Magazine article Training & Development Journal

The Intrapreneurial Spirit

Magazine article Training & Development Journal

The Intrapreneurial Spirit

Article excerpt

The Intrapreneurial Spirit

A revolution is occurring at all levels of the American workforce. Its theme is employee contribution. Today's successful firms realize the business benefits of providing workers on the line and in the front office with the latitude and capital needed for profit-making innovation.

Since Gifford Pinchott coined the word in 1986, "intrapreneurship" has signaled the sanction and support organizations give to their employees' entrepreneurial activities. Intrapreneuring is seen as one solution to a range of corporate woes, from lagging competitiveness to a lack of challenging jobs in bureaucratic organizations.

Unfortunately, moving a hierarchical firm to the point where intrapreneuring is a strategic component isn't easy. And traditional management practices, focused simply on performing old tasks more efficiently, are not a sufficient answer to new challenges. If organizations are going to realize the competitive advantage innovation can provide, they must learn to stimulate, support, and protect their intrapreneurs as part of their corporate strategies. Firms need to become more flexible and creative--and more tolerant of failure. In fact, failure needs to be seen as a learning process.

Strategy for


The training program described here views intrapreneuring as an activity that requires more than training would-be innovators; new managerial practices also must take hold. They include the following:

* identifying potential intrapreneurs or "champions" early in their careers;

* sponsoring intrapreneurial projects;

* establishing both diversity and order in a firm's strategic activities;

* allowing experimentation and tolerating failure;

* developing new managerial approaches and innovative administrative arrangements so that intrapreneurs and their organizations cooperate effectively.

* instilling an expectation of results;

* rewarding success;

Program design

and objectives

We were invited by a Fortune 500 insurance company, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Indiana (now the Associated Group) to develop a program that would introduce intrapreneurship into the corporation. Its major purpose was to educate the organization's directors and managers about the intrapreneurial process so that the company could meet the challenges of a less-regulated market. Since then, we have conducted the program for large telecommunications firms facing similar changes.

Overall, the three-day program relies on a careful mix of educational strategies and trainer talents to maintain participants' interest and attention. Delivery methods include lectures, discussions, videotaped case studies, small-group activities, project team development, individual assessment, and "champion" presentations. The champion is the individual in each group who takes responsibility for coordinating the team and, in most cases, originates the project idea.

The program objectives are based on a model of change that illustrates the relationship among components needed to develop an innovative workplace. Based on that model, the program has four objectives, which are described below.

1. Defining "intrapreneuring." To meet the first objective, participants learn about the intrapreneurial activities at such well-known companies as Hewlett Packard and 3M. A review of current management practices demonstrates how innovation and cultural change are necessary if organizations are to survive in today's competitive marketplace.

Participants apply their learning in two ways. First, they analyze and contrast two video cases that describe intrapreneuring at Du Pont and Polaroid. For each company, participants identify what distinguishes the activity as intrapreneurial.

The second application has participants review recent projects in their own firm. …

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