Business moves fast, trends come and go and we are all looking for that magic spell to help us to move with our markets as fast as our competitors. Agility as individuals, I believe, will be the only way that we can survive in the ever changing workplace going forward but we also have to explore how we can improve business agility for all. I have long been interested in how large companies diversify and having worked in large corporations and very small businesses alike I have seen first hand how hard this is to call, and have also been there when it was too late and we all packed up and went home. This made me ponder whether the agility of mind of individuals throughout the hierarchy was the key to the overall agility of the business.
Building a business with 5 one-man-bands
The start-up, agile, pivot if it doesn’t work mentality of the eventually successful entraprenuer seemed a good place to start. I came across the ‘intrapreneurialism’ research from the CIPD (below) and was intrigued as to how this could work in practice. They state; ‘Intrapreneurs’ usually work in larger organisations, where they are tasked with developing new ideas and concepts in a similar way that an entrepreneur would in a start-up company’. (What Big Business can learn from Entrepreneurs – CIPD 2013)
The UK’s economic growth could be boosted if large firms adopt the entrepreneurial spirit that drives success in start-ups and small firms, CIPD research has found and by encouraging a culture of ‘intrapreneurialism’, big businesses could help their employees adopt entrepreneurial behaviours that foster innovation and growth, (CIPD).
They also discovered that nearly four in ten employees would welcome the opportunity to take on an intrapreneurial role within their company, but that just 12% of organisations encourage and facilitate such behaviour (CIPD 2013)
Of course the father of ‘Intrapreneurialism’ is Gifford Pinchot who comments that he has seen a resurgence of the intraprenuer in recent years and cites millenials as the most visible group. Pinchot says that they are searching for meaning in their work from the moment they leave university and want to make a difference. This isn’t surprising though, after all this is the generation that has lived their whole adult lives with the awesome power of the internet and it’s heroes, Google, Facebook, etc. and are looking to emulate that working life.
Another great attribute that intraprenuers/entrpreneurs are seen to exhibit is adaptive persistence, this allows people in existing organizations to anticipate disruptions to the market and to recognise opportunity (Bloomberg 2008 )
Howard Schultz of Starbucks fame had adaptive persistence. On Shultz’s travels to Italy he had seen the power of the barista and wanted to bring that coffee shop experience to America. He presented his idea to Starbucks who rejected it on more than one occasion. He finally got approval to try it out in a few branches. He went to raise equity for this and was working without a salary for a while! His wife was pregnant and although he thought he was ready to give up, he didn’t. Schultz was able to leverage his network to stave off threats and stuck with it. We all know how this plan worked out!
The data appears to stack up that we need diverse teams (Is there an ‘i’ in Team?) and intrapreneurs are diverse thinkers; agile, intelligent and energised. The key is to know how to attract, select, develop and retain these people. Clear and strategic programmes to recognise existing intrapreneurs within the business are also vital – to attract and keep out of the box thinkers you need an out of the box programme!
Thank you for reading my initial thoughts on Intraprenuerialism. Please do like, share and let me know your thoughts. Best Wishes Natalie