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Intrapreneurship: Definition and instructions for unleashing innovative ideas

Intrapreneurship: definition and implementation

Intrapreneurship is gradually gaining ground in many companies, both in Canada and abroad. This increasingly popular concept encourages employees to become entrepreneurs within their organization.

Driven by a passion for innovation, intrapreneurs are always coming up with ideas to improve what already exists. It’s highly likely that your organization is home to these creative individuals, these talents, who are just waiting for the right tool to express their initiatives.

In this article, discover how to set up an intrapreneurship program within your organization, to boost internal innovation and maintain your competitiveness.

Intrapreneurship vs. entrepreneurship: definitions

Intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship both play a crucial role in the development of an organization.

Entrepreneurs create and manage their own businesses, investing their own resources. Intrapreneurs, on the other hand, carry out innovative projects within the organization that employs them and provides them with resources.

Both operate in very different contexts, and the origin of their resources means that risks are not taken at the same level.

In any case, motivation remains one of the keys to success in a project that is often fraught with pitfalls.

Independence, autonomy, and eventual financial success, often cited as the main driving forces behind entrepreneurship, do not apply to intrapreneurs.

An intrapreneur is looking for personal satisfaction in putting his ideas into practice with a team, and in contributing value to an organization that will recognize and value his position, his project, and his results. There’s also a logic of personal challenge at the service of professional ambition.

Intrapreneurship: the success conditions in companies that implement it

Before focusing on creating an intrapreneurial approach within your organization, there are a number of essential prerequisites to put in place.

In terms of culture and strategy:

  • Develop an innovation culture, a breeding ground for the risk-taking, creativity and continuous progress needed to get your employees up and running,
  • Clarify the strategy and objectives for the projects to be carried out by the intrapreneurs (development of new products or services, digitization of processes, new business, etc.),
  • Allocate financial resources: an envelope must be set aside to support initiatives. Mechanically, this envelope will make it possible to determine a range for the number of projects that can be supported,
  • Clarify HR policy regarding intrapreneurs – they must be able to find time in organizations that don’t have any. It will also be necessary to support the hierarchy so that they can promote this scheme, despite the risks of seeing valuable resources leave their ranks…

At the organizational level:

  • Set up a team to support the entire program: a dedicated team, backed up by a network of experts and sponsors,
  • Create internal and/or external spaces for collaboration and exchange, to break down silos, encourage innovation and support teams,
  • Define criteria for evaluating ideas and projects to be supported, and set up a commitment committee to select projects and funding levels,
  • Define a methodology to support projects in the proof-of-concept phase,
  • Define a methodology to support the scaling-up of concepts and prototypes,
  • Define milestones to enable projects to be regularly evaluated and to determine which ones to continue supporting and which to drop (“Fail fast” principle).

Innovation culture: the long-awaited guide to success!

Intrapreneurship: how to drive innovation

1Create the right conditions for intrapreneurial initiatives

To be considered as an intrapreneur, it is essential that the project emanates directly from the group or individual wishing to carry it out. Otherwise, it’s just a team working together for the benefit of the company. If you want to introduce intrapreneurship into your company, you need to put in place a system that can harness the initiatives of your employees.

Call for initiatives

The organization launches a 6-week call for initiatives (or call for ideas) in identified areas aligned with strategic objectives. An organization can launch several calls per year, depending on its ambitions. These calls can be used to build up promotions of intrapreneurs. This principle of calls for initiatives and promotions makes it possible to better manage intrapreneurship. For each call and promotion, the company can:

  • Define a dedicated funding envelope for initiatives,
  • Draw up a timetable with key milestones,
  • Set up a commitment committee to select initiatives,
  • Launch a communication campaign as far in advance as possible, to prepare employees at an early stage and put the organization in the right frame of mind,
  • Organize a bootcamp to support the promotion.

Submission of initiatives

Inspired and motivated employees submit their initiatives, ideally via a platform that will create a centralized repository for each call. This platform will bring the power of the collective to the table, enabling each employee to give his or her opinion and make a contribution at a very early stage.

During this stage, we recommend that you:

  • Clarify the information required to submit an initiative,
  • Organize open sessions enabling initiative bearers to receive support and exchange ideas with experts and other intrapreneurs,
  • Favoring a collective approach with a team rather than a single intrapreneur carrying an initiative.

Reception of initiatives

The team in charge of the scheme receives the initiatives and judges their admissibility in terms of form and content. They may ask for further details, reject initiatives and call-in experts to refine proposals before presenting them to the commitment committee.

2A commitment committee examines intrapreneurial initiatives

Review of initiatives by the Commitment Committee

The members of the commitment committee review the initiatives. This stage can be formalized in a platform that enables each member to fill in a grid of predefined criteria to objectively assess the initiatives. This will enable the commitment committee to draw up a pre-selection of initiatives whose authors could make up the next promotion.

Intrapreneurial pitches and commitment committee support

Each intrapreneur then pitches his or her project to the commitment committee. The aim is to validate the idea and, above all, to confirm the match between the project and the intrapreneur. At this stage, it’s important to be able to associate a sponsor from the management committee with each selected initiative, to smooth the way for the project leader.

3Scheduling the provision of intrapreneurs

Intrapreneurs Management

The HR department meets with each project leader, his or her hierarchy and the sponsor to determine the conditions under which the intrapreneur will be “made available” to develop the project without compromising the activities of the department concerned. A date for making the intrapreneur available must therefore be agreed, to give the team time to reorganize, and time to dedicate to the project (between 30 and 100%). You also need to take into account the fact that the employee will probably not return if the project is a success (which is what everyone should want).

Launch of the intrapreneurs’ promotion

The promotion then takes part in a bootcamp to learn the methods, tools and rules of the game associated with the intrapreneurial approach.

4The intrapreneurial process: from initiation to valorization

Initiation of study activities

Each intrapreneur develops a project to validate his or her idea according to the chosen methodology. Depending on the organization’s level of maturity, the market and any technologies involved, the intrapreneur will work on a proof of concept (POC), a proof of value (POV) and/or a proof of technology (POT). They draw on the resources made available by the company, and have access to a platform that enables them to monitor their project with the indispensable rigor required by this type of project and the associated risks.

Presentation of results for scaling up

Each intrapreneur will then present the results of their experimentation and their vision of going to scale to the commitment committee, which constitutes an opportunity study to determine whether it makes sense to continue developing this project. At this stage, it’s essential to understand that we’re talking about two very different projects, from proof of concept to scale-up. It’s not the same project, not necessarily the same team, and not the same resources that will be needed for the next stage.

Project adjustment based on results

Once the project has been validated, the intrapreneur and his new team roll out the scaling-up project. As this project can take a long time, it’s advisable to include several milestones to validate the various stages. There are several possible scenarios:

  • Abandon the project (“Fail fast” logic);
  • Continue;
  • Adjust the project or even pivot, as many startups do.

Enhancing the value of intrapreneurs

It’s important to recognize and value the contributions of employees involved in innovation initiatives. Many employees who take part in innovation schemes don’t know what happens to their ideas afterwards, which can undermine their confidence and commitment. To ensure a successful innovation process, it is essential to establish a contract of trust with employees, and to demonstrate transparency. To continue promoting intrapreneurship, it’s crucial to highlight teams, projects, successes, and failures alike, as they all represent learning opportunities.

Projects not selected as part of the intrapreneurship program may potentially be included in other innovation or continuous improvement programs, if applicable.

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