A company that cannot adapt to be more flexible— faces extinction. Hence the importance of intrapreneurship. Many businesses stifle innovation. An aversion to change business culture is not the product of a lack of the resources necessary to accomplish rejuvenation; The inability — the unwillingness — to adapt and to change is the consequence of business culture inertia, of a corporate mindset that focuses disproportionately on established organizational structures and processes. The pressure on companies to adapt — and adapt quickly — has increased dramatically, mostly because of three developments: globalization, increased competition, and the rise of social media. Consumer loyalty shrinks by the hour. That is from “The greenhouse approach”
Most businesses are highly and heavily structured. Innovation requires a complete rethink of what it means to structure a company culture. Companies must be willing to shift to fluidity, and as long as the output is there, when it gets done should be irrelevant. Leaders must re-imagine what their office culture looks like. An intrapreneur is someone who applies an entrepreneurial approach within a large company. Intrapreneurship is the gateway to a fresh-thinking approach to how companies can operate more efficiently and profitably and in a more sustainable way in our hyper-competitive economic culture. It is an open door to unleashing creative thinking, encouraging experimentation, and managing productive risk-taking, all of which will ultimately drive innovative thinking from within. One of the critical traits of a true intrapreneur is the ability to break the rules… systematically. The ideal intrapreneur always questions the why.
Conventional thinking is the real risk
Innovation is key, but it is not enough: an innovation that works beautifully on the drawing board but can’t make it past the first hurdle is a colossal waste of energy, time, and talent. Intrapreneurs can cut through the corporate layers that can often slow big companies down. Traditional thinking is no longer relevant. Conventional thinking is the real risk factor. Encourage rebellion, allow rules to shift and change, and then watch those seeds of innovation take root and grow. If you are doing transformational work, it will be next to impossible to not upset anyone. Collaboration without tension, disagreement, or conflict has no purpose. Intrapreneurs are not afraid to be disruptive. To drive a culture of innovation from within and build one of intrapreneurship, allowing for and even seeking out dissent is crucial.
Support the disruptors
Businesses must hire and support innovative disruptors to work within their companies, effectively creating a culture of experimentation. A culture of curiosity. A culture of entrepreneurship. How can you and your company develop and foster intrapreneurship?
- Follow the research on brain plasticity.
- Replace the word “failing” with the word “learning.”
- Stop seeking approval.
- Emphasize growth over speed.
- Portray criticism as positive.
- Cultivate grit.
- Use the word “yet.”
- Take ownership over your attitude.
- Rethink and re-examine.
- Ask yourself, is your boardroom more often a bored room?
- Focus on first principles
- Forget about rules. Think about principles.
- Actively remove barriers.
- Force debate.
- Eliminate repercussions.
- Question everything.
- Ask them why.
- Apply the process of iteration.
- Apply five to ten per cent of your thinking to strategy and the rest toward execution.
- Shift from “a know-it-all to be a learn-it-all.”
Don´t trust the data
A fundamental flaw in many companies is that when making important decisions, we assume we are dealing with facts. Our assumptions become so ingrained in us that we don’t question them. True or not, we accept and believe these things to be true. First-principles thinking involves analyzing a complicated problem and breaking it down to its basic issues. Nobody is peeling back the layers to get to the truth of an issue. This process is time-consuming. But what if the truth is down one more layer? Read “Unchartered“.
You need creativity
Knowledge alone won’t generate innovative ideas. You need creative thinking as well. Incredibly, ninety-eight per cent of those children were deemed “highly creative.” The scientists re-tested each subject five years later. In the second test, only thirty per cent of these same children scored in the same range. When tested at the age of fifteen, the number deemed highly creative had dropped to twelve per cent. The problem is that, like any muscle, it has to be stretched and exercised daily, or it will shrink and atrophy. Read “The runaway species“.
You need clarity
To get what you want, in business and life, you must be clear about what it is you’re after. What is your goal? What is it that you want to achieve? Without clarity, you will be unable to identify your goals without focus and, therefore, your needs and wishes. Clarity is required at all levels of a company, but it’s an especially important quality for managers to have. When your company lacks clarity of focus, organization productivity and innovation will suffer, and you will find it hard to hold onto talent. If your company’s focus is blurry or imprecise, productivity will be working negatively and at cross-purposes. Maintaining clarity is of great importance for companies, as it will determine how the flow of work will take place, which ultimately impacts the quantity and quality of output. Straightforwardness is so intrinsic in Dutch society that there’s a special word for it: bespreekbaarheid. When you are in a meeting in the Netherlands, and you say something that isn’t very smart, it will be pointed out. The Dutch believe that everything can and should be talked about. Such candour is rare in most companies, however. As a result, there is no clear direction.
You need accountability
The word “accountability” is often associated with “liability,” a word that has negative connotations — legal liability is not something that most people embrace. Fear is embedded into this term. But, if accountability is equated with responsibility, companies will experience positive results. According to the United States Office of Personnel Management, positive accountability leads to greater employee morale, improved performance, greater employee involvement, and an increased commitment to work. For example, the commitment to accountability on the part of the company serves as a powerful motivator for the employees of Patagonia.Patagonia has embraced accountability as a business model. First, you need to define accountability for your company. Read “Extreme ownership“.
You need to understand the dependencies
In business management, we talk a lot about “dependencies.” It’s very simple. None of us operate in a void; what I do in my job invariably impacts what and how you do your job. Employees need to understand what those dependencies are and what they mean in terms of performance and productivity — to hitting the target or reaching the goal. Reminds me of “The Phoenix project“.
You need good communication
Poor communication is probably the most common problem for most companies. Too much of what we do is what I call function dependent. Think of your business as a big checkerboard where each piece has a specific square to occupy. Finance has its finance square. Marketing has its marketing square. Public relations, accounting, research, and so on all have their squares. Only, in this game, a piece is never allowed to move. Why is the finance department just the finance department? Why is the human resources department just the human resources department? Why is the marketing department off by itself? Functional-dependent departments breed silos.
You need experimentation
Many of the greatest discoveries were the product of planned experimentation. Hypotheses were created, experiments were designed, results were analyzed — and then, if necessary, hypotheses were refined, and processes were adjusted. Experimentation has been fundamental to scientific progress since ancient times. It remains so today. Virtually all of the products and services that we enjoy in the modern world are products of experimentation. We exist in an age of disruption. Managers know this, but many don’t apply the fundamental idea of experimentation to their company’s work environments. Why? Your success is a function of how many experiments we do per year, per month, per week, per day. We’ve tried to reduce the cost of doing experiments so that we can do more of them. Given a 10 per cent chance of a one-hundred-times payoff, you should take that bet every time. But you’re still going to be wrong nine times out of ten. Business, every once in a while, when you step up to the plate, you can score 1,000 runs. This long-tailed distribution of returns is why it’s important to be bold. Big winners pay for so many experiments. Read “Black box thinking“. The steps are:
- What is the problem that you are trying to solve?
- What kind of problem is this?
- Have you seen this kind of problem before?
- What information do you have or need to find?
- What kinds of people do you need in order to solve the problem?
- Mavericks and rebels.
- Do you have any initial ideas on how you might solve the problem?
- Have you solved similar situations in the past? What worked, what could you have done better?
- Who are your stakeholders?
- Are there any market trends that may impact the solution?
- What are the changes in customer behaviour or market conditions that may impact the problem statement?
- What is influencing changes or changing behaviour in your customers? has the context in which your customer exists or operates changed?
- What is the customer experience? Have customer expectations changed? How are customers interacting with your company, products, and services? How have your customers’ needs evolved? How can you take all of this information and incorporate it into your thinking and ideation? Which ideas would help you address the problem and anticipate changes in the industry?
- How do project teams develop outcome-oriented ideas?
- Does the idea make sense?
- Is the idea simple and easy to implement?
- What is the change that you are going to make?
- What areas of the business do you need in order to implement the solution?
- How will the achievement of the project team’s goal impact other groups and teams? And, most importantly, how will it affect customers?
- What is the new design, process, or program that you are proposing?
- How will you communicate the change?
- What is the timeline to implement the change?
- What is the critical path?
- What are the milestones?
- What are the potential roadblocks that will hinder the success of the project?
Give intrapreneurs the time, the resources and the accountability
Companies cannot rely on traditional organizational structures and traditional ways of doing business. Building a culture, a mindset, and an organization that fosters intrapreneurial thinking is the best way of doing so. Innovation cannot be an afterthought. To do that, to channel the creativity and talents of your employees to problem solve and help your company succeed, you need to move beyond talking to creating a corporate culture that supports unconventional thinking. Let the creators — the rebels, the connectors, the trendspotters, the mavericks, the researchers — create. Give them the time and resources to imagine solutions to the problems your company needs to solve and give them the resources and the accountability for accomplishing the programs they devise.