Intrapreneurship and the development of a culture of innovation in large organizations

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Intrapreneurship or Corporate Entrepreneurship VS Innovation

Intrapreneurship consists of promoting entrepreneurial activities from and to the interior of an existing organization (for example a large corporation) to promote competitiveness and employment based on the generation, execution and monetization of innovative initiatives. Usually this action is related to the innovation culture in the product or service strategy.

According to the definitions of different authors, intrapreneurship is also called corporate entrepreneurship. And for this reason we will speak of intrapreneurs or corporate entrepreneurs indistinctly.

This concept has existed for some time, but is expanding at a considerable rate as companies try to leverage and prepare employees to create and innovate.

More recently, organizations have focused on open innovation, a practice in which, in a very brief way, visions and technologies from sources other than the organization are sought through crowdsourcing, licenses, associations, etc. This concept is based on the premise that the most innovative / smart / skilled workers are practically always employed in another organization or startup.

However, intrapreneurship prefers to have their employees take over new projects within the company and generate value through new initiatives. Generally, these corporate entrepreneurs work in networks, in multidisciplinary or transversal teams, with or without external participation and move with a high level of autonomy and in this way they own the success of their projects.

Despite the apparent difference between the two concepts, there are many ways in which open innovation and intrapreneurship are linked and aligned. In fact, in my opinion, both form a tanden of success. A 2014 study found that the most important element in the development, progress and expansion of a start-up are the connections and networks that the team can form among themselves and with other organizational teams. Also Sherry Coutu and others identify in their work some challenges to reach high levels of success in a new project, such as:

  1. Gather the right mix of capabilities.
  2. Make sure you have the necessary leadership skills.
  3. Access to users in other markets.
  4. Good infrastructure or “amparo” organizational.

Obviously enough support is needed in order to bring a nascent project to the market and that the new idea fits properly in this and throughout the process the risks of the operation must be taken into account. Although some studies argue that the most creative individuals are the least gifted for leadership, the intrapreneurship considers that a useful way to overcome the obstacles to develop a start-up is the creation of powerful innovation networks between employees, since they have benefits Such as engaging employees with a desire to innovate, leveraging the impact of innovation programs on organizations, generating a group of employees that can be guided to existing innovation activities, guiding them to achieve ROI improvement, identifying employees Of high potential that, perhaps, do not fit in the classic archetype, etc.


How do you define corporate entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs?

Javier Megías, in this post on intrapreneurship defines them as:

  • They are critical people with the established way of doing things, and do not accept the “always has been done so”

  • They often tolerate badly the growing bureaucracy that prevails in companies, and seek (and find) ways to skip it

  • They are not afraid to say what they think, which makes them “uncomfortable”

  • They are flexible and agile, and value above all acts (against “medals”)

  • They are committed to the future of the company, not to the particular goals of the kingdom of taifas created by its direct superior.

  • They have enthusiasm and desire to change, and they do not perceive change as negative but as an opportunity

  • Although they can have any “antiquity”, they are usually located in the section where they already know the company well and its processes but they have not yet lost the illusion (something that, although it depends a lot on the character, happens sooner or later)

How to boost the management of innovation through intrapreneurship

It is clear that innovation in large corporations is somewhat complicated. In fact, the implementation of intrapreneurship programs is booming in recent years because more than 80% of executives (according to this EY study) are aware that innovation (or how to make a large corporation so agile As a startup) is absolutely crucial to the success of the organization in the future. The competition environment is so aggressive that large corporations that fail to generate internal structures (through corporate ventures) aimed at obsolete the corporation in the present, will not be able to stay in the market and for this it is necessary that the culture of innovation Be in the DNA of every corner of the organization.

But of course, this is easy to say, but how to get it is the question whose response each organization has to create. In general, my proposal goes through these keys to make a large corporation as agile as a startup. And on the other hand, recently I read in Forbes these other factors related to this challenge that I summarize here

  • Generating a collaborative environment or ecosystem, both through technologies with which to share knowledge and the workplace itself, to contemplate spaces where serendipity, cross-fertilization or cross-pollination can occur.
  • Looking for “positive deviants” or positive deviants in English, based on Richard Pascale’s concept of positive deviation. In a corporate framework, this theory can be a process for better expansion of innovation tasks.
  • Understanding how the role of the manager or manager is changing, going from being traditionally seen as a “blocker or killer of innovation” to see it today as a facilitator of both knowledge and resources to create internal startups.
  • Connecting the dots, by including connecting points to help propel the success of new ideas as you seek support within the organization.