At dinner the other night with some former colleagues we started reminiscing about our experience building a new business for a Fortune 100 company years earlier. It was one of the most rewarding and exciting things any of us had ever done. That experience is what keeps us connected today, even though we’ve gone our separate ways.

Not only did we create a new business we created a new way of working that was foreign to the rest of the organization. We created an entrepreneurial culture inside a highly bureaucratic organization. We had to build new systems and processes to support our efforts. That meant stepping on toes and breaking rules to get things done. We had a diverse team of workers. Some were new to the company, some had been there for over twenty years. Frankly we were not sure how we’d do it but we did it. We just made it happen.

We were lucky. The organization only made two major investments each year. We were working on one of them.

If you are a frustrated Intrapreneur or corporate entrepreneur the reason may be that your organization is not entrepreneurial enough for you.  Intrapreneurs are either highly engaged or disenchanted.  There is nothing in between. They are engaged if they are working on strategic opportunities to grow the business. They are disenchanted when the organization does not provide room for entrepreneurship.

Only one-third of employees are likely to stay in their current job as the economy turns around. Chances are the best and brightest employees already have one foot out the door. The same is true for corporate entrepreneurs.

It is natural for corporate entrepreneurs to feel like they don’t fit but it is another thing to realize that the organization doesn’t want to be entrepreneurial or doesn’t know how to become entrepreneurial.

There are three things that need to be in place for corporate entrepreneurship to flourish inside of an organization. They are simple, yet complex.

  • Individuals with a core set of action-oriented competencies needed to lead new growth initiatives.
  • The freedom and flexibility to build new systems and processes to support their efforts.
  • The ability to create an environment conducive to entrepreneurship, learning and growth.

Of course this needs to be front-ended with a strategy that is focused on new business growth, not incremental growth from existing products (a fallback position many companies have adopted to minimize risk). It’s not about getting more out of what you have but creating new growth. Outcomes need to be aligned with the task at hand. Both tangible and intangible metrics must be in place to measure progress.

In the article Startups Inside Giant Organizations we are seeing Fortune 500 companies igniting the sparks of entrepreneurship. They are bringing the startup world inside their organizations. The goal is to develop, nurture and deliver new and profitable businesses. It may be too soon to tell how well these new ventures are doing but it is definitely a step in the right direction. Most organizations spent the last decade investing in products and services that were mature or at the end of their life cycle. They need to find new growth from within.

These efforts are also injecting new life into some of the oldest and largest organizations. More importantly it is attracting the best and brightest talent to their doors.

Research has shown that having the right people, supported by the right processes, in the right place is highly correlated to corporate entrepreneurship and leads to higher levels of innovation, productivity, engagement, and financial results. It doesn’t work unless you have all three of these things in place.

So how entrepreneurial is your organization? That is the question that many corporate entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs are now asking themselves about their organizations. They want to work in an entrepreneurial environment that leverages their entrepreneurial skills and capabilities, not stifle them.

As the economy recovers we are seeing corporate entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs become more discerning about what companies they want to work for. They are using their own experience to evaluate how entrepreneurial a company is. Not by the external image these organizations convey but by the internal operating environment and culture that they have.

Understanding how entrepreneurial your organization is will be critical to attracting the talent you need to grow your business.

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