How To Foster And Fuel Intrapreneurship At A Large Corporation

I once did a lecture about intrapreneurship for company’s listed on the Stock Exchange in Stockholm. Afterwards, one of them came up to me and said:

“I want to employ you in my company.”
“No you don’t”, I said (with a smile)

And it’s true. Most company leaders dream about their employees being a bit more entrepreneurial. They want them to take more initiative, have greater drive and run things more independently. But I always ask them one simple question:

“Are you ready to make the changes needed to make room for these entrepreneurial souls?” (read more about the competencies of entrepreneurial souls in a corporation)

Dilbert cartoon about convincing his boss to be more entrpreneurial

To be able to attract, host and even more importantly retain intrapreneurs, it is not enough to just look over a single department. You need to have a long-term approach and oil your whole corporate machinery with some intrapreneurial grease.

Developing an Intrapreneurial Culture

people working together pulling each other up a hill

The reason why intrapreneurial projects or intrapreneurs rarely survive within a large organisation is because the climate and culture doesn’t allow it. You may want intrapreneurship, but you’d rather limit it to individual projects or departments. This means the projects and the intrapreneur become isolated and exposed to unnecessary resistance internally, resulting in both struggling to survive.

A company that wants to foster intrapreneurship needs to:

  • Work with the whole organisation
  • Have people work towards a goal instead of telling them what to do
  • Dare to take more risk and face more drama
  • Open up for discussions to jointly solve problems
  • Be accepting and forgiving of mistakes
  • Forget about conservative job descriptions and trust the problem-solving skills of the individual

Recalibrating to Intrapreneurial Leadership

chess pieces lined up with shadows showing which is the leader

Company leaders will always be crucial in creating the right atmosphere and setting the scene for the right culture. The majority of the leadership I see in large corporations is not adapted for an intrapreneurial culture. In fact, it is not adapted for creativity at all. It is focused on creating stability through control and the minimisation of risk.

Focusing on these areas has never worked as a great seed bed for innovation. Instead you need to work with the whole company’s leadership and:

  • Dare to recruit and promote new leadership profiles
  • Rewrite the definition of leadership and support them so they can practice an intrapreneurial friendly leadership
  • Put less expectation on stability, control and risk minimisation

Attracting and Recruiting the Right Talent

talented red arrows in synch across a blue sky

Your company is probably an attractive employer normally, but if you want to attract entrepreneurial souls you are up against cool startups. Therefore, you have to look over your approach if you are serious about recruiting intrapreneurs. This means you have to:

  • Set clear ambitions around intrapreneurship and then talk about them openly
  • Make sure there are alternative career paths for these individuals. An intrapreneur doesn’t necessary want her boss’ job
  • Use your intrapreneurs as ambassadors, both internally and externally
  • Maybe even dare to put one on your board

To launch an intrapreneurial project is also a good way to embrace the culture and show you are serious about the change – it is also the best way to learn!

A SURVIVAL guide for INTRAPRENEURSHIP in the CORPORATE WORLD

The willingness to change in large corporations is all about changing the culture. You can gain a lot through leading by example which means that intrapreneurs should have the right prerequisites to succeed. With Åsa’s ”Hacks” at hand, it is more likely that you will succeed. – Read it & Do it…make change happen.

Johan Sjö,
Board professional after 25 yrs in Nordic industries

Become a Corporate Hacker

Written by Åsa Caap

A Stockholm based entrepreneur/intrapreneur helping corporations fuel Innovation and foster Intrapreneurship. Former Global Innovation Dir. at ABSOLUT VODKA and later founder and CEO of Our/Vodka, that she ran under the umbrella of the world’s second largest spirit company, as an intrapreneur for 7 years. She has several patents of her own and is a member of the Swedish Inventor Society.

May 3, 2020

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