FB15As part of 2015’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, I am revisiting some of my older articles and applying lessons learned / new thinking that has been gained over the last 6-9 months. This article grabs text from a variety of different articles that I’ve written over the last four years as well as consultancy and speaking engagements. This is an introduction to the concept of intrapreneurship (corporate entrepreneurs) for organizations interested in developing new ways of working.

“How will your staff benefit from an intrapreneurial culture?”
The opening lines from the article, “Intrapreneurship & OD” sums up the difficulty of introducing such a transformative approach to an organization:

Spark’s work with intrapreneurs brings us into contact with a wide variety of business professionals – some are completely engaged in the opportunities before them; some need some persuasion and some are completely disengaged.”

The theory of intrapreneurship is fine – new ways to entice and excite customers; build powerful relationships with communities, stakeholders and staff; more income, less outgoings… so why does the theory struggle to translate?

One major management consultancy built an intrapreneurial team based around social enterprise. It went well until they got to such a size that they gained visibility – and then it was systematically dismantled by management consultants, managers, the legal team, finance… what took almost a decade to develop was ruined within a year.

Personal agenda is key: we are a creature of habit and, fundamentally, we don’t like change if it means that we will be inconvenienced. In the UK, we have an acronym – NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard. This phrase is a general characterization of opposition by residents to a proposal for a new development because it is close to them. Basically, “we’re all for development and growth and change… just not here, thanks.”

The organizational NIMBY will be someone who really wants change… but doesn’t want TO change.

Whilst I espouse the fact that intrapreneurship = opportunity, it is important to note that, no matter how well articulated the opportunity is, the NIMBY refuses to see it.

Your HR team can be critical to the success of your intrapreneurial initiatives – their buy-in, their mindset, their attitude, their words and deeds – all informing the culture around what you are trying to achieve.

“HR is collaborative”

Whether is it collaborative goal-setting, the design of now hierarchies, the development of policies and processes, or the creation of reward mechanisms for new ideas, then HR touches the business. HR also has the ability to cultivate win-win cultures and to address any conflicts arising from new ways of working.

Importantly, HR has the ability to deconstruct fiefdoms and remove sacred cows – but, for this to happen, you need strong leadership.

Intrapreneurship develops current and future leaders

In this context, HR is transformational – yet we shouldn’t let transformation managers assume the HR role (or HR assume the transformation) – remember, this is about collaboration and not job titles or organization charts. The strong leader picks the best people for the job.

In this, your current HR team may be brilliant in an operational sense but require upskilling with regards to strategy and visioning. This is neither a weakness nor a downside – it is merely an opportunity for further development and change.

Intrapreneurs can support the strategy of HR and HR can be a ready source of your next cohort of intrapreneurs.

Contact Neil for an informal chat about intrapreneurship and your organization.

Intrapreneurship – why bother?