known as Corporate Entrepreneurship) was a word coined by Gifford Pinchot III to describe how corporations can benefit if their employees adapted an entrepreneurial spirit in the workplace. This idea combines an entrepreneur’s independent spirit and unconventional wisdom with the resources of an organization. Though it may look like a divergence of thoughts, intrapreneurship has actually prospered in many of the world’s best-run organizations.
Effectively implementing intrapreneurship in your organization stimulates innovation by tapping into each employee’s entrepreneurial talent. By adapting intrapreneurship, you create a culture for employees with good ideas to better channel the resources of your company to develop better products or services. Intrapreneurship empowers and enables your employees to become “change agents” in your company; bringing fresh new ideas forward and advocating their implementation.
The challenge is for company owners to create an environment that allows its entrepreneurial employees enough freedom to innovate, and support these individuals with the resources necessary to quickly implement their innovations. For SMEs, the innovation and speed of implementation that intrapreneurship gives help them compete against bigger companies.
I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart; and this attitude of mine has made it difficult for me to hold on to my first jobs. Back then (at least in the Philippines), having an entrepreneurial spirit was frowned upon by managers who felt that they were being challenged by people like me. All I really wanted was to make my job easier by making some creative changes in the system. Had my previous employers listened to me, like i-Bank (this was the last Filipino company I was ever employed in) did, they would have benefitted from the many ideas I’ve shared.
I remember that our entrepreneurial spirit was put to the test at the turn of the millennium, when i-Bank (along with other big banks) suffered a major bank-run. I remember fearing that the bank would soon close; but despite that, we all came to work even on Saturday and Sunday to service the long lines of people who wanted to withdraw their money. We never flinched; even though we were sure that we were probably not going to get paid for our work if the bank had closed.
Our fears, we would later find out, were baseless. By Tuesday (because Monday was May 1, a holiday), the money started coming back to the bank. Our clients, seeing how we never abandoned them, started to trust us even more. Not only did the money start pouring back in, but by a few months, deposits had nearly doubled. None of these things would have happened if i-Bank had not treated us like entrepreneurs. Because of this, we felt that the bank “was our business!”
The International Exchange Bank or i-Bank was at the forefront of Filipino intrapreneurship. Their being sold to Union Bank was not because they were losing money. On the contrary; they were doing very well in terms of business. The bank’s sale was for the personal reasons of some of its board members.
I-Bank had actually taught me what entrepreneurship was.
Why was intrapreneurship so effective in i-Bank? Here are some important things that should be considered when balancing risks, rewards, opportunities with difficulties of implementing intrapreneurship in your company:
Keep an Open Mind
Implementing intrapreneurship can be quite difficult for some “old-school” managers who don’t appreciate or respect the entrepreneurial spirit.
For this ideal to prosper, organizational leaders have to be willing to open their minds and recognize good ideas; no matter who it’s from. We should keep in mind that intrapreneurs thrive on the freedom that allows them to innovate. It is vital that people be given the proper environment to see their own ideas through.
Eliminate Corporate Bureaucracy
Again, this is not an easy task; but it is very essential. We must be ready to listen to anyone who comes to us with an idea on how to improve any facet of our business. It shouldn’t matter what that person’s rank in the organizational is. If he or she presents a viable or feasible idea, that idea should be supported fully. It may be better to circumvent a tedious and lengthy bureaucratic process than to miss out on the vast opportunities new ideas bring.
However, even if we do take away the bureaucratic process, there should still be a credible, easy to understand and efficient “idea approval” process. After all, there must still be some form of control.
Embrace Constructive Failure
We should be aware that most entrepreneurs have built their accomplishments on a succession of failures; learning from each failure, until they eventually succeed. Hence, it is important that we allow our employees some degree of inevitable failure. While we should frown upon failure resulting from poor planning, negligence and lackluster execution, we should always encourage employees to come forward with good ideas and assist them in planning and executing these ideas.
Many high achievers are not afraid to expose themselves to failure and criticism. As such, we must show our support to those with the courage to fail in order to succeed. We should never be afraid to embrace “constructive failure” in order to score big victories for our organizations.
Share the Recognition
Wouldn’t it be great if no one cared who got the recognition for a good idea? This, however, is a utopia. Recognition is still a key driver for us all. Some people even try to steal good ideas just to be recognized.
It is up to the company owners or higher management to make sure that the credit for a good idea be shared by all in the organization. For instance, if a good idea earned the company PHP 2,000,000.00, management should make sure that this gets apportioned properly to, first, the person or persons responsible for the idea, then, to the rest of the company. This way, everybody will try to pitch in for an idea to work; since everybody wins if an idea succeeds.
Break Established Patterns
Though it’s right to have rules and procedures that govern our organization, we should never let that limit us from what we can achieve. We should avoid using statements like, “We’ve always done it this way,” or “That’s not the way we do things here.” It might even be necessary to break the established patterns and come up with new ones to meet new opportunities. We have to discern which rules continue to help us grow and which rules hinder our progress as an organization.
Do It Now
Start implementing intrapreneurship in your organization now! It may well be the most important step in your company’s growth.
is the Managing Director of Our-Knowledge Asia and a Business Consultant for Local and Foreign Start-ups, SMEs and Organizations based in the Philippines.