The businesses getting intrapreneurship right

Many tech companies have long embraced intrapreneurship with open arms. Google’s 20 per cent time policy – where employees are encouraged to spend 20 per cent of their time on projects other than their day-to-day jobs – saw Google Docs, Google News and even Gmail created. But how are other businesses faring in the world of intrapreneurship?

Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia introduced the Ideas Lab in October 2014 to encourage more intrapreneurs within the business. "The Ideas Lab makes it easier than ever to listen to our people, most of who work on the front line and understand the challenges first-hand," Chris Stubbs, innovation and brand strategy specialist at Virgin Australia explains.

Once the innovation team understands the biggest opportunities from the feedback from staff, they’ll post challenges to give everyone the opportunity to suggest solutions. The airline regularly selects ‘Innovation Champions’ from within the business – "top performers who want to support and inspire others to find new ways to add value to the business".

"There have been lots of different ideas coming through – anything and everything really," Stubbs says. "Ideas Lab is about exploring the world of possibility to solve business problems. It’s not a place of constraint but one of opportunity."

Through the Ideas Lab they have tested ideas such as new gate signage and different baggage delivery solutions to see if they can deliver better value.

"Some ideas don’t always work," Stubbs admits. "But the learning we get from why they didn’t leads us to even better solutions."

DreamWorks Animation

Film production company DreamWorks Animation (responsible for Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon, amongst others) are great believers in intrapreneurship. Everyone at Dreamworks can contribute to the filmmaking process by sending in their own ideas – no matter what their job title is. 

They also invest in staff to train them on how to pitch their ideas successfully so that they have the best chance of their ideas becoming a reality.

Read more: Top tips for encouraging intrapreneurship at your business

"The work that we do is so collaborative that we must have people who can not only sit at their desk and solve a problem but then be able to articulate that solution to their supervisor and to the team," Dan Satterthwaite, Head of Human Resources, told USA Today.

He added: "We challenge all our employees to be their own CEOs."

Virgin Trains

Virgin Trains has an equally impressive track record with intrapreneurship, regularly taking on ideas from staff on the front line to improve their offering. One such case is the Pop-Up shops that they regularly run on the concourse at stations, which started as a “random idea” from Nicola Griffiths, one of the station staff at Crewe.

Read more: Are you a secret intrapreneur?

In the run up to Crew Alexander’s first trip to Wembley in 2012 for the play-offs, the town had gone football mad. There was a big banner at the station and the streets were lined with people selling souvenirs, football flags and scarves. When the day of the match arrived, Griffiths spotted a seller right on the doorstep of the station. 

"I had a couple of thoughts," she says. "1) Should he be there? 2) What a shame we didn't have him on the platforms because it had brought such a fantastic atmosphere and the customers had loved it and everyone was so excited and why couldn't we support it in a different way?"

And there began an idea. "It's always frustrated me that we have all of this space in our stations and we don't do anything with it so that's where the idea started to formulate. I started to think about how it would work and what we could include."

The idea grew quickly from there, and Virgin Trains now regularly invites local businesses to join its retail hubs on the platform at stations to give customers something to do while they wait for their train.

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