Create an Intrapreneurial Culture
By Thomas Nies
In an influential 1985 book, still relevant today, Gifford Pinchot III coined the phrase “intrapreneurship” to describe the marriage of an entrepreneurial spirit – complete with its fierce independence and lack of deference to established views and the strictures of conventional wisdom – with the resources of a large corporation. While these two spirits may seem in conflict, they actually thrive in many of the world’s best-run companies.
Intrapreneurship is a strategy for stimulating innovation by making better use of entrepreneurial talent. When effectively promoted and channeled, intrapreneurship not only fosters innovation, it also helps employees with good ideas to better channel the resources of a corporation to develop more successful products.
Some of the greatest business leaders of the past century made their early mark in business as intrapreneurs. Former General Electric chairman Jack Welch made a name for himself by building GE’s engineering plastics business as if he were starting his own company. Lew Lehr, former chairman of 3M, similarly built his career on his intrapreneurial pursuit of 3M’s expansion into the healthcare industry.
By fostering an intrapreneur ethic within a company, employees can be empowered and enabled to become company “change agents” who are comfortable bringing new ideas forward and promoting their execution.
It is essential to create an elevating and encouraging environment that provides talented and entrepreneurial minded people the freedom to innovate, whilst at the same time supporting them with the resources to quickly bring their innovations to market. For small-to-midsize firms, innovation and speed-to-market are two ways to compete successfully against dominant and well-entrenched companies. Creating, fostering, and sustaining the right environment really are intrapreneurial imperatives.
As someone who...