Effective intrapreneurship is all about change.
- Business models change.
- Who collaborates and how, changes.
- Risk tolerance and the scale of operations vary.
Intrapreneurship cuts across strategy, operations (the “how” as Nilofer Merchant tidily names it), and ways of doing, being and thinking at the level of individuals. The biggest failure of management consultancy is the presumption that strategy can be forged outside and still meaningfully implemented internally. Intrapreneurship as a trend challenges this, by looking to leaders and change-makers inside the firm to define the direction and lead novel experiments.
The individual dimension of Intrapreneurship is vitally important, and in ways that probably aren’t clear to most traditional learning & development practitioners – whose bar is usually “best practice” in a business-as-usual framework. By contrast, we’ve made it our lives’ work to help people become change-makers and active disrupters. (Worth noting: we are ourselves entrepreneurs and artists.)
For years now, we have worked with business people on ways of changing culture by doing. Changing by doing is at the heart of intrapreneurial business cultures. Culture changes because people simultaneously:
- do different things (beyond or beside or instead of “business as usual”)
- do things differently.
As a result of the traction they gain through changing-by-doing, people hone their intrapreneurial intelligence.
The Five I's
We suggest Five I’s that make up the "Intrapreneurial Intelligence Quotient".
Interest: Intrapreneurs find ways at work to engage with the challenges, mysteries, puzzles and domains that interest them. They bring unbridled curiosity with them to work. They’re not afraid to ask, “why not _________________?”
Interest also relates to structures. For example:
- If the board asks an intrapreneur to share risk, intrapreneurs will expect a share of the upside: financial reward.
- If a board makes an intrapreneurial team accountable, traditional internal processes around hiring, performance benchmarking or short-term ROI metrics will need to cede to processes better suited to a lean startup.
Imagination: Intrapreneurs see beyond the obvious. They look at what could be and happily draw outside the lines. Procedures are stifling because so often they compromise on the standards. Intrapreneurs readily see that what is possible is so much greater than what has so far been achieved. Because of their always-on imaginations, intrapreneurs often live in the future. They eat trends for breakfast.
Involvement: Intrapreneurs relish getting involved, but that involvement needs to be empowered and effective. Shoehorn an intrapareneur into standard committees and undisciplined meetings, and s/he’ll likely switch off. But set a demanding challenge with a deadline and finite resources, and the best intrapeneurs will seize the day with the speed and commitment of their external counterparts in the entrepreneurial world.
Influence: Intrapreneurs are typically good at reading ambiguous situations and quick to connect dots. Put these two together, and you have people who are adept at gauging just how much influence they can practically exercise. Give an intrapreneurial project autonomy, and intrapreneurs work tirelessly to achieve success, or learn lots as they fail fast. Exert too much oversight or set up too many pointless stage-gates, and intrapreneurs will quickly realize they lack sufficient influence. Result: they’ll disengage.
Impact: Intrapreneurs paint on a broad canvas. So, the politics of promotion in a conventional career ladder hold far less appeal than the promise of spearheading something truly novel. Change the carrot-and-stick mentality to keep them engaged. Intrapreneurs think about impact: work is about a building new business model, operating in real-time for real people. In new ventures, purpose leads process. There’s no spare fat to support inert processes for their own sake.
Activities and interventions can help leaders identify who possess these attributes and also how to develop them. So if your business is looking for something truly new, we suggest you work on the 5 I’s.
-- Kate Hammer PhD, Gregg Fraley and Indy Neogy
Gregg Fraley’s The Art of Problem Framing session runs at the Intrapreneurship Conference New York Edition on Day 2 (Oct 22) starting at 16.05. Kate Hammer’s session Think With Your Hands at the Intrapreneurship Conference London Edition is documented here.
You can still sign up for the conference using KILN's discount code IntraCnf-KILN, and enjoy 15% discount.
Both Gregg and Kate will be attending the full three days in New York. If you can’t locate us, just tweet us