Intrepid Intrapreneurship, 2012 Style

Have you heard about the League of Intrapreneurs competition going on right now? Ashoka and Accenture are serious about helping companies “build better business from the inside out.”  Early applications were due by October 24; final nominations and entries by January 15, 2013. The top 15 entrants from the competition will form the inaugural class of the League of Intrapreneurs, becoming part of an elite global network of changemakers. These entrants will also receive media and press recognition and will be featured in the publication of a globally distributed intrapreneur toolkit. Of this league, the top four winners will be profiled on Fast Company’s blog, Co.EXIST, and will receive consulting support from Accenture Development Partnerships to further their work.

What is Intrapreneurship? The Wikipedia definition that is quoted on the home page of the Intrapreneurship Conference being held in Paris next month says it is “the act of behaving like an entrepreneur in a bigger organization.”  Their promotional pitch continues: 

Intrapreneurship is a rising concept that tries to gather the natural objective of any organisation in the 21st century to be more innovative with the often non-tapped energy dug into any would-be entrepreneurs. Intrapreneurship create(s) a framework where the latter is granted some freedom to try out a project of his/her own, the benefit being shared with the employer in the case of a successful experimentation.

The… conference, on December 13th, aims to cover this growing trend in corporations’ life, which addresses both the need of companies to produce more innovations and the will of talented people to find achievement opportunities. Experts and representatives of some of the most innovatives companies will share their view on why intrapreneurship is positively impacting their organisation and how they implement it. The conference is designed for human resources managers, chief strategy and chief operating officers, as well as everyone who is interested in the new growing management trends for change.

Ernst & Young has noticed the power of the intrapreneurship trend and, based on recent survey results, offers six guidelines for creating a culture ripe for innovation within larger organizations:

  1. Set up a formal structure for intrapreneurship. Give people enough time away from their “day jobs” to work on creative projects, but provide a formal process for new product development.
  2. Ask for ideas from your employees. They have their fingers on the pulse of the marketplace. Encourage them to contribute to the innovation dialogue.
  3. Assemble and unleash a diverse workforce. It’s no secret that diverse groups come up with more innovative ideas. Tap into this multifaceted source of power.
  4. Design a career path for your intrapreneurs. For the most part, intrapreneurs are mavericks who will quit — and take their best ideas with them — if they don’t see prospects for career advancement.
  5. Explore government incentives for innovation. Ask how these can support your intrapreneurial ventures. Governments all over the world are offering new tax breaks and other incentives for research and development (R&D) — and corporations in turn are urging governments to support innovation.
  6. Prepare for the pitfalls of intrapreneurship. Not all ideas will produce successful new products. Failure is an important part of the process.

Scott Anthony, of Innosight, writing for an HBR blog post earlier this Fall, cited a story of how Medtronic fostered intrapreneurship through a culture of innovation in introducing the Healthy Heart to hospitals. He felt Medtronic had a competitive advantage: 

Medtronic had an internal “corporate catalyst” — someone who marshaled resources both inside and outside the company and built organizational support for the disruptive growth strategy. Medtronic mixed the entrepreneurial approach of a VC-backed start-up with the unique capabilities once housed in corporate labs. Its story illustrates how big companies are powerfully and uniquely suited to tackling large-scale social problems such as hunger, health care, sustainability, and education. These aren’t stand-alone corporate social responsibility efforts — they are strategic initiatives to create profitable businesses that improve the world.

In many ways, Medtronic was applying the E&Y recommended best practices without even having read them. What is your company doing to foster a culture of innovation? Tomorrow, we will tackle the language of intrapreneurship!


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