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Post pandemic triumph through Intrapreneurship

Joe Richardson

Joe Richardson

CRISIS or Opportunity?

We’re seeing the environment in that nearly all companies operate transforming rapidly. JFK once famously noted that the Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word, ‘crisis’. One stands for danger; the other for opportunity.
Although he may be slightly off with his translation, there’s still a message to take from it. A more accurate translation is a crucial point, when something begins to change. 

The past year or so for all of us has been just that, a crucial point. 

More than 90 percent of executives said they expect the fallout from COVID-19 to fundamentally change the way they do business over the next five years (McKinsey 2020). But the majority of them at the moment are simply trying to protect their existing business in an uncertain future. Most people are feeling insecure about their businesses or jobs and will do whatever it takes to protect what they had before. Leaders will be ultra-focused on helping their companies recover and survive. In these circumstances and as we’ve seen before, companies will look to cut budgets and often, innovation can fall by the wayside.

Many conversations over the past year or so we’ve been having at L Marks is with leadership who understand that by giving an exclusive focus to managing their core business, it can leave their companies vulnerable to disruption and they don’t wait to join the example list of companies that failed to innovate like Blockbuster, Nokia or BlackBerry. 

These executives also recognise that the pandemic will create new growth opportunities and as history shows us time after time that crises drive innovation. 

One way in which organisations are increasingly looking to ensure a steady stream of new innovations is through corporate intrapreneurship.

The definition of intrapreneurship we tend to use is the entrepreneurial behaviour of employees, to develop and importantly implement innovative solutions within an organisation. Intrapreneurs are the ones that take responsibility for creating the innovation within an organisation, and importantly for turning that into a profitable finished product. They aren’t always the inventor of the idea, but they are always the ones to implement. 

So what are the benefits of pursuing intrapreneurship and more importantly, doing it well in your organisation?

I say “well” because being able to effectively drive intrapreneurship is not easy and comes with a number of challenges which we will go into another time.

Bottom-line Growth 

If you are able to do intrapreneurship well and create a culture of innovation and leadership, your business could see growth, improved efficiencies, reduced costs and ultimately an increase in profitability.  Your employees are the ones that know your business the best, they are on the front lines experiencing inefficiencies and discovering new business opportunities every day. A lot of these employees actually have ideas, research has shown that over 80% say they have ideas that could improve the business (State of Employee Ideas, 2018).

Boost Engagement

Another huge benefit that we see fostering intrapreneurship and doing it successfully within companies is a boost in employee engagement, morale and giving all of them a voice to be heard. Engagement in the workplace is a huge problem which results in massive costs but also opportunity for businesses to address as high employee engagement means higher efficiency, productivity and higher retention. It also means you attract the best talent to your organisation too as you are seen as an innovative front runner.

Cross Collaboration & Interconnectivity

In our innovation programmes at L Marks we always promote cross collaboration and encourage people from across the business with different and specialist skill sets to work together to form new businesses. These people, in a lot of cases have never worked together before but have a set of skills crucial to this new idea development. In that case intrapreneurship promotes collaboration and interconnectivity across the business and breaks down silos.

Sustained Innovation

Perhaps the biggest benefit is if it’s done really well (which is by no means an easy task), is that intrapreneurship can provide the infrastructure for organisations to sustain and breed innovation over the long term.

Whilst the benefits of doing intrapreneurship well are hard to argue with, as I say it’s an incredibly difficult task for a number of reasons. Now, we believe large organisations can be just as innovative as startups but they should be aware that they are not startups and should not aim to be, but instead should recognise the somewhat conflicting situation that is trying to innovate in a large corporation.

If organisations are able to recognise and effectively manage the challenges to foster intrapreneurship then coming out of this period, established organisations will have the advantages of resources and the influence needed to succeed. So when you combine that with the knowledge of how to do innovation well, these companies will be the ones to thrive.