Giving employees free time to develop their ideas and to create new products and / or services can be the key that enables the company to grow, be innovative and strengthen employee engagement.
In recent years, intrapreneurship has been promoted and it’s considered to be one of the best ways to drive innovation inside the company. It is also thought to be an agent of change, since projects are developed to solve the company’s problems, but what is intrapreneurship?
Intrapreneurship is entrepreneurial behaviour endorsed by the company that enables collaborators to develop their own projects, regardless of their job, of whether they have an independent business model or development is incorporated into the company.
To drive this requires an intrapreneurship program in which the entire company is involved and managed by directors or line managers, since they will be the ones who motivate workers to develop their ideas.
Start by communicating to all members of the organization that they can be part of the program, that if they have an innovative idea they can do it, and that it doesn't matter how old they are or how long they have been in the organization—intrapreneurship is ageless.
You can set up a general meeting or invite leaders of each business unit to put forward a solution for a problem they are facing, whether they do it by organizing themselves into teams or individually. You can even organize innovation hubs so they can exchange ideas.
It is important to give them free time without needing to allocate hours or days; they can develop their day-to-day work alongside the new project. For example, Google allows employees to dedicate 20% of their working time to developing new ideas, that’s how Gmail emerged.
The entrepreneurship program also requires a compensation structure that encompasses recognition at the business level, additional financial incentives, through to investment in the project to roll it out to the market.
If required, set aside spaces within the company for developing innovations and provide the necessary infrastructure and tools. Additionally, assign mentors to take entrepreneurs down the best path, as it is not always clear, and they may deviate or be unable to see the potential of their projects.
Similarly, it is necessary to establish a culture of failure. Even if the idea is wonderful, when trying to make it happen, it might not work out or obstacles are encountered on the way. In such cases, you need to prepare the collaborator for possible failure and make him see that if the outcome was unsatisfactory, this doesn’t mean that “it’s pointless”, just that it’s necessary to find another solution and leave fear behind.
Support and impetus are fundamental because this is how workers feel enabled to create solutions with the right tools.
Besides, the main motivation is to control their projects or to take ownership over them, register patents in their name, take part in actions, or manage the implementation within the company.
This isn’t about the company getting the credit for innovations, but about boosting their talent and offering better services, and about even entering a different sector.
Bring in start-ups
It doesn't matter if you are a multinational or an SME (small and medium-sized enterprise), innovation will allow you to remain in the market or open new ones. However, it is not always possible for innovation to develop within the company, especially as we live in a constantly changing world and technology use has sped up this process in recent years.
Nowadays companies can approach start-ups to drive their growth without waiting years for new services and / or products to emerge from innovation centres.
There are two options; the first is to form joint-venture alliances with start-ups to grow together; the start-up will have a safe market in which to try the product and the company will have first-hand technology that’s easy to adapt to its needs.
The second is to acquire the start-up not just for the technology, but for entrepreneurs to become part of the company and do the implementation.
Whether you prefer an intrapreneurship model or to approach start-ups, it’s important to get to know your collaborators, let them know that their ideas are heard and that they have an opportunity to develop them.