November 12, 2013

Identify Intrapreneurs to Improve Innovation

One of the most valuable employees within any organization today is what’s coming to be popularly known as “the intrapreneur.” Intrapreneurs are employees embedded in established companies that utilize an entrepreneurial skillset to develop projects that become profitable ventures for the company.

Intrapreneurs are responsible for major innovations from some of the world’s largest, most well-known brands, according to a recent Miami Herald article on intrapreneurship. These innovations include 3M’s Post-it Notes, the Sony PlayStation, the Java programming language, and digital light processing technology, to name a few.

Intrapreneurs take existing businesses and transform them, whereas an entrepreneur starts with an idea and builds a business around it. Just like successful entrepreneurs, successful intrapreneurs are excellent communicators who have the ability to sell others on their vision. They’re also able to work with members of many different departments in their organization and have an insatiable appetite for experimentation.

With intrapreneurs becoming more and more critical to a business’ long-term success, how can you identify the intrapreneurs within your organization? That was the topic of a Harvard Business Review article published this fall. Among the authors’ tips for identifying intrapreneurs and encouraging innovation within an organization are grooming intrapreneurs out of employees who are capable of making rapid strategic pivots, those who are humble and confident without being arrogant or off-putting, and those who are always looking to the future to see “what’s next.”

Ernst & Young is one company that actively works to promote intrapreneurship within its ranks. Their EMEIA Financial Services (FS) Intrapreneur Program has been developed to encourage the growth of intrapreneurship within Ernst & Young’s own business culture by giving participants first-hand training on what it takes to be an innovator.

Another important aspect of successful intrapreneurs’ makeup is that they don’t accept the norm – one of the key elements necessary for innovation to truly take place. As David DeWolf, 3Pillar Global’s Founder and CEO, wrote in a previous article, “There is no more ‘business as usual’ in the information age. Business has changed – you need to think differently or get left behind.” This is the mindset that intrapreneurs possess that makes them so successful in the workplace today.

Almost all businesses are going through a disruptive period of change right now, and the pace is only accelerating. Innovation is no longer required to lead, it’s required to survive and grow. There is no longer a status quo. Companies will rise or fall depending on how well they use innovative technologies to create differentiated and compelling experiences for their customers.