When we think of ‘innovation,’ we often think about those classic stories of people tinkering away in the pursuit of scientific and technological progress. That’s where so many key companies began, after all. But, it’s important to remember that it’s not the only way it happens.
There’s a reason some companies manage to stay in the game for so long: They recognise the creative and technical geniuses that are innovating within the structure of business and harness their potential. This practice is known as intrapreneurialism.
An intrapreneur creates, pitches, and gets funding for their own business ideas or products while working as an employees within a larger corporate structure. It’s about identifying a new opportunity and leading from the front.
If you’re someone who likes the idea of contributing to a larger team, having steady pay and benefits, and getting exposure to the workings of a major corporation, but you still want to make something new, then find a company with a culture of intrapreneurship. If you want to exercise your intrapreneurial spirit within the company you currently work for, here are some ways you can become recognised as the valuable asset you are.
Understand the company. It all begins with a deep understanding of the unique challenges that the company faces. Spend time researching a specific issue within your area of expertise to gain an understanding of what needs fixing and consider some viable strategies. Look at your department’s unique pain points and the way they impact customers or colleagues. An intrapreneur’s focus is on transforming the company from the inside out.
Build relationships. Build your user knowledge and insider relationships to gain allies, resources and support for your ideas. You need to build a team, invest your own time, and seek sponsorship from executives in the right department.
Be brave and take risks. You have to be able to put yourself on the line and say ‘I really think it’s worth doing something about this.’ Then, go and create the story, the arguments, support, just as you would if you were going it solo out in the business world. You can’t be afraid to fail. A love of
experimentation means you explore different potential paths to produce innovative breakthroughs. This can often result in failure, but as an intrapreneur, you can’t see a failed experiment as permanent failure. Failure is an important and unavoidable stepping-stone on the path to success.
Step out your role. An intrapreneurial spirit isn’t confined by an official role or title. No matter what role you’re in, take the steps to build informal leadership by applying critical and creative thinking to come up with out-of-the-box solutions. When you understand your colleagues’ most pressing problems you can empathize, which leads to valuable outcomes for the company.
Take initiative and have faith. An intrapreneur doesn’t ask permission first, they get permission along the way. Focus on getting investment dollars, a head count, project teams and whatever else is needed to create that new business. You tend to ask a little more forgiveness than permission, with the bigger picture in mind.
Your passion, empathy, critical thinking and collaboration will help your organisation compete and evolve. An intrapreneur, you will constantly seek innovative solutions to the problems you see around you and bring opportunities to light as a part of your normal role and responsibilities.
So, if you wake up every morning itching to go to work to swim against the tide, if you are committed to helping your company become more innovative, can see the future coming and are committed to ensuring your company survives in that future, you may just be an intrapreneur.