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10 tips for turning employees into 'intrapreneurs'

Posting in Finance

Entrepreneurship doesn't have to mean quitting one's job and risking a house and life savings on a new startup. Full-time employees also can also take on entrepreneurial roles within the confines of their organizations, enriching their jobs while infusing new ideas into the corporate culture. Thus, there's a case to be made for the unique role of "intrapreneurs," or internal entrepreneurs whose ideas may launch new lines of business.

Photo credit: Michael Krigsman

In a new post at Innovation Excellence, John Webb of Rackspace Hosting provides excellent guidance on how to encourage entrepreneurs, as well as fuel the growth of an intrapreneurial culture in even the most staid organizations. From his original list, here are 10 compelling guidelines:

1. Look for it: Most organizations already have budding intrapraneurs somewhere within their ranks; it's a matter of encouraging it, says Webb. And intrapreneurs could be anywhere -- in finance, production, or out on delivery routes. "Intrapreneurs don’t fall into a single profile," he says -- they are "a diverse mix of individuals exhibiting a range of intrapreneurial attributes, skills and personalities."

2. Give people ownership: Let intrapreneurs make projects their own, to succeed or fail at. "Employees need to be encouraged to create solutions independently of the chain of command" -- it all leads to independent thinking, says Webb.

3. Make risk-taking and failure acceptable: Many organizations avoid risk like the plague, and have low tolerance for failure. To give rise to intrapreneurs, leaders and managers need to "develop a culture of learning from failure that moves on to the next, more informed attempt…otherwise known as experimentation." Actively encouraging learning is key.

4. Train employees on creating and selling innovation: Successful entrepreneurs need to be adept at presenting and selling their ideas. As anyone who watches Shark Tank knows, a good pitch will open many wallets. Webb sites the culture of Dreamworks Animations, in which all employees "are specifically trained on how to pitch their ideas successfully, whether it involves creative input for a new movie or a food choice for the cafeteria."

5. Give employees the time to innovate outside their current job roles. Webb cites the example of LinkedIn, which provides employees three months to pursue and promote new ideas. It should also be noted that some determined intrapreneurs will go above and beyond the call of duty and develop ideas on their own time.

6. Celebrate and reward intrapreneurial behavior: Nothing motivates like acknowledgement. "Recognizing intrapreneurs and calling them out sends other employees a powerful signal that innovation and activation are assets greatly valued by the company," says Webb.

7. Encourage networking and collaboration: What's more powerful than a determined intrapreneur? A  team of intrapreneurs. Plus, greater networking and collaboration helps intrapreneurs connect with key decision makers in the organization who can help move projects forward,

8. Provide access to data and business intelligence: Intrapraneurs need to be able to move just as quickly as their organizations in responding to market shifts or other external events.

9. Stamp out the bureaucracy: Don't make intrapreneurs jump through hoops to get responses to requests. Webb calls this the 'yes chain,' which becomes more complex and layered as organizations grow.

10. Create a common fund for intrapreneurial initiatives. Proving a pool of seed money will help get intrapreneurial ventures off the ground as they are proposed and approved, versus waiting for the next annual budget cycle. However, Webb adds, intrapreneurs should be treated just as any party seeking investment capital from the business: "intrapreneurs must pitch their ideas and supporting business plans in order to access funding, and be held accountable throughout the development process."

— By on January 27, 2013, 1:12 AM PST

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure