5 steps to building an entrepreneurial culture

Big businesses could drive economic growth and help their employees adopt entrepreneurial behaviours that foster innovation and growth by encouraging a culture of “intrapreneurialism”

The buzzword “intrapreneurs” was coined in the 1980s by management consultant Gifford Pinchot and is often used by organisations that recognise the need for new and innovative ideas.

Unlike entrepreneurs, who tend to run their own small start-up organisations, intrapreneurs usually work in larger organisations where they’re tasked with developing new ideas and concepts like an entrepreneur would.

There’s no doubt that a successful business depends on innovative ideas and sound market strategy, but good people management is crucial to the long term success of any business, according to CIPD research advisor Claire McCartney, who recently authored a report on the issue.

“As start-up companies grow, it can be easy for the entrepreneurial spirit that made it so successful in the first place to wane, but the companies we’ve spoken to have proven that even the largest organisations can retain an innovative edge if they pay close attention to attracting, retaining, engaging and developing the right talent to live and breathe the values of the founders.”

The report found that more than one-third of employees would welcome the opportunity to take on an ‘intrapreneurial’ role within their organisation, but just 12 per cent of organisations encourage and facilitate such behaviour.

“This involvement goes way beyond simple one-sided communication to active involvement in shaping and even sponsorship of business strategy”

McCartney said the top five secrets to intrapreneurialism success are:

1. Purposeful profit – it’s okay to care. Entrepreneurs have a genuine desire to make a sustainable difference to their local communities and beyond and instil these values throughout their organisations. This clearly distances them from the sometimes unacceptable and uncaring face of larger corporates.

2. One part entrepreneurial = 20 parts reach and impact. Entrepreneurial organisations are not limited by their size, resource or money. Their entrepreneurial leadership and practices enable them to punch far above their weight.

And, by catalysing with other elements they create more value; clever use of social media, smart networking and multiple strategic alliances all significantly amplify their impact and reach.

3. Deep and deliberate co-creation with customers. Where entrepreneurial organisations really stand out is in their deep co-creation with clients and customers.

This involvement goes way beyond simple one-sided communication to active involvement in shaping and even sponsorship of business strategy. They really listen to their customers and draw on their ideas and requirements to keep the business and brand fresh.

4. Headspace for innovation – support your hidden intrapreneurs. A common theme across all the organisations involved in this research is the emphasis they place on employee innovation.

They do this by supporting intrapreneurs using innovation days and cross-team working. Employees working daily with customers on the front line have the creative sparks or ideas that could really make a difference.

5. Go forward with failure. Finally, fear of failure does not stop entrepreneurial organisations from doing things differently and innovating. In fact very little, if anything at all, holds back the entrepreneurial leaders and organisations featured in the report.

They recognise that in order to create and innovate some failure is inevitable and realise the great potential in learning from mistakes and failures and even publicising these as part of the learning process.