Intrapreneurship Versus Entrepreneurship: How to Encourage Employees to Innovate Within Your Company’s Walls

Successful business group working at the office

Your organization is an innovation platform for your entrepreneurially minded employees.                                                                             

Carter Liebscher|
February 12, 2020

There’s a lot in common between intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs: Both have an idea (or multiple) they believe will solve an issue they recognize as major.

The primary difference between the two, however, are the platforms they’re provided to pitch their idea. Whereas entrepreneurs often struggle in building an ad-hoc network, intrapreneurs have a built-in network: the organization they work for.

Writing for the Academy for Corporate Entrepreneurship, Jan Kenney explains:

While it is true that in most cases intrapreneurs have only one source of funding, investment may come a lot easier for an intrapreneur who often doesn’t have to go through the strenuous fundraising periods that an entrepreneur has to go through.

Of course, employees of varying hierarchal power have little pull in more traditional organizations, even with thorough research—in their idea’s market, in their idea’s benefits for the organization from the frontlines to management.

“As an intrapreneur, you are not the owner of the company,” states Dario Okrent, general manager of Mexico’s first online car insurance company, Wibe. “If you fail you won’t lose everything, but if you are successful the payback is lower.”

So how do you encourage your entrepreneurially minded employees to take risks even with bureaucratic hurdles and low extrinsic rewards?

Enable a culture of innovation throughout your organization.

Easier said than done, surely. But there are some steps you can take to ensure a progressive staff for a progressive company.

Provide time and space for research

While your more entrepreneurial employees will likely already have a strong foundation of discovering innovative trends, you still have other employees with potential—and probably some good ideas.

By allotting some time for all employees to research your competitors and what they’re doing and providing a space for them to share their learnings, you’ll initiate a conversation around innovation that will result in tangible results.

Encourage a blame-free environment

One reason some employees may be reluctant to share their innovative ideas is that they’re afraid of making errors or being challenged by management.

When you create the space for employees to share their ideas, you’re also saying that you trust your employees to act on them.

If you want your employees to experiment, let them know their thoughts are free from repercussions.

Celebrate failure

It seems counterintuitive, but celebrating your innovation failures helps your company’s innovative efforts in the long run.

Let’s imagine that you implement the former two strategies. You’re taking in a number of insightful concepts from employees, but one sticks out as having a great deal of potential. You spend weeks, perhaps months, putting their idea into action. And—

It goes nowhere. Maybe it’s a matter of poor market timing, or there are shortcomings elsewhere in the organization. Whatever the reasons, the effects are evident: The idea is a failure.

This instance could tell management what they maybe thought all along: Innovation is risky—we should just stick to what we know we do well.

Failure is, however, the best opportunity for learning. You can dissect every element of that idea for what went wrong and set a precedent for future innovative success.

We of course don’t recommend seeking out a failure from the get-go. Our idea management software provides you with the stats to generate growth from within.

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