How we encourage entrepreneurial thinking within Virgin

Intrapreneur is a bit of a buzz word at the moment, and while I’m not a fan of jargon, it is one term that I happily encourage. The spirit of intrapreneurship is alive and well at Virgin, where we wholeheartedly encourage our staff to be change agents and come up with ideas that improve not only our services and products, but also the way our people work. In fact, a thriving culture of intrapreneurship within the Group has led to some of the wonderful things that make Virgin stand out.

Working on the frontlines, day to day, our people know our businesses better than anyone. They have first-hand experience with our products, services and processes, and are therefore best placed to spot bugbears and come up with solutions. Recognising this, some of our companies have set up internal programmes and hubs that encourage entrepreneurial thinking.

In October 2014, Virgin Australia introduced the Ideas Lab to inspire team members to identify opportunities for innovation. Those that come up with outstanding concepts, which add value to the business, are crowned Innovation Champions. And the practice isn’t just restricted to a few innovative thinkers; the Ideas Lab takes feedback from other staff members and posts challenges to get everyone thinking about entrepreneurial solutions. Some of the ideas that have been developed include new gate signage and different baggage delivery solutions.

Virgin Trains has an equally impressive track record with intrapreneurship, regularly taking on suggestions from staff to improve their offering. One great example is that of Nicola Griffiths’ pop-up shops idea. As station staff at Crewe, Nicola saw an opportunity to use the empty and wasted space at the station as a platform to support local businesses – a very Virgin way of thinking! The idea took off and Virgin Trains now regularly invites local businesses to join its retail hubs. Not only do the pop ups give our customers something to do while they wait for their trains, they also create a fun and lively atmosphere on the platforms.

Virgin Australia and Virgin Trains are just two examples of Virgin businesses harnessing the wonderful brainpower of our staff. There are many other companies within the Group that are doing great things in their own way to foster innovation and improve the Virgin experience. In fact, we encourage an open door policy for innovation at all of our businesses. Feedback forms, suggestion boxes, brainstorming meetings, and access to all levels of management inspire our people to speak up to turn challenges into opportunities. It’s no surprise that so many of our employees go on to become entrepreneurs in their own right at some stage in the careers.

Some companies don’t like to encourage intrapreneurial thinking, worried that their staff might leave them to pursue a career elsewhere. Our mission is simple: we train our people well enough so they can leave, and treat them well enough so they don't want to. And if they do go off to do their own thing, we’re absolutely delighted for them. Entrepreneurship is the cornerstone value of Virgin, so we couldn’t be more proud of our staff that go on to pave their own path to business success.

Discover more stories of intrapreneurship – inside and outside the Virgin Group – in our Intrapreneurship Month series on 

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