The age of the “intrapreneur”

An individual that acts as an entrepreneur within an organization: an intrapreneur. A person employed at a company who seeks to implement his/her creative ideas to advance the business.

Many companies have a handful of them in house, but those in leadership positions might not recognize the traits of an intrapreneur, or know how to utilize their talents to the company’s advantage. Because intrapreneurs are always looking to do their own thing, often when they go unnoticed or unchallenged, they won’t stick around for very long.

A perfect example: Nest. The brains behind this wildly successful new device are the duo Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, two former Apple employees. Not many would trade in a comfortable (and well-paid) position at a huge company like Apple for a struggling tech startup. But these two – clearly entrepreneurial to the core – left Apple for a reason. They wanted to have the freedom to bring their ideas to life. Google thought they built a great product and purchased the company for $3.2 billion recently.

So how can we, as business leaders, support intrapreneurs? What can we offer them that fosters their innovative qualities without losing them to their own adventures? As a technology company that believes in fostering creativity and innovation, I started to think about how other business leaders can learn to cultivate their own intrapreneurs to build a better business.

Foster a Company Culture

Intrapreneurs are always looking to create something new and different that pushes the boundaries of existing thought. This unique drive makes them a fantastic asset to any business because big companies can use intrapreneurs as a way to “keep up” with their smaller, yet powerful competitors in the startup space. Large organizations should consider acquiring and retaining intrapreneurs by creating company cultures that encourage the development and implementation of big ideas. 

Allow intrapreneurs to explore their ideas privately within a public setting. Invite them to wear headphones or go to a quiet place within the company building to brainstorm new ideas that advance the company’s product or service lines. Perhaps your company can even have a special room where employees can freely go to think and channel their creative side.

Develop a Creative Internal Strategy

There are also strategic organizational efforts that can encourage intrapreneurship within your company, and help to attract those employees with an entrepreneurial spirit in the future.

One company that is famous for innovative internal strategies is Facebook. Inspired by other hackathons, the company frequently encourages employees to come up with new features for the application. One such hackathon was the inception of the “like” feature. LinkedIn uses a similar approach in which employees pitch a new idea to company executives each quarter.

Find similar ways, big or small, to inspire healthy competition among employees and empower them by implementing their ideas in various ways throughout the organization. Many entrepreneurial minds are motivated by competition, so developing an innovative internal strategy that invites creative thinking and doing is a must!

Offer Incentives

Your business’ success can come from intrapreneurs who have opportunities to throw out creative ideas for which they are rewarded. For example, our creative and marketing teams hold a monthly “show and tell” meeting in which team members are tasked to create something based on that month’s theme. Last month’s theme was “augmented reality.” If a concept from this meeting is good enough, we will take it to the next level and implement it.

LinkedIn does something similar. They allow employees to present a new idea each quarter that would benefit the company in some way.  If their idea is approved by the executive team, they are given three months to make their idea a reality.  

Bottom line here: Make sure that your employees know their good ideas and creative energy are appreciated and then go one step further: make them an example to other, less outgoing members of your organization. Recognition is contagious, and you just might uncover some amazing potential. After all, it is our job as business leaders to work together for the betterment of employees as professionals, and as a company overall.

Categories: Management & Leadership, Tech