How Social Intrapreneurship Can Shake Off The Corporate Dust

So, here we are. The time for change and personal re-shaping through resolutions is upon us already. But this doesn’t just mean an opportunity for personal improvement, it also means a time for professional self-development too. Fresh into the new year is a great time to take a step back and open yourself to new ideas that stimulate inspiration and innovation and might create a positive culture change in your workplace. Start-ups shouldn’t be the only that encourage dreaming, thinking and innovation.

Gifford Pinchot coined the term “intrapreneurs” to describe what he saw as “dreamers who do”. Pinchot believed that a company’s work environment and its people largely defined its success and he stressed the importance of  intrapreneurs within organisations. People who drive positive change result in company growth through a self-fulfilling cycle. Inspiring talent will create an inspiring workplace. An inspiring work environment will attract driven and forward-thinking talent who inspire others to strive to achieve and innovate, and so on. It is the people that make the place and it is each person that makes up the people. Only when a company is built with the right ethos can it allow achievers and innovators to flourish.

The Yunus Social Business Corporate Innovation Team from Europe, Brazil and India

The Yunus Social Business Corporate Innovation Team from Europe, Brazil and India

How to jumpstart an intrapreneurial culture

So, you’re thinking, how can I make a difference in my day-today work life? People naturally have a desire to be flexible and autonomous, so why conflict this in our working routine? The traditional management ideas of old condemn hours spent working away from your desk but this has been repeatedly shown to squash innovation. Instead, experiment with alternative routines, suggest a weekly catch-up, compliment someone’s work. Whatever it is, try something different with the hope of promoting autonomy, trust and motivation which ultimately drive performance and innovation.

 Support a Flourishing Multi-Talented Culture

Who says employees need to be stagnant in a role and stuck in routine thought? Democratise innovation and let your employees explore projects outside of their job description. It is now commonplace for people to want a wide variety of skills and experience in place of the one-track career of old and this is easily achieved by promoting workshops, courses and classes where possible. It is important to support the development of passions such as interests in cutting-edge tech or creative design since evidence shows that loyalty and performance increase when employees feel valued and empowered.

It is important to support this idea with the necessary structures and resources that allow for the development promotion of ideas. This means a workplace that isn’t understaffed or underfunded and may even mean setting aside a little more of the talent acquisition budget for talent retention. By promoting a culture of positive self-worth and helping employees to feel valued and appreciated they will not only perform better work but also stay with you for longer meaning increased team efficiency and less costly hiring.

Establish core values

Beyond just the promotion of a company ethos, core values should be applicable from the business directives right down to the day-to-day grind. They should be instilled within decision-making at every level of your organization. Having a shared sense of values and purpose helps employees align behaviour and thinking and improve their performance. From this strong foundation, innovation will flow naturally. If employees are highly engaged and inspired by these values, this will in turn inspire your partners, clients and community. Strong and effective core values are an important tool in both the retention and recruitment process.

Inspire and Encourage Collaboration

In large corporates where there is often a disconnect between teams, it is important to promote social activity. A TINYpulse survey found that “peers” and “camaraderie” were among the top motivators for employees who go the extra mile at work. Cross pollination is a great way to create a cohesive and happy workforce and collaboration can even result in the best ideas. Facebook’s Hackathons are a great example of this where software engineers are given the opportunity to work on their crazy ideas on company resources to promote creativity and innovation within the company – a famous result being the like button. Slack groups, book clubs, happy hours, etc. – these are all great ways to get people across departments to meet and share ideas.

Encourage your employees to attend events and conferences as a team; engage with their colleagues as mentors; or engage with building accelerators and incubators to connect with start-ups in relevant industries (see our corporate accelerator: MAN Impact Accelerator). There are countless opportunities to foster a supportive and collaborative environment. understanding by learning from the talented entrepreneurs around you.

Inspiration needs external triggers

We spend most of the week in the office, so it is important to create a pleasant environment. People have their best ideas when they feel at ease, so try and create a stimulating but relaxing environment. For example, hot desking promotes fluidity between departments. Other companies have sit-stand workstations to reduce time spent sitting as well as movable desks that can be rearranged to promote mobility, flexibility and collaboration. Plants, colourful walls and posters also contribute to an energized atmosphere and a vibrant culture where creativity and expression is encouraged.

Aside from interior decorating, you should also think of another, more human, kind of interior. The idea of self-worth not only applies to company culture but also to our daily relationships. As humans we love recognition for our work. It sounds simple but positive feedback should always be encouraged. Whether you write to each employee individually or you give them greater exposure in the wider organization, if people feel truly appreciated, they are more likely to reciprocate through loyalty and hard work.

Yunus Social Business - Corporate Intrapreneurship

In many sectors, businesses are facing technological advancements as well as the effects of a variety of social developments. Historically, companies looked for disruptive innovations outside the company, but now it is much more common for innovations to be fostered from within. By satisfying an increasingly restless workforce who strive for autonomy, creativity and meaning in the workplace, businesses can tap into the full potential of their talent and see the innovation and inspiration blossom in their employees.

At YSB, we are currently starting a research initiative with Porticus foundation in 2019 to help social intrapreneurs within corporates drive change in their companies. The aim is to help intrapreneurs jump-start new social business initiatives as well as scale-up any current projects showing promising growth.

No matter your history or industry – it’s time to shake off some of that corporate dust. It’s time for businesses to promote innovative ideas from the bottom up. And it’s time for the values of social intrapreneurship to help you pave the way to a brighter future. Have a great 2019!