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Numerous corporates (especially in the last years) are screaming, shouting, and making statements that they have to become more entrepreneurial but then they fail to do so.

Eric is a researcher from Utrecht University and he leads the Strategy Organization Entrepreneurship Chair, which is composed of a large group of scholars. One of the things they look into are best practices that make intrapreneurship less impossible.

Eric and his group also try counteract the current fashion in the Netherlands and Europe, where policy makers and corporates say that there needs to be more companies like Google and Apple, more people like Larry Page and Steve Jobs. Eric explains that Google and Apple are not about Page and Jobs but about an organization that has a structure which enables employees to flourish and to innovate. In fact, Gmail was developed by one the first employees of Google, and Apple Macintosh was the creation of employee #23 in Apple.

There are three critical elements that corporates need to focus on in order to encourage innovation: recruit people that are entrepreneurial (high-achievers, proactive), have a structure that enable them to be entrepreneurial, and be entrepreneurial in a way that serves the long-term competitive advantages of the organization.

Drawn from academic research and experience following corporations for many years, these are 10 lessons on how to create an organization that enables entrepreneurial behavior:

  1. Job autonomy is very important; it makes people happier.
  2. Job variety – let people hop from one function to another. This way the knowledge of one person is going to be connected to the other person’s knowledge. Connecting the dots is an essential part of being innovative.
  3. Increasing external contacts and getting knowledge from the outside. This can be the beginning of your open innovation strategy or tapping into the ecosystem that’s relevant to your organization.
  4. Have a very good alumni strategy that helps to grow your external network, and helps you to be up to date with relevant developments in the field.
  5. Think of your reward system. Rewards are very important but sometimes they create more harm than good. If you focus on short-term rewards, and not long-term ones, you’d have, for example, people creating as many patents as possible and that’s not the outcome that you want.
  6. Rewarding failure – many corporates say that they value failure but in many cases this is not really done in practice. It’s a tricky issue because you don’t want to stimulate failure that could ultimately lead to the demise of a corporation. But you want to stimulate failure to a degree that allows to learn what works and what doesn’t as quickly as possible.
  7. Give the resources and time to be creative. Their research show that a moderate workload seems to be the best condition for stimulating entrepreneurial behavior and working on long term problem solving.
  8. Focus on leadership and group characteristics. They know from their research that especially participative leadership and transformational leadership are beneficial. Success requires the support from the top of the organization, otherwise your tactics won’t lead to long-term effects.
  9. Create a group climate that looks at intrapreneurship as the norm rather than something that is considered as a deviant behavior.
  10. Create a safe participative environment, where employees have the opportunity and the feeling that they can speak up and say things that maybe push the boundaries without being retaliated for that.

Intrapreneurship may look like, and often is, mission impossible but if you manage to do it successfully then you would really stand out of the crowd.

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