Innovate or be left behind — that’s the reality of the business world. To that end, many businesses are forming innovation teams and looking to intrapreneurs to jump-start the process and keep it rolling.
Jessica Day, vice president of IdeaScale, the largest cloud-based innovation software platform in the world, has some advice about how to find and cultivate intrapreneurs.
First, Day says, we have to give props to the way tech has changed the world and made information sharing so much simpler. We can progress so much faster than we could without these tools of innovation.
At the same time, we can all suffer information overload. How do we focus, not allow ourselves to get distracted? How do we find the nugget of gold among all the ordinary pebbles?
You need a plan, a framework, a method to the madness. IdeaScale software helps with this. Companies with radically different profiles, business models, and goals can use IdeaScale software to manage their innovation programs.
Set Yourself Up to Win
However, it’s not enough to simply buy the software and get training on how to use it. Your company must have the right mindset for innovation. You must be open-minded and welcoming to all types of input — regardless of whether you like an idea initially. A combination of transparency, collaboration, and humanity in the workplace creates an environment where employees feel valued, Day says.
Workplaces that are stuck in old paradigms of intimidation and idea-squelching quickly fall behind on the innovation landscape.
You must also be open to all sources of ideas. A good idea can come not only from your highly paid employees, but from the receptionist, the delivery person, or your mom. Intrapreneurs are visionaries, and ability is not correlated to education level or company hierarchy.
Training and Celebrating Intrapreneurs
Different companies use their intrapreneurs differently. Some put them through intense training and some are expected to work independently. Some companies want their intrapreneurs to shoot for the moon; others have more practical and realistic expectations.
The most successful method for grooming intrapreneurs, Day says, comes from the right combination of training and celebrating. The training can be technical training in methods of brainstorming and innovating, or it could simply be a blueprint for what the company expects of them. The bottom line is, they have to know what you want in order to give it to you.
If you have particularly talented intrapreneurs, they will also give you some ideas you didn’t ask for because we all know that some of the best innovations come from the questions you didn’t ask.
Celebration is key as well. It’s almost more important than money. People want to feel appreciated. They often don’t, and a top reason relationships break down is because one party begins to take the other for granted.
Build celebration and appreciation into your company’s philosophy.
Not only will it get you better ideas, Day said, but also it will help you retain top talent. If you aren’t using your intrapreneurs’ ideas, they will take them elsewhere, and your competition can benefit from what you have lost.
Many Baby Boomers who are still in the workforce tend to continue to see companies as father figures — an entity that cares for and protects you, and in exchange, you give loyalty. But that’s not how the corporate world works anymore. Regardless of whether you think it’s a good thing, most workers move on to other companies, often in only a year or two. If you want them to stay, you have to do more than just sign their paychecks.