Have your entrepreneurial cake and eat it too, part II

March 12th, 2020 4 min |


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In part I of this series, we explained why more and more companies – including GSoft – are adopting the intrapreneurship playbook. In a nutshell? The freedom and agility usually reserved for traditional entrepreneurship pay off for bigger organizations too; they foster employee loyalty, accelerate innovation and give businesses a serious edge in a rapid-fire economy. But seriously, just read it, we’re willing to bet you’ll be ready to jump on the intrapreneurship bandwagon by the end. Now that’s all well and good in theory, but how can you actually start walking the walk? Here are a few tips to point you in the right direction.

Learn to recognize intrapreneurial qualities

Identifying existing and prospective employees that have the potential for creative problem-solving and the drive to implement is the first step in master-minding the shift. So what should you be looking for? Great minds have been hard at work trying to figure that out. Among them, the very man who popularized the term intrapreneurship in 1978 – Gifford Pinchot. Here are the seven qualities he’s identified as being common to successful intrapreneurs, and the traits you should be looking to highlight within your team.

  • Curiosity
  • Action
  • Meaningful purpose
  • Dedication in the face of resistance
  • Courage and persistence
  • Whole-systems thinking
  • Collaboration

Create and model an intrapreneurial culture

Beyond identifying your intrapreneurs, you need to be intentional about creating a culture that makes it safe to innovate. That means leaving room for failure, rethinking the way you measure success and modelling trust from the top down. Here are a few things you can do to start crafting that culture:

  • Allow people to publicly experiment and fail.
  • Encourage people to follow their curiosity.
  • Create space for dissenting opinions and ideas.
  • Build clear pathways for people who want to take on more ownership.
  • Integrate intrapreneurship in your onboarding and HR documents.
  • Look for intrapreneurial traits in your resume scanning and interview process.
  • Be willing to question, evaluate and kill your pet theories.
  • Tie all intrapreneurial projects to your company’s core vision and mission.
  • Get consistent and explicit buy-in from your executive team.
  • Acknowledge and incentivize creative disruption and risk-taking.
  • Enable people to make quick decisions independently.
  • Tap into the one thing that excites and drives every member of your team.

Build out the structures for ideation and innovation

Though intrapreneurship may look chaotic to the naked eye, there’s actually quite a method to the madness. In fact, in outlining its 5 keys to successful teams, innovation giant Google ranked structure and clarity at number 3, right after psychological safety and dependability. Unsure where to begin or what structures need to be created? Here are a few starting points to consider.

  • Create clear and explicit organizational pathways from lead projects from ideation to implementation.
  • Empower people to work outside of their siloed departments.
  • Make sure your team knows who and how to pitch a new idea.
  • Give your teams measurable goals, clear roles and adapted incentives.
  • Allocate paid time and resources to projects that don’t relate to your core business.

Fundamentally, we’ve found that true intrapreneurship is about moving beyond what Territory cofounder Marc Sniukas calls “innovation theatre” by truly converting your team’s hearts and minds to the inherent value of experimentation and creative problem-solving; even if it doesn’t result in a blockbuster product or solution. And while leadership buy-in plays a big role in shifting a company’s mainstream approach to intrapreneurship and innovation, the good news is, many of those foundational changes in process and ethos can start from the ground up. Will you be the first brave soul to take the plunge?

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