Branson, Zuckerberg, Jobs, Sugar: who wouldn't want the likes of Richard, Mark, Steve or Sir Alan helping to drive their business? Entrepreneurs such as these are justly famous for taking smart business ideas and building successful companies around them.
All have unleashed their 'inner apprentices' to secure growth, by finding and supporting the entrepreneurial talent within their corporate four walls. Branson credits a stream of intrapreneurs with helping him develop more than 200 Virgin companies. Jobs developed the Macintosh with a team of engineers who effectively went back to the garage to create the iconic home computer away from the demands of Apple's existing product line. At Google, staff are permitted to spend 10% of their time working on projects unrelated to their role and have been behind the stream of innovations that power the business.
All have successfully bought into the notion of the 'intraprenuer'.
The term was coined by management consultants Gifford and Elizabeth Pinchot, back in the 70s to describe employees who take responsibility for developing innovative ideas into marketable products. Arguably, the phenomena has greater relevance than ever today.
Businesses have realised that allowing people scope to work on projects outside their normal everyday role is a win/win situation for both parties.
It's no accident that many of these ideas have come from young people - Millennials. It is a much maligned group that is often accused of either being spoon-fed and overly reliant on their elders, or of being too narcissistic and overly demanding.
Yet this is the generation that's shaking up our world of work. They face different challenges in the workplace, and so possess different traits to the workforce that's preceded them. They're willing to overturn conventional thinking because our world now has fewer boundaries than before.
They have burning ideas that they are desperate to make happen, and don't see why company politics or hierarchies should stop them. And that infectious impatience to get ahead makes them natural entrepreneurs.
Giving millennials platforms to think and behave like company owners within the walls of your own company, letting them leverage internal resources and tap into world-leading expertise which they wouldn't get on their own, makes good business sense and has been adopted widely. Companies such as 3M, Lockheed Martin, Virgin, Sony, Dell and LinkedIn have all created cultures where employees are actively encouraged to follow their creative and commercial instincts.
In creative industries such as ours, the concept of intrapreneurship has great potential. As a result of the rise of digital media, 48% of Engine (UK) is under 30, and a group of them have set up an initiative called Creative Catalysts on their own initiative. As well as giving them all a chance to collaborate across disciplines, and up-skill more quickly beyond their day jobs, the group now comes up with numerous brand communication ideas for other companies, and has started collaborating on existing client briefs.
The creative sector sometimes pays lip service to the idea that a great idea can come from anywhere. By establishing an intrapreneurial culture, we can give our most talented people the tools to make this maxim a reality.
Some businesses may find the idea of a shift in control a worrying development, but the fact is that the upside far outweighs the down. Business today is about flexibility and being able to think creatively and act quickly. Giving your workforce a hand in shaping its own destiny can bring strengths to the fore that people didn't know they had, strengthening the business proposition, creating satisfied employees, and ultimately making for a better bottom line.
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