As business big and small races to keep up with the way digital transformation is creeping into every facet of operations, the demand for intrapreneurship has never been higher. Yet intrapreneurs are still often treated as the underdogs in the business world, or at least as the lesser-known cousin of the entrepreneur.
However, what organisations need to remember is that it is no longer purely the role of the entrepreneurs to enact change and create more efficient, more productive and increasingly lucrative ways of working; what is desperately needed is for these leaders to walk beside forward-thinking, committed members of their workforce and embrace the inevitable storm before the calm.
Anne Arneby is CEO of Nordic Morning Group in Sweden and Finland and a leader in intrapreneurial change. She argues that without intrapreneurship, business cannot survive.
“We are in the fourth industrial revolution, the digital revolution, and the largest one to date. Our societies are changing at an exponential rate and it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate the physical from the digital, or even the biological. This change is disrupting every industry in every country, and it is already changing some of our most fundamental systems, such as production, learning, and trade,” she said.
“In that context, I strongly believe that the demand for intrapreneurship speak for itself. We don´t have the luxury of starting everything all over again. But we do have the possibility to re-invent, re-shape and re-do big parts of our societies. By having entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship hand-in-hand, we will be able to create a better world ahead.”
Anne has a background in business and economics, specialising in strategy and organisation through her Masters degree at Linköping University in Sweden. This combination of study areas satisfied her curiosity for technology, human behavior and business that had driven her towards her career goals from her teen years.
“When you feed your inner drive you also tend to meet others who are interested in the same things and that´s how I have come to work with entrepreneurs, tech people, creative people, change agents and other curious minds from an early age,” she said.
While at university, Anne worked at an advertising agency that was exceptionally innovative and forward-thinking. This further sparked her passion for intrapreneurship and as she progressed through her next few jobs, she realised she was drawn to businesses in urgent need of change.
Anne now focuses her attention on organisations that require assistance in updating their ways of working to meet the rapidly changing technological landscape. While this work is often challenging and sometimes near-impossible, it is also extremely rewarding.
“You develop yourself all the time in this work, plus, it offers life-long learning for both the company and the employees.”
When taking on a new assignment, Anne begins by working closely with the customers to identify their pain points, while at the same time identifying the cultural aspects the corporate legacy consists of.
“Corporate legacy is an extension of corporate culture, and it shapes attitudes and behavior among individual employees as well as on a broader, organisation-wide scale,” Anne explained.
Another important part of the transformational work is connected to the legacy system, or legacy platform. This refers to the systems within an organisation which have become obsolete which is often related to technology, but it can extend far beyond. It may be a way of working that is no longer supported by vendors or needs to be reimagined due to changing business requirements or clientele.
Be customer-centric and be clear about what you want your corporate legacy to be. For this you have to consider a number of factors e.g. what are the possibilities and threats; will it be possible to drive a change journey; can you simultaneously create value for customers as well as for the owners.
Intrapreneurs in all types of business can use these principles to untangle the need for change within their organisation and help map out a progressive future direction. It can help to ask questions such as;
- Where we are going to play?
- How are we going to win and differentiate?
- What capabilities need to be in place to execute?
- What are the cultural imperatives to enable differentiation and execution?
”Intrapreneurs want to disrupt, but their starting point is from within the company. They excel at challenging and rethinking what is already there. They are drawn to unreleased potential, to great ideas that got stuck or stopped evolving. Their psychology is to look at legacy from a new angle,” Anne said in her article, Ode to the Intrapreneur.
Anne urges those with the intrapreneurial drive to stand tall, respect your talents and passions and find employers who will do the same. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo; big business or small, intrapreneurship is what will pull legacy into the future.
”You’re not choosing a career. You’re choosing a life. So choose jobs where you can soar, where your speed and drive for change is appreciated, and where there are status quos for you to challenge. The rest will sort itself out.”