Fostering Intrapreneurship: Progress Without “Change”
So it’s 3:56pm on a Thursday afternoon. After the organizer spent 3 minutes waiting for people and 12 minutes continually restarting the meeting every time someone came in late, you then spent 41 minutes discussing the latest issues caused by erroneous TPS Reports. And it doesn’t look like you’ll be done anytime soon. You’re not making progress, yet no one wants to change. How do you make it better?
- First, remember that there is a baby in the bathwater. Successful companies have been refined to the point where every process solves a problem found over a generation ago. What is working works – so we keep doing it that way.
- Second, there is comfort in familiarity. We all know our customers are changing, our leadership is changing, our opportunities are changing. We accept change – if it looks familiar.
- Third, we all like our own ideas. No one wants to just save the day, because each of us wants to provide that final piece of the puzzle that no one else could solve. We are open to new ideas – if they support our solutions.
“Intrapreneurship” is the art of making barely recognizable, 2-degree shifts in an organization’s path. Instead of trying to implement “outside the box” ideas, it is about putting true innovations into usable boxes. By effectively packaging these innovations, each shift retains what makes the company great, looks like nothing has changed, and cannot garner accolades on its own. That is what makes each 2 degree shift so valuable: no one recognizes them until the boat is turned around.
The cornerstone of intrapreneurism is developing a “Culture of Why.” Creating this culture starts by allowing every assumption – not every outcome – to be questioned. For example, we need to allow anyone in our organization to ask (at an appropriate time) questions like:
- Why did we schedule this meeting?
- Why do we use this form?
- Why did we set up this ordering process?
- Why do we send this to potential clients?
If we do not have answers for these questions, or we do not all agree, we should first seek out understanding. There are many things we do not immediately know, and we do not want to throw out a good thing on accident. Without understanding, we are disrupters – and disruption is bad for business.
Once we know the history, however, we must then be ready to ask: is this answer still relevant?
The intrapreneurial process of answering that question honestly, letting go when the answer is ‘no,’ and allowing people to own their generation’s solutions is not easy. Those who rise to that challenge will generate the internal innovations needed to remain adaptable in an uncertain future.
Don’t worry about getting “out of the box” – progress is only made within.
Still interested in learning more about intrapreneurship? Check out this webinar!
Chris Draper, Director of the EMERGE venture accelerator