Nine ways intrapreneurs are changing the way we do business

In the past, the term intrapreneur didn’t exist - corporate businesses and entrepreneurs were two very separate things. But big companies are becoming wise.

By creating teams of entrepreneurially minded employees within a traditional business, these intrapreneurs can help them change the way they do business, for the better. Here are nine ways they are doing that:

1. They are helping businesses to adopt a start-up mentality

Established business have many strengths, says Peter Sayburn, CEO and co-founder of proposition design company Market Gravity, but to survive in the current world of business, we need to change the way we think about business.

“The most successful entrepreneurs are excited and confident about their product or service,” Sayburn explains. “Intrapreneurs are bringing that same mentality and a newfound confidence to traditional businesses, which is helping change an outdated business culture.”

2. They are helping businesses to diversify

Once they’ve ‘cut through the red tape’ intrapreneurs are helping businesses to diversify just as well as start-ups, says Sayburn, who co-wrote the book, Defying Gravity: Adventures of a Corporate Entrepreneur.

“One example is British Gas, who has gone from being a traditional utilities company to providing smart home technology.

“By establishing new venture teams, Intrapreneurs can bring new innovations to market and British Gas has been able to diversify in a way you might have never expected.”

3. They are helping businesses become more agile

According to the article ‘Why Intrapreneurship is more than just another innovation buzzword’, established companies have to become more agile to compete and intrapreneurial companies are outperforming non-intrapreneurial ones because of this.

“Big companies are really good at doing what they always do, efficiently, yet sometimes they struggle to act quickly and do something new,” Sayburn explains.

“With the help of intrapreneurs, businesses are setting up agile new ventures.

“They don’t get tied down with business rules, yet they help a business be more nimble, which is vital in our current business world.”

4. They are helping businesses become more experimental

Because of this agility, intrapreneurs are helping bring an experimental nature to businesses, according to David Spears, a social intrapreneur for Barclays.

“We have sandbox environments where staff can trial new products before they’re released to the wider world,” he says.

“It’s a safer method than an entrepreneur might use, but it enables us to act on feedback before a product is introduced to market.”

Read more: Are you a secret intrapreneur?

5. They are helping businesses become more customer-centric

“A successful entrepreneur knows their customer inside out,” Sayburn says, “this can be difficult for multi-national companies who sometimes feel distanced from their customers.

“To address this, we help intrapreneur teams to release prototypes to small parts of their customer network to better understand their needs. If you’re agile and try out small ventures, it will bring you closer to what your customers want when you scale up.”

6. They are helping businesses become more collaborative

In an interview for the Huffington Post, Marney Reid, founder of Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling, claimed that “‘collaboration is the new competition” across Silicon Valley and the corporate world.

Spears agrees. When he and Tim Heard co-founded the Circle of Young Intrapreneurs (COYI), they worked in starkly different areas of Barclays. But with a new intrapreneurial mindset, business collaboration is on the rise.

“The COYI is a movement that’s connecting more than 200 socially conscious millennials working for large businesses around the world,” Spears explains.

“We encourage pan-industry collaboration to tackle shared societal challenges, in order to drive positive social impact through business. Millennial intrapreneurs want to be involved in this and I predict it will rise over the next few years.”

Read more: The challenge of motivating intrapreneurs

7. They are making businesses become more resourceful

Thanks to intrapreneurs, businesses are embracing the idea that ‘intrapreneurship is everyone’s job’.

“Long standing corporate businesses are turning to their biggest resource - their internal pool of staff,” says Spears.

“It may not seem obvious at first, but employees can provide valuable input on areas that go beyond their day job. Realising this enables businesses to crowd source and increase the volume of new ideas, and find better and different ways of doing things.”

8. They are helping business impact on future trends

By adopting intrapreneurs, Spears says that large businesses are able to keep up with fast-moving business trends which can lead to ‘smart collaborations’ with the start-up world.

“We have a brilliant ‘ecosystem’ within our company called Rise,” explains Spears, “that links us with FinTech start-ups in innovation around the world. We support start-ups and provide them with connections and resources to create great businesses. It allows us to constantly get involved with cutting edge technology and do business in new ways.”

9. They are helping business become more socially conscious

Although perceptions are improving, research by Deloitte found that only 57 per cent of millennials believed their business leaders ‘are committed to helping improve society’. But according to Spears, intrapreneurs are helping to change this.

“The millennial generation wants to positively affect society, as well as carry out their day job,” explains Spears.

One example of socially conscious business he says, is the mPesa money transfer app – an innovation that intrapreneurs helped Vodafone take to Ghana, where 64 per cent of the population don’t have bank accounts.

“In the future, I envisage a world where the most successful companies are those who adapt their business model to have a positive effect on society,” he says.

“If you can make the world a better place through business while you pick up your pay check every month, that’s a great thing to be involved in.”

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