Each member of the MAIM Class of 2014 shares their individual experiences of innovation in the lead up to our Degree Show Exploiting Chaos: Innovation in the Making. The Bridgers, like Jessica Bacon, examine ways to incorporate different knowledge, expertise and approaches, to be harnessed by organisations.
Corporate environments have often been looked at as creative graveyards. Barriers to innovation and accepting established protocols can cause complacency and hinder an organisation’s growth. When a functioning corporation is sputtering for lack of innovation, it is likely because of a dearth of fresh ideas. CEOs will agree that “finding” the newest ideas is not the challenge, but finding an efficient way to evaluate and test the concepts within the group or with external customers is the key to turning great ideas into profitability for the company. When an organisation makes a conscious and successful move towards harnessing intrapreneurship, the company turns into an innovation machine.
Intrapreneurs behave as entrepreneurs within an existing organisation. They are individuals who are able to source their personal abilities and interests to drive the company forward. There are already intrapreneurs inside every company: they are not the mavericks or the rebellious employees who find fault with the existing establishment, but rather those who can work within that establishment to encourage change. Intrapreneurs are not high-risk takers, rather they choose what they perceive to be moderately difficult challenges and work with a team to find new solutions. Their passion is one tool, however, and ambitious employees need an environment to thrive and support them within the organisation so that there is an acceptance that allows them to voice their opinions and ideas.
Studying Innovation Management at Central Saint Martins has allowed me to explore how creativity flourishes within a structured environment. It also helped me to understand the value in risk and learning from failure. Risk adverse organisations are not conducive to intrapreneurship because there is a strong focus on financial rewards. Recognising that risk is inevitable and that all ideas involve some degree of risk facilitates intrapreneurs to increase tolerance within the corporate culture of the firm.
Successful companies will be able to understand how to find and develop the intrapreneurs in their midst. They will also customize the rewards system to motivate and retain these innovators. If a corporation wants to outcompete, they will pivot and nurture the problem solvers by mimicking the advantages of a small start up environment within the large organizational structure so that they can continue to reach and reinvent in order to be ahead with the next big thing – or a series of small wins that take them to the next level.
From the perspective of the employees, intrapreneurship is a way to stimulate engagement in a position they may find less than creative and view that as an opportunity and challenge as opposed to a situation that is boring or not progressive.
One of the biggest reasons employees are seduced into leaving a company is because of a lack of growth opportunities. Intrapreneurship is giving this slice of the work force the ability to feel like they are their own startup CEO while working within the confines of a managed department. Every CEO would like a flexible, agile workforce, so why not enable that to happen by taking advantage of the many positive aspects of the rise of flexible working? These practices need to be embedded into the company foundations, that way employees will understand and respect the culture they are trusted to work in.
To learn more about intrapreneurship and Jessica’s research, please join us at the MA Innovation Management upcoming Degree Show, Exploiting Chaos: Innovation in the Making, from the 18-22 June.