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A change in attitudes is taking place in businesses around the world and across industries at present, with a group of self-motivated, proactive and action-oriented people coming to the fore to lead their companies in innovative new directions.
The rise of the 'intrapreneur' is not exactly a new phenomena, with the term having been coined by Gifford Pinchot in his 1978 paper Intra-Corporate Entrepreneurship. It is, however, a development that the modern business leader should be paying close attention to, due to the growing need for innovative new ideas and products to help corporations stand out in a crowded marketplace. And never more so in the current times, where supply chains are being tested, new ways of working are being adopted and strategic shifts between the business as usual and the long term vision are having to be navigated by leaders.
An intrapreneur is an individual who today is defined as: "A person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation."
They are therefore the type of employee that leaders must ensure they keep hold of, but in the fast-paced world of business, if these innovative risk-takers do not get the support they need then they may take their ideas elsewhere, and while not every intrapreneurial endeavour will prove a success, those that do can provide a significant boost to a business.
The introduction of the millennial generation to today's workforce has precipitated a far-reaching change in many business cultures, not least of which has been the impact of this group's drive to make a difference.
Millennials are often portrayed as a restless group, quick to move on if they feel their current job fails to fulfil their expectations or meet up to their ideals. However, when businesses take the time to engage with their staff more closely and allow these individuals to make an impact, then great things can happen.
Providing intrapreneurs - not necessarily just of the millennial generation, but of any age - with the tools to make their vision of a better business or product a reality is therefore an essential part of this process.
A key element of ensuring that intrapreneurism is allowed to flourish within a business is therefore having the courage to embrace change and the foresight to invest in one's staff, be this through training, coaching or simply by giving them the platform to try out their ideas.
Company leaders, now more than ever, need to be aware of the pitfalls of a failure to support the intrapreneurs within their midst, as this is a group that given the right environment to flourish can deliver lasting benefits and change.
By focusing on uncovering the individual talents of staff and creating a culture that embeds innovation into the very fabric of a business, leaders are liberating their employees to think outside of their daily responsibilities and to provide a framework for growth.
Furthermore, making a meaningful contribution to how a business operates and progresses is a strong attractor for many of the best and brightest.
It is therefore in the interest of company leaders to invest in talent liberation and in supporting intrapreneurial practices, as these are all elements of creating an inclusive and dynamic place to work. Indeed, when an employee knows it is okay to indulge in their creative side you will see excitement growing with new ideas and the energy to put them into motion.
However, if intrapreneurs feel they are not being appreciated for their hard work and drive to make changes, then this is a situation when companies can miss out and lose these individuals to their rivals.
Conservative or risk-averse leaders may therefore struggle to recognise the distinct advantages of supporting this type of work, but if they do not, then they could be losing valuable and potentially industry-changing innovations to others in their field - a situation that does not bode well for future prosperity.
Ensuring the very highest-ranking members of the business (right up to board level and the CEO) are promoting a culture where ideas from everyone within the business are given an equal hearing must be a priority for those wishing to get the very best out of their teams. Delivering an engaged and productive workforce is therefore key to this.
On this topic, leaders should not underestimate the importance of aligning the talents and attitudes of the company's key innovators to the overriding vision and goals of the business.
Leaders need to realise that they cannot make things happen directly, but instead rely upon those around them to deliver their vision for the company and to make it a reality. It is therefore important for all members of a business to be pulling in the same direction and this is where the intrapreneur can truly make a difference.
Realising this can result in a paradigm shift in the way that businesses operate, with the purpose of the business placed at the very core of all its activities.
Ultimately, companies that wish to excel in the field of intrapreneurism must not be afraid to tolerate failure and to embrace change. Indeed, only by doing so can the conditions to foster intrapreneurial endeavours be properly created.
By investing successfully in the talents of staff and by promoting the creation of more intrapreneurial teams within a business, companies can not only garner improved engagement from individuals keen to make a difference in their career, they also position themselves to be innovators in their field and to attract the very best.
To find out more about developing the leadership that champions innovation and intrapreneurial practices, get in touch.
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