Intrapreneurship: what is this new wave currently sweeping companies all about? Acting as genuine pirates, corporate innovators are seeking out the transformation of companies and the creation of new business models, even if it means breaching the scope of their job description or their company’s hierarchy. Intrapreneurship is thus becoming the purpose of conquering a new generation of engaged employees who are taking action and are determined to change the rules of the game. Who are they? What do they do? How can the company harness its employees’ creative and entrepreneurial stamina to foster initiatives and generate value? Today more than ever, this community will be the one to initiate a new way of careers and professional fulfilment, as well as refuse the overbearing influence of pyramid organisation structures and fully reposition the company’s prism of values. Companies: it is high time that you reach out to these rebels who can only benefit you in reinventing yourselves.
Like pirates taking over a vessel to use as a mothership, intrapreneurs are making inroads into companies.
Their potential is great; they have plenty of ideas and, above all, they are driven by a staggering willingness to create and improve what already exists. No, this isn’t just about Millennials or Generation Y–although their voice is often the most successful in encouraging an intergenerational willingness to share. No, this isn’t just about executives and the pyramid of senior leaders–although it is often them that we mistakenly entrust all responsibility.
So, who are intrapreneurs?
They are employees who know the company inside and out, including its weaknesses and untapped potential. They are everywhere, of all ages and professions, coming from all backgrounds. Waving a flagship of innovation and initiative, they strive to reinvent traditional corporate models that are too slow and thus cannot keep up with their expectations.
They know that in building a structured community, they will go even further, faster and with more power: they stand out by drawing on a collective and organisational ability to gather and work together, by breaking down barriers and spanning beyond boundaries.
In this context, the typical hierarchy is a concept they are glad to set aside. As creators of “interpersonal relationships”, they can collaborate in a transversal, open and simplified manner, working across all conventions without having to involve their managers.
Mutiny to revolutionise companies: intrapreneurship, an act of rebellion to build the future of companies
Armed with an inexhaustible drive to trigger change, intrapreneurs initiate high value-added projects that make sense for companies. They are inventing the business models of the future and are optimising existing processes, all the while taking part in boosting productivity, efficiency and agility. A true mutiny has but one objective: to make the best possible use of collective intelligence to reinvent one’s company.
Faced with the difficulty of adequately accounting for these new aspirations, companies are challenged by a new, parallel concept: corporate hacking, or the problem of the art of employees who push for independence because their companies are too slow or unwilling to respond to this new flow of energy. Now turned into corporate hackers, they gather and, like submarines operating underwater, prepare to wage their revolution on all fronts.
At EDF (Electricity of France), the interests of a group of employees have crystallised around one ambition: that of “hacktivating” the company’s innovation capability. “Génération connectée” is the name of this body, comprising actors of change who are eager to initiate projects and strive to make them succeed.
So, when it comes to intrapreneurship and corporate hacking, what do companies do and where do they stand in all this? They see these privateers arriving and are not ready to embark with them on their adventures. They sail on troubled waters because a company’s fear and concern are synonymous to the latter’s organisational and managerial rigidity: how can the role of managers be repositioned, and how can decision circuits change for the better? Far more than a simple internal phenomenon, it is the operating system as a whole that is affected. Companies need to take their evolution into their own hands. This is inherent to the provision of fertile grounds on which these talented intrapreneurs can be identified and valued!
Like pirates claiming the spoils, intrapreneurs are on a quest of self-fulfilment and commitment
Intrapreneurship has the wind in its sails: more and more employees are setting sail to try it for themselves. Companies and jobs-for-life are no longer their dreams. As proof, business creation has seen a jump of 205% among young people. Why is this? Because the digital and collaborative era has more than ever facilitated our ability to become entrepreneurs. Many of us aspire to a different ideal, based on an entirely different prism where fulfilment, expression and creation take precedence over the rest. Employees are also customers who brands know how to take care of, and who suffer from a significant gap when it comes to the way companies consider them. Customer experience, on which all hopes are set, gives way to the unchartered territory of employee experience, which is just as important. It is no longer legitimate for their voices, ideas, and expectations to be ignored: employees have things to say, as well as the power to be heard. While unilateral corporate communication is obsolete in the conversation, this expressive and communicative network can become a community of outstanding ambassadors–provided their ability to do so is nurtured, and so long as their aspirations for meaning and recognition are answered.
Large companies that were once attractive must be able to reposition their values to meet the expectations of a growing community of sometimes disillusioned employees. Change is essential, but they have everything to gain from it! Especially in this context of talent warfare. Commitment should become the flagship of their strategy: a fundamental notion that aims to attract, retain but also federate employees to create the best working conditions, as well as foster a new culture that brings collaboration, initiative, and the fulfilment of all employees at the highest level.
For now, the road ahead is still winding, as over half of employees say they feel withdrawn from their work.
What can be done about this?
- Reposition leadership and the role of managers to aim collective intent, experiments and experience.
- Develop an entrepreneurial culture to develop collective intelligence and turn it into the company’s new engine.
- Grant employees the right to fail and take risks, because “smooth seas do not make skilful sailors”. (African proverb)
- Unlock potentials to gain performance and agility while embarking on new horizons that are richer, more value-creating and more meaningful.
As Bill Gates put it, “(…) in the next century, leaders will be those who empower others”.
LVMH, for instance, with its DARE initiative (Disrupt Act Risk to be Entrepreneur), has gathered more than 4,000 employees around an ideation process to make them think about this industry’s breakthrough innovations. 60 employees were selected for a start-up weekend and had three days to work on 12 projects. Following this event, the three winning projects are now accelerated, mainly thanks to MyCrowdCompany’s digital platform that connects talents. LVMH, therefore, creates a real community of entrepreneurs who can reinvent the luxury industry, instill the intrapreneurial spirit and make employees work within the group’s Maisons in a start-up mode.
In conclusion, the intrapreneurs–these rebels in disguise–have already set out to transform the company and turn its model into one that is able to make them dream again. Intrapreneurship is becoming a collective adventure, as it gives meaning to the developments aspired by companies: new methods of collaboration, management, participatory innovation and sustainable performance. Intrapreneurship, as a reflection of the creative energy that marks our era, promises to be a genuine treasure that all businesses should go after. So, who’s on board?