While many companies have research and development departments for innovation, they can achieve so much more with intrapreneurship. Intrapreneurship is simply a system that allows your employees to work on their own projects. The employees are solely responsible for creating innovation within the company. There is no one above them pushing their research or creativity in a specific direction.
What is an Intrapreneur and How Does It Differ from an Entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur is a person that is responsible for operating a business and will usually take on financial risk for the operation to become successful. An intrapreneur works on their own projects to benefit the organization by which they were hired. While they have the same kind of freedom as an entrepreneur, they do not have to incur the same kind of risk.
Companies like Google and Intel are allowing their employees to spend a good chunk of their time either working on ideas related to the company or on completely unrelated ideas. The goal here is to facilitate innovation in the people that are driving their businesses forward. While an R&D department is a large contributor to innovation, sometimes the best breakthroughs are found when the employees take part in the process.
Why Do Companies Want Intrapreneurs?
There are many reasons why companies utilize intrapreneurs. Aside from innovation, when they involve their employees in the development of their business, they tend to realize more growth of the business. They are starting to understand that the best ideas can often come directly from their employees that are involved in different segments of their businesses and might understand it better than the staff in R&D.
Companies are finding that intrapreneurs are very driven and motivated, especially if they’re given a strong incentive to produce. That’s why these big companies are running contests, offering prizes, pay bonuses, and are offering intrapreneurs stakes in their projects. The combination of offering financial incentives and their natural drive often produces ideas that would have never have been realized under normal circumstances.
And it’s not just the big businesses that can benefit from intrapreneurs. Small and medium-sized businesses can benefit from giving employees time to work on their own projects. Many of these businesses do not have a budget that allows them to set up a separate R&D department. That’s why it makes sense for them to let their employees have free reign in the development and innovation of their business.
How to Facilitate Intrapreneurs in Your Company
To produce intrapreneurs, you have to facilitate the process. Embracing the intrapreneurial way is more than just letting employees work on their passion projects. You have to set up a system that motivates your employees to take part in the process. The first thing you need to do is to identify your most creative and driven employees. Reach out to them and see if they have ideas and projects in their minds waiting to take shape.
Next, you want to set up a system to track and evaluate their progress. You want to be a part of the process and make sure they’re making the most of their time and efforts. Bad ideas need to be identified quickly, and good ideas need to be given resources for the employees to develop. What you don’t want is for your employees to work on projects that will never lead to anything. At the same time, being too strict and controlling the project can stunt creativity. You have to find a good middle ground.
Finally, you need to offer a strong incentive. Your employees will become more motivated to take part in the process if there is a promising reward. You don’t want to be one of those companies that allow their employees to take part in the process only to take all the credit and profits when they produce something valuable. Word will spread quickly about how useless it is to work on new ideas.
When the intrapreneurs do add value to your business, you want to make sure the successful intrapreneurs are well compensated. You want to give them recognition for innovation with patent plaques. You want to give them a pay raise, bonus, or a portion of the profits. If employees do not feel valued, they will overlook the opportunity and the whole process will fall apart.
An amazing example of successful corporate intrapreneurship is the Sony Playstation. Originally, a Sony employee named Ken Kutaragi was working to improve the performance of the Nintendo console. The CEO saw the value in his work as Kutaragi worked with Nintendo’s development department. What was surprising that Nintendo rejected his ideas only for Sony to jump on it. This is what led to the ultra successful Sony Playstation.
In conclusion, companies that embrace intrapreneurs will thrive because it will drive innovation and development that normally would never have been achieved. It is usually the regular employees that understand the products, services, business processes, and customers better than anyone else. As a result, they’ll often come up with some of the best ideas and breakthroughs for their respective companies. Companies that discourage employees working on new ideas and contributing to growth will slowly get left behind by their competition that embrace and reward their intrapreneurs.