Large organizations are often designed to prevent high levels of failed initiatives and inefficient use of time. Traditionally that’s considered to be a good thing, but has the ability to prevent the execution of new opportunities and intrapreneurship.
Intrapreneurship—the practice of applying entrepreneurial principles within a large organization—can foster innovation, engagement, and growth in the workplace.
Adam Bock suggests three practices to instill an intrapreneurial mentality.
Instead of searching for the “eureka” moment that problem solvers often desire, breakthrough thinking reframes the problem and asks the right questions. For example, when a company needs employees to start using more vacation time, don’t ask “How do we get people to take more vacation?” Instead ask, “Who should decide how much vacation employees use?” or “Why do we have a vacation policy?”
It’s important that employees take ownership and responsibility of their work. If employees feel like they have a personal stake in project outcomes, they will be more motivated to try new things and work towards the best outcome possible. Having a founder’s mindset also helps employees feel confident questioning their employer without the fear of backlash. When this happens, employees feel empowered to recognize opportunities to improve and generate innovations across the organization.
Living with Uncertainty
Uncertainty happens when you can’t assess the probability of risk. Many employees will avoid intrapreneurial thinking because they perceive their organization will not tolerate taking risks or pursuing uncertain opportunities. When people are asked to be intrapreneurial, they might focus on the idea that something could fail and they will be blamed. Companies should encourage and support fast failure in problem solving, as it often leads to more innovative outcomes inside the organization.
Adam Bock is a Management and Human Resources lecturer at the Wisconsin School of Business. He has taught entrepreneurship numerous universities the University of Edinburgh and Imperial College London. He also provides executive education in strategy, entrepreneurship, and innovation through the Center for Professional & Executive Development at the Fluno Center.