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Three Key Tenets to Creating an Intrapreneurship Culture
By Arijit Banerjee
India is the third largest start-up ecosystem in the world after the US and UK. Clearly, the Indian workforce is high on entrepreneurial spirit. This presents a window of opportunity for companies looking to innovate in order to retain their competitive edge. Building a culture of intrapreneurship enables organizations to drive innovation, while employees benefit from the opportunity to hone their entrepreneurial skills, leading to a greater sense of engagement and accomplishment.
Intrapreneurs are employees with the mentality of entrepreneurs. They think big and go beyond the status quo. They’re passionately engaged in their roles and with their high sense of involvement, ownership and passion, they help their companies succeed. At the Intrapreneurship Conclave 2019 hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industries, HR influencers unanimously agreed that employees with entrepreneurial drive are an asset to every organization.
How do you create an intrapreneurial culture?
Building an intrapreneurial culture is much more than a task to ‘implement’ and ‘cross off’ your list—instead, it has to be intentionally cultivated. Here are three tenets to focus on:
Identify potential intrapreneurs and provide the right opportunities
Identifying intrapreneurs can be hard as it requires a deeper understanding of your employees – both at the hiring stage and beyond. Scientifically designed assessments can help recruiters identify employees with high initiative and drive by assessing for qualities such as risk-taking, innovativeness and so on. Another way to promote intrapreneurship is to empower employees to present ideas for innovation.
e-Choupal, an initiative of ITC Limited, was originally conceived by Sivakumar— a manager in the group’s agribusiness unit— who approached the chairman with a request of Rs.50 lakh to test an idea. Today, it is the world’s largest rural digital infrastructure, reaching out to over 4 million farmers.
Equip intrapreneurs with decision-making capabilities
It isn't enough to ‘encourage’ people to pursue passions and ideas that are independent of their direct line of command. An organization must actively equip its intrapreneurs with opportunities to make decisions and test their independence. According to a survey, inclusive decision-making drives innovation— 64% of executives are more likely to be satisfied with opportunities that allow them to use their skills and abilities, while satisfaction among non-decision makers was as low as 39%. Potential intrapreneurs can be deployed on fail-safe projects—the idea is to test the waters and see how they rise up to the challenge.
Empower intrapreneurs to take intelligent risks
Fear of failure can dampen the intrapreneurial spirit. It’s therefore important to create an open environment where intrapreneurs are free to thrive. While intrapreneurs can be held accountable for their decisions, the organization should never imply that failure will be met with penalty. Nor should the privilege of being an intrapreneur be taken away from them. Instead, the innovator should be encouraged to ‘own’ the value they have created.
One corporate that has done this immensely well is the Tata Group. When Viresh Oberoi, a 43-year-old AGM (Re-Engineering) at Tata Steel conceived the idea of an e-commerce company for steel trading, he was supported by their MD Jamshed J Irani. Irani persuaded the Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) to be an equal partner in the portal and appointed Viresh as the MD and CEO of the newly formed venture from day one. The team was given no promise—they had to work hard and garner market confidence and revenue. Today, the company runs on the collective brainpower of over 700 intrapreneurs and has emerged as the world’s largest e-marketplace for steel.
Navigating ‘creative destruction’ through innovative intrapreneurship
Research shows that corporate longevity is reducing. In 1964, the average tenure of companies on the S&P 500 was thirty-three years; by 2016, it had narrowed to 24 years; by 2027, it is forecasted to shrink to 12 years. Over half of the existing S&P 500 companies are likely to be replaced over the next ten years. As corporate longevity reduces, only disruptive companies that proactively cultivate intrapreneurship can hope to stay the course and win the race.
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