Google famously allows employees to use 20% of their working week in pursuit of their own ideas. There’s some debate as to whether it actually exists anymore but it would be nice to think it did once, at least.
It’s a great example of creating the kind of workplace conditions that let intrapreneurs flourish. In Australia organisations setting up think tanks or ideas labs such as Virgin Australia are on the right lines, but organisations should work to create a culture that supports innovation across the organisation as a whole.
How can I help the intrapreneurs in my business and why should I?
A recent Deloitte whitepaper into accelerating innovation in corporations identifies six corporate payoffs that come from intrapreneurship:
- Elevating the top line – continuous innovation drives new products and services
- Breeding talent – growing existing talent and attracting high-quality talent
- Gaining a competitive advantage – through alternative customer and market insights
- Boosting company culture – the knock on effect of success stories
- Growing the bottom line – through effective use of resources
- Cutting time to market – from viable product development that isn’t over engineered
Making a business case for fostering intrapreneurs isn’t hard, the challenge lies in putting in place practical measures that sometimes go against traditional management techniques.
According to the Deloitte whitepaper, and others, intrapreneurs are motivated differently, so they need to be managed differently:
- Support – via an open culture that invites incremental and radical ideas
- Autonomy and responsibility – cut red tape to let intrapreneurs evolve ideas outside of the normal chain of command
- Motivation and incentives – financial incentives are important but also acknowledge success and embrace failure as part of the process
- Resources – grant quick access to finance and people
- Compensation – design packages to reward in the short term and the long term
- Communication – foster an open exchange of ideas both internally and with external experts
- Structure and processes – Delegate decision-making to the lowest possible level, so they are made by those with the most knowledge. Foster cross-discipline collaboration.
Australia ranked 17th on the Global Innovation Index in 2015, so we dropped two places in the space of a year, the same time China made it into the top 25 for the first time.
Encouraging ideas from within organisations is just one of the barriers to innovation faced by Australia, but it’s one every business can start to tackle now.
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