Recently, we’ve seen a groundswell of interest in intrapreneurship – the process of developing organizational cultures that unleash entrepreneurial innovation from within.
Although intrapreneurship can be a powerful engine for business innovation and growth, it’s really not about generating ideas — it’s about turning ideas into profitable ventures. Intrapreneurs are the instigators who make that transformation happen.
Where can you find this special breed? We suggest that you start by taking a fresh look at your existing workforce. Even if you don’t recognize these innovators as they roam the halls of your company, we can assure you, they are there — and they’re likely to respond favorably when you offer support. But before you can move forward, you must first identify the right talent.
How can you spot the best bets? You may actually know some contenders. However, if your organization is large, you may not have crossed paths with some of your most promising candidates. They’re not typical high-potential or C-level mavericks — although they do possess traits that distinguish them from the usual corporate soldier. Keep these attributes in mind as you look for the right match with your initiatives…
7 Traits of Successful Intrapreneurs
1) Intrapreneurs tell us that they feel like they don’t fit. Their organizations don’t understand them or appreciate what they do or how they do it. They see the world through a different lens. They’re independent spirits and independent minds. They think, act and make decisions differently. They often find themselves championing the opposite side of issues.
2) Intrapreneurs are a distinct group of individuals. They have a unique combination of competencies that set them apart from more traditional workers. They are self reliant, they like to explore new things, and they’re totally engaged in their heads and hearts. They actively seek out new challenges, effectively manage limited resources and stay focused on getting things done.
3) Intrapreneurs make significant leaps in thinking that are not always linear or fact-based. They’re able to connect the dots. They work with what they’ve got, not what they think they need. They rapidly test and refine ideas, to push them through each stage in a decision process. They make sense of uncertain and complex situations more quickly than most. And they’re resilient — tending to fail and recover quickly.
4) Intrapreneurs think differently. They view situations from a more holistic, “systems” oriented perspective. Many are “whole brain” thinkers who embrace both their analytical and intuitive nature. They’re integrative problem solvers who can consider two totally opposite concepts, and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, they creatively combine ideas to form a new solution. They balance thinking and action, and they learn from the outcomes of those actions.
5) Intrapreneurs approach decision making differently. They resist diving into data too early. They don’t simplify things too quickly. They linger in complexity because it presents more options. However, they are decisive. They don’t allow caution to paralyze them. They will change direction or even shut down a project when new data suggests a different course of action. They effectively balance short term and long term demands. They’re willing to base decisions on insufficient data, rather than waiting for perfect data to become available.
6) Intrapreneurs have different motivations and aspirations than others. They are not interested in a traditional career path. They are self motivated and good at motivating others. They like to build things. They’re energized by the excitement of creating anything that moves their company forward. They want to work on the big stuff — the bigger and more challenging, the better. They like to start with a clean slate, because it gives them more freedom to be creative. They are highly curious, avid learners, and they constantly ask themselves if there’s something else they need to know. This also means that they’re restless and may easily become bored.
7) Intrapreneurs operate through action. They’re inherently creative. They typically don’t generate ideas — however they recognize the value in others’ ideas, and turn them into viable business options. They find iterative planning useful, because things are continually changing. They embrace the unexpected. They like surprise because it refines their understanding. They take calculated risks — looking at both the upside and downside of a decision. They deal with uncertainty by acting on it, rather than sitting back and waiting to see what happens.
Finding the right kind of talent is essential to developing an intrapreneurial culture. These are just some of the characteristics that successful intrapreneurs display. Of course, every individual is unique, but if you look for these traits, you’ll be well on your way to creating a team with the strength you need to move your organization into the future.
Learn More: “Business In Your Business” Conference
To better understand the relationship between corporate entrepreneurship and innovation, or if you’re looking for ways to implement intrapreneurship in your organization, check out the “Business In Your Business” International Intrapreneurship Conference in Barcelona, Spain, December 12-13, 2013. Experienced intrapreneurs and inspiring experts will share how the process works for them and explain how you can implement it, too. BONUS DISCOUNT: Get 10% off on your attendance fee — enter the code “TalentCulture“ when you register online.
(Author Profiles: Susan Foley is Founder and Managing Partner at Corporate Entrepreneurs, LLC where she helps companies leverage intrapreneurship strategies that accelerate business growth. An experienced corporate entrepreneur herself, Susan has guided organizations through intrapreneurial endeavors that have generated millions in revenue. She is also a professional speaker and author of the book “Entrepreneurs Inside.” She teaches Corporate Entrepreneurship in the Executive Education program at Babson College, and is a Fellow at the Center for Innovation and Change Leadership at Suffolk University. Connect with Susan on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Hans Balmaekers is the Founder and Director of SA.AM, a resource for young professionals who care about their future, want to make a difference, and want to develop the mindset and skills to become change-makers. Recently, SA.AM launched an online intrapreneurship course to prepare aspiring and new intrapreneurs for success. Connect with Hans on Twitter, or on LinkedIn.)
Image Credit: Marginal Boundaries