Intrapreneurship: The Opportunity and the Challenges
In today’s ever changing world companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of remaining agile, innovative and forward thinking. Innovation, of course, has happened for centuries, but the pace seems to be accelerating at companies across the globe.
But with this change has come something else. Something more unique.
Enter intrapreneurship and the idea of employee’s driving change throughout every aspect of a business. In fact, this change is not even limited to the company’s core business. Employees are increasingly driving change from within to improve well-being, engagement, health, business lines, client service, the list goes on.
The Intrapreneurial Opportunity for Millennials
As many readers can likely relate, one of the biggest frustrations of many millennials entering the job force is simply their inability to have an impact, now. Without speaking for all millennials, the idea of putting in a decade of grunt work simply to earn the right to have an impact in whatever field a millennial might choose is almost asinine (and frankly given the amount of student debt most millennials are taking on just to get a job, it’s hard to disagree).
Millennials want to have impact and they want to have impact now, not because we’re the generation where everyone got a trophy, rather because many millennials desperately want to connect their work to some greater good. They want their work to have meaning and for most people pushing paper until a boss says it’s okay to work with clients or have a “say” doesn’t have much meaning.
This search for meaning and impact is coming at a perfect time for millennials. One of the biggest complaints of many business leaders is that “my employees don’t think like a business owner.” Well, the good news for millennials is that many companies are increasingly looking to employees to not just think like business owners, but to act like them too.
This is where the concept of intrapreneurship or intra-organization entrepreneurship can be so powerful for millennials. It allows creative minds to discover ways to improve organizations from the inside out. Consider starting a wellness initiative inside a company to improve morale, health, retention, etc. or something that can be more tangibly measured, like a new product or service offering that can be tomorrow’s major revenue driver.
Whatever the initiative, concept or idea, companies are becoming increasingly open to letting millennials run with the age old idea that “the world is [actually] their oyster.”
Intrapreneurship Is Not All Fun and Games
Okay, there is a “but” when it comes to intrapreneurship.
While more and more companies open their minds to this idea of employee driven innovation, it requires a dramatic shift in culture, thinking and management styles which ensures some form of internal resistance. So the caveat is simply that, while intrapreneurship can provide invaluable experience for millennials, it is not easy.
Take for example, the most common gut wrenching response to internal innovation, “But why would we change, we’ve always done it this way?”
With the idea that hurdles exist established, let’s jump into specifically what some of the biggest ones millennial intrapreneurs stand to face as they look to push a new service model or product within their organization.
Culture is tough to change
The biggest hurdle to change is simply evolving the way people within an organization think, which for any intrapreneur is step one. Intrapreneurship for millennials requires an ability to effectively get people to open their minds to new ways of approaching problems, exploring solutions and solving the big hairy issues that companies face. This is not an easy task, especially for someone new to the business, but it is increasingly becoming a worthwhile one for companies and millennials willing to tackle it.
Expectations are difficult to manage
One of the biggest risks intrapreneurs face is not being able to manage the expectations of management and others within an organization. Many organizations, particularly publicly traded ones, can be driven largely by short-term results, which makes innovation and ultimately failure difficult and scary. To truly innovate an intrapreneur, failure must not only be allowed, but encouraged and accepted. Without failure there is no learning.
Autonomy is hard to come by
Businesses are complex and with complexity oftentimes comes an inability to move quickly within an organization. Think of the response “it has to get run through legal before we can move forward…” yikes! The sheer structural and operational complexity of many businesses can make innovating difficult, which is why independence and autonomy are so critical to ensuring that legacy systems and old ways of thinking don’t unduly siphon innovation. Starting from scratch is usually the best recipe when attempting to tackle a new problem.
Support isn’t easy to find
Autonomy is important, but so too is support from the right people. This includes both being able to garner sufficient monetary funding to allow for innovative exploration, but also (and likely more importantly) management support. There has to be support from somebody who “has a say” within an organization to provide the necessary independence in managing leadership expectations.
Focus is challenging to keep
Some organizations have gone to such an extreme that they actually house intrapreneurs offsite. They recognize the difficulty in being able to focus on whatever it is that a particular intrapreneurial team or individual might be working on inside an organization because many of the aforementioned items become bigger, more relevant issues when seated merely down the hallway from “that’s the way we’ve always done it” teams.
By evaluating your company’s position in the marketplace and offering new ideas and solutions to existing challenges, you could be well on your way to becoming a bona-fide intrapreneur.
So what do you think? What can you do within your organization to promote change and intrapreneurship?
Matt Cosgriff, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and personal finance expert for young professionals, is the intrapreneur behind Lifewise; a Minneapolis based financial planning and investment solution for busy young professionals. When he isn’t helping people navigate the ins and outs of personal finance he is an avid hockey fan, foodie, and loves to read. Fun fact: he is nearly half way through visiting all of the Major League Baseball stadiums across the U.S.