Why intrapreneurship is more than just another innovation buzzword

If there’s one word with a big chance of topping the list of most-used words in 2013, it is definitely innovation. While widely used by corporations, consultants, politicians and even presidents, many of them can’t tell you what it is or what they expect from it.

Along with this broad attention for innovation comes a broad range of ideas of how to ‘do innovation’ or ‘be innovative’. Named as one of the top 10 workplace trends for 2013, intrapreneurship is one of these ideas. It’s not a new concept for sure – but it might very well be that only now the time is right for this disruptive idea to gain momentum. So, who are these intrapreneurs?

“Intrapreneurs are people working within organizations who are constantly looking for ways to make improvements, introduce new initiatives or change the way a company works. Essentially, as a company innovator, intrapreneurs give companies a competitive edge as they keep the company up-to-date with external changes, the competitive climate or enable cost efficiencies which impact the bottom line.” – Neeta Patel

Intrapreneurship clearly is not just another innovation buzzword, but a powerful response to three big changes happening in the world of business:

1) Company performance

We use again many words to coin the fact that the economic landscape is changing drastically and at a high speed. Yet somehow we all know that profound shifts are happening and there’s now way we’ll get back to normal anytime soon.

Large and established companies are trying to adapt to this new context more and more by embracing intrapreneurship in various ways within their organizations. They are leveraging the creativity and passion of their people, because they understand they have to be more flexible and agile to stay competitive.

Studies have shown that intrapreneurial companies outperform non-intrapreneurial companies within a number of business critical areas, like sales growth, profitability and market share. How would you like that?

2) Employee engagement

It’s hardly a surprise anymore to hear about new studies finding low employee engagement scores. Across the board, we somehow fail to make ‘working’, the activity we do most throughout our lives (except for sleeping), somewhat engaging at the least.

But maybe, that’s because these low scores are part of the organizational design and a result of management practices that are becoming obsolete rapidly. In the less complex world of yesterday, the top-down hierarchies did what they were designed for; get people to do what the boss told them to do. But in the uber-complex world of tomorrow, these practices fail big time.

Don’t you think it’s shocking to hear that most people don’t believe their contributions are being valued and their ideas are being heard? Did you know that almost of employees are sitting on ideas that they think will be beneficial to the business, simply because they have no clue how to get attention from decision makers or how to come up with a plan for implementation?

At the same time, it’s exactly these same employees who have direct contact with customers, competitors and stakeholders. They are far better able than any C-level executive to sense what’s really going on and how to respond to that in order to increase business results.

By embedding intrapreneurship, companies empower their employees to actively pursue those ideas with the highest potential of adding true value to the bottom line. And for employees, that’s exactly why they come to work in the first place. They want to feel committed by taking ownership, to be happy and fulfilled by doing things that matter.

3) Consumer demands

Consumers all over the world don’t take any B.S. anymore from any brand. They can be great advocates of brands they love, but you can’t buy that loyalty. You have to earn it by being transparent and caring.

96% of consumers worldwide – yes, 96%!! – say it’s very important to them that companies change the way they operate to address societal issues.

That means, they want you to not only focus on your bottom line, but to use your resources, talents and operations to do good. They don’t believe the nicely written CSR-statements on your website anymore, simply because too many companies didn’t live up to them. They want to see tangible action – and intrapreneurship is the best way to deliver upon that expectation.

Doing good does not mean running a charity. More and more businesses find there’s real and big profit to be made from new services, new business models, new delivery methods and new target markets that have a societal impact as well. And pioneering in these fields is exactly what intrapreneurs love to do.

Companies are looking for ways to respond to these three trends, and intrapreneurship clearly offers a framework to do so. It is a fundamental shift in thinking about how to run a business in an ever-changing and highly complex environment, and it requires a fundamental shift in mindset of those running it, but the promising rewards it offers are worth making that shift.

Enough said about the ‘why’ of intrapreneurship, don’t you think? If you’re eager to know more about ‘how’ to start implementing it within your organization, join the Intrapreneurship Conference 2013 in Barcelona and learn directly how your peers from companies like Vodafone, IBMPhilips, Allianz and Oracle are ‘doing intrapreneurship’.