Intrapreneurship: Going Inside for the Next Big Idea

Intrapreneurship in Workplaces Leads to Creative, Innovative Entrepreneurs

What Is Intrapreneurship?

It’s no secret that launching your own start-up involves a serious cash investment.  When you’re trying to make ends meet working a typical 9-5, it can be almost impossible to take the risk of leaving stability to pursue an idea that may or may not be successful and cost a lot of money. But what if you could keep your day job AND become an entrepreneur at the same time? And best of all, what if you could use your own company’s money to do it? In an attempt to spark innovation and inspire creativity among employees, companies such as Apple, Adobe, Google and 3M are all promoting ‘intrapreneurship,’ encouraging their employees to explore new business ventures—all while on the clock. It may seem crazy, but these companies are always ranked the highest (and most successful!) among “Best Places to Work” polls…coincidence? No way. Allowing your employees to act on their passions and use their imagination is exactly why they want to come to work every day.

Creative Jobs Engage Creative People

As of 2014, a report by Gallup called “State of the Global Workplace” reported that 87% of employees are not actively engaged in their work.  They define “engaged” as: “employees that work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. Currently, 13% of employees drive innovation and move the organization forward.”  Gallup also reported that “companies with engaged employees see 240% improvement in business results.”  Therefore, although letting employees work on side-projects may seem counter intuitive–the benefits are obvious.

By giving workers approval (and funds!) to challenge themselves to come up with new ideas and take risks, business owners give people incentive to personally contribute to a business’s growth and success.  This creates a multi-layered effect that ultimately leads to harmony for both employee and employer: workers feel empowered, valued and trusted to take on such a responsibility and will consequently feel driven and committed to plan and execute their ideas.  These types of environments are contagious.  When employees see others implementing and executing their ideas, they too want to try intrapreneurship. These employees become active change-agents—exhibiting leadership skills that management is always looking for.

The Problems of Intrapreneurship

Okay, so what’s the drawback? There has to be some sort of risk. Of course–not everyone hits a home run (or comes up with the iPhone) on their first-at-bat. Companies have to be financially prepared for unsuccessful attempts at in-house start-ups. However, investing in current employees and encouraging them to be intrapreneurs is most likely a small price to pay when you compare it to costs for recruiting and training new employees.  While failure is always a possible outcome, intrapreneurship programs are important in that they teach participants how to deal with failing or setbacks successfully, which inevitable occur at some point in everyone’s career.  Creating a culture that embraces curiosity and prompts employees to ask questions, as well as giving and receiving honest feedback creates a thriving atmosphere where opportunity is rich. A recent NY Times article, “The Power of Starting With ‘Yes,’” by Tony Schwartz, notes “The problem with ‘no’ as a starting place is that it polarizes, prompts defensiveness and shuts down innovation, collaboration and connection.” He also says that, “starting with a yes doesn’t always mean ending with a yes,” which is a statement that could help create structure around developing these types of initiatives so that they don’t cost the company unnecessary money, but also don’t forbid the incentive to openly contribute.

Transformation in any sense can be scary, and when the stakes are high, as they often are in the business world, the gamble may or may not pay off.  However, in a time where millennials are becoming increasingly obsessed with finding meaningful and engaging work, employers are going to have to start re-thinking their culture and ideologies if they want to keep their best and smartest employees.  You won’t get ahead without thinking ahead – the secret is embracing the not-so-hidden gems within your own organization and believing that the next big innovator (and potential jackpot) is in the cubicle just outside of your office. Are you thinking ahead about your finances? If not, it is high time to give Factor Finders a call and ask about invoice factoring for small businesses. We are industry experts and can ensure that your business is given a healthy cash flow that will help you grow and fund your intrapreneurs.