In the book titled Beyond the Champion: Institutionalizing Innovation Through People the authors spent four years researching disruptive innovation in large organizations. What they found is good news and bad news for Intrapreneurs and for those organizations struggling to develop disruptive innovations.
They found “that the single biggest challenge that companies faced as they worked to institutionalize a strategic innovation capability: developing and managing innovation-related talent. It’s back to people.”
Although the research found that many organizations have focused their strategic innovation efforts on process, culture, structure or financial approaches they are not enough. They go on to say that “innovation talent is rare” that “selection, development and retention approaches for innovation personnel were overlooked, undervalued, and/or misunderstood.”
The book highlights the fact that “Companies have not taken a strategic approach to develop innovation capability” in their organizations or in their people. Most organizations have perfected their ability to develop and launch core and adjacent innovations. Their next move is to do the same with strategic and disruptive innovation.
It is clear that innovation and growth are the key driving forces behind the adoption of Intrapreneurship. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you can’t achieve either without the right talent – intrapreneurs.
These same sentiments are being echoed everywhere.
In his article Memo to CEO: The Time for Intrapreneurship is Now Gifford Pinchot said that “The intrapreneur is an essential ingredient in innovation.” “It’s not the right processes that make an organization innovative.” Pinchot states that “Significant innovation only happens when a committed team of intrapreneurs drives the innovation through all the barriers, failures, mistakes and seizing of emerging opportunities that mark the intrapreneurial journey.”
In the article, Out with the CEO and in with Intrapreneurship, Gina Fairley shares a comment made by Alison Wright, Assistant Director of Engagement and Development at the National Gallery of Australia who was quoted as saying, “Innovation doesn’t come from these big nefarious cultures; it comes from people – it comes from dreamers that do.”
In the document, Unleash Your Intrapreneurial Power, WhatAVenture states that “It is impossible to achieve significant innovation results without an organizations internal support of intrapreneurs, internal innovation champions – the intrapreneurs.” The document also states that “People are the most important and challenging building block.”
In his article The Five Leading Trends in Intrapreneurship, Richard dos Santos, states that, “The future belongs to intrapreneurs. They have the only resource in the coming age of complexity – the willingness to act.” It is for this reason that the key is understanding and unlocking the potential of intrapreneurs by developing the competencies required to meet the challenges ahead.
Unfortunately, most organizations do not provide an opportunity for employees to stretch their entrepreneurial muscle. But that is changing. According to Paul Kurchina in his article Intrapreneurship: From Out-of-the-Box Thinking to Strategic Opportunity, talked about how, “In the last 5 years, CEOs have started to realize that these once regarded nonconformists (lone wolf, maverick, and rebel) may own the strength necessary to strategically accelerate innovation and growth.”
Intrapreneurs are the future because they intuitively understand what it takes to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. They have turned the traditional organization upside-down and inside-out to show that innovation and growth are grounded in the new reality – complexity, uncertainty, and the unknown. They do not fear the unknown, they embrace it, they do not try to manage complexity they leverage it, they don’t wait for clarity they take action to demonstrate what it takes.
Intrapreneurs strive to make work meaningful for themselves and their organizations. In doing, so they are moving their organizations forward into uncharted territory. They recognize that speed is critical for success, so they act quickly, decisively with sufficient information to make an informed decision. They effectively manage risk by experimenting. They drive change by being the change they hope to achieve. They motivate, inspire and lead others to explore and exploit opportunities in the market. They have a pulse on the market and customer needs. They understand the value of technology in changing business models.
Intrapreneurs are the future because they understand what needs to be done. They only need an opportunity to stretch their entrepreneurial muscle. They are not willing to wait around and see what happens. They are willing to step up and lead. They know what they want to do, how they want to do, and why they want to do it that way. It isn’t about ego or glory it’s about making a difference. They are the pioneers, the change agents that are creating the future as they go. There are no roadmaps or guidebooks for them to follow. They are leading the way forward.
In the article Can Corporate America Teach Us How to Manage Entrepreneurs? Phillip Rowley said, “With disruption coursing through every industry, we’ve realized that the key to success – and our survival – likely lies in our ability to innovate and change.”
Perhaps the answer that has been right in front of us but dismissed up until now are people – the intrapreneurs that are no longer a hidden talent but a loud voice in our ever-changing world.
Intrapreneurs are the disruptors that are changing the way we look at work, business, and society at large.
Beyond the Champion: Institutionalizing Innovation Through People by Gina Colarelli O’Connor, Andrew C. Corbett, and Lois S. Peters can be purchased on Amazon.
Originally published 2018. Updated 2022.