We’re counting the days to the Intrapreneurship Conference – very much looking forward meeting all of you there and supporting your organization to implement intrapreneurship. Lately, I heard someone saying – why do companies have innovation departments? Shouldn’t all employees be innovating?

So, I decided to ask one of the experts presenting at the Intrapreneurship Conference for an answer: Heidi Kikoler. A former social intrapreneur at Virgin, Heidi now dedicates her time to championing intrapreneurs as a Leadership Coach

Before we jump in, Heidi, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

“Sure thing. I started my career out as an entrepreneur in Canada. When I changed course and started to work for organizations, my mindset stayed with me.

In 2009, I joined the Virgin Group’s corporate foundation, Virgin Unite. I was tasked with enabling and inspiring the Virgin businesses in the UK to innovate – shifting them towards embodying the philosophy ‘business as a force for good’.

When Sir Richard Branson is your boss’s boss, it is pretty natural for someone with an entrepreneurial mindset, like myself, to look for innovation opportunities. And I did. I became a social intrapreneur inside Virgin Unite, and focused on how the Virgin Group could have an even greater positive impact when a large-scale humanitarian emergency occurred somewhere in the world. It was a tough journey, but also incredibly fulfilling.

After leaving Virgin Unite, I was fortunate to start working closely with Maggie De Pree, one of the first people to coin the term social intrapreneur along with John Elkington.

My experience has led me to understand just how important personal resilience is for people battling corporate inertia. I passionately believe the work intrapreneurs are doing is vital, and I believe a powerful strategy to achieving one’s desired impact is to understand how you uniquely think, feel and behave. This has led me to become a Leadership Coach for intrapreneurs. The coaching technique I practice enables my clients to observe themselves in a way that often leads to profound personal growth and achievement.”

Thank you, Heidi. Do you think innovation is something people should be tasked with?

“This is a big question, and one that I’m of two minds on. Ultimately organizations need to strike a balance between the people who will actively push the boundaries, and the people who will deliver today’s objectives. If you don’t get this balance right, you won’t have an organization today, or in the future.

The Japanese have a philosophy called Kaizen. All employees should  constantly be innovating, but they should be asking themselves daily “How can I improve what I/we are doing?” If not for the benefit of the organization, then at least for their own personal benefit of keeping their job interesting, challenging and fulfilling. A positive, growth mindset is critical for both individuals and organizations to keep in mind if they wish to be successful.”

From your experience, where can you find intrapreneurs?

“Intrapreneurs are great at staying undercover until what feels like the right time to reveal their projects to wider audiences. So I’d say if you are looking to support these intrapreneurs, you should stay curious. Pay attention to who is coming in early and staying late. Ask them if they are working on any side projects. If they say yes, then ask them about it, and take the extra step of asking how you can help.

I’d also say, if you find yourself managing someone who challenges their objectives, don’t jump to the conclusion that they are just being difficult. Instead stay open-minded and actively listen to what objectives they would like to propose instead.

It’s also important to remember that an intrapreneur can be anyone from a deskbound accountant to a factory line worker to frontline staff.

So many variables come into play for innovation to occur, and it is critical that internal cultures are cultivated to actively promote, support, and reward innovative ways of thinking and doing. This will inevitably dictate which organizations will fail, and which will thrive, in the future.

That’s exactly what we’ll talk about during the Intrapreneurship Conference – various success cases and ideas for how you can start implementing intrapreneurship inside your organisation.”

10 days to go until we meet Heidi and the other experts in Barcelona, a few spots are left, join a dynamic community of innovators and intrapreneurs here.