Some companies encourage staff to become entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs as it were. It’s a strategy designed to make the workplace more attractive and to retain and attract talent.
Some of the best companies in the world do it. At 3M, intrapreneurs produced Post-It Notes and at Google, they were the ones responsible for creating Google News, AdSense and Gmail.
Lockheed Martin has thousands of employees working on programs in the Advanced Development Programs division, more commonly known as Skunk Works.
Internet company Mi9 employs a policy called “breakout entrepreneurship” to improve innovation and attract and retain talented employees, according to Richard McLaren, the company’s managing director of data and services.
The company employs a different sort of manager, according to McLaren, who said organisational leaders need to understand why creating entrepreneurial culture is important for retaining and attracting talent.
“We ask our leaders to deliver outcomes by supporting their teams – part of our aspiration is that they do this by allowing freedom and creativity in how the work gets done,” McLaren said.
“The idea that the only “allowable” innovation is in line with company strategy is wrong, and dangerous”
“We want people to try new things too — as long as the outcome gets delivered. When we get a new idea that breaks out of the day to day, the idea that it can be fit into the current structure is probably an error.
“That’s the point when an originator and entrepreneur makes the call to take a risk, step out of their work, and devote time to the new thing. And that’s the point – breakout entrepreneurship is about breaking out, not fitting in.
“To make it work, there’s personal risk; our job is to let that happen and support, but not to make it safe. The idea that the only “allowable” innovation is in line with company strategy is (I think, humbly) wrong, and dangerous.
“People should get to develop ideas that excite them with a modest allocation of time and equipment – probably working a bit in their own time too.
“If the idea is worth pursuing, they should pursue it, with our blessing (people can leave the company and return many times) — we see our role at that point as a venture backer — if it’s on strategy we will fund and support with company resources, if not, our focus is on helping the individual land the best way they can.”
See the next issue of Inside HR magazine for a feature on how companies can go about creating a culture of intrapreneurship.