How to create a culture of intrapreneurship to get the best out of your teams

It is time for organisations to rethink their attitude towards entrepreneurial individuals within their company and what they are doing to not only get the best out of their talent – but to even attract the talent in the first place, writes Sarah Liu.

Business icons such as Steve Jobs and Sir Richard Branson cite intrapreneurship as a core attribute to the success of their organisations. While entrepreneurs create and start businesses, they rely heavily on intrapreneurs to build, grow and sustain the business.

Yet intrapreneurship continues to be overlooked and remains an untapped space and underutilised strategy across organisations to attract, retain and get the most out of talent.

One in five students plan to start their own enterprise post-university, according to a 2015 UK study. Organisations are losing entrepreneurial, ambitious and visionary talent to either starting their own businesses, or joining a startup business. The once prestigious and envious role with an iconic corporation has lost its shine, as an increasing number of millennial workers believe they can be more impactful and purposeful (rightly or wrongly) in the startup world, as opposed to a traditional large corporation.

It is time for organisations to rethink their attitude towards entrepreneurial individuals within their company and what they are doing to not only get the best out of their talent – but to even attract the talent in the first place. Organisations need to recognise the value derived from the creativity, out-of-the-box thinking; bias for action and strong sense of ownership these entrepreneurial individuals possess. Organisations need to shift from ‘accepting’ to ‘encouraging’ the rise of intrapreneurs, and create an environment that ‘celebrates’ instead of ‘accommodates’ intrapreneurship within the business. With the abundant resources, budget, networks and infrastructure available in the corporate context, all the organisation will need is an intrapreneurial mindset and environment to make market-leading and industry-changing impact.

Here are some of the ways to build an intrapreneurial culture that will help you attract, retain and maximise extraordinary talent.

1. The greenhouse culture

You should either be the generator of ideas, or the incubator of ideas. Intrapreneurship and innovation are intertwined. Organisations need to set the right context and environment for innovation and new ideas. The greenhouse culture is about curating an environment where new ideas are encouraged, nurtured and followed up – to ensure the idea gets somewhere.

When you discuss a business idea, a problem or an intriguing discovery with an intrapreneur, the idea germinates in their mind and never leaves them. When you see them next, they are likely to have grown the seed of an idea into a plan, an application or a better alternative to achieve the task at hand.

Build not only the culture, but also the expectation that if you are not the generator of ideas, you have an equally important role of incubating and building it.

2. Progression over perfection

Even when a new idea gets the approval to go ahead, we get so bogged down launching the one big perfect solution that’s going to ‘revolutionise’ the market. Entrepreneurs can’t afford to launch something when it’s perfect so more often than not, they always settle for the minimum viable product (MVP). The MVP helps them make a faster entry into the market and allows them to improve and evolve the product based on feedback from the market and mitigate risks. An agile, fluid and progressive evolution is always a good idea.

Most of us instinctively spend a lot of time and energy seeking the big breakthroughs, moments that are incredibly satisfying, yet extremely hard to come by. They’re called breakthroughs because they’re rare. Focusing only on the breakthroughs can lead to constant disappointment and frustration, and cause you to lose sight of the smaller, incremental improvements that will form the building blocks of your success. The payoffs of a ‘small win’ mindset are that your team can stay more motivated and focused on the present and also foster a progressive momentum where the company is always moving onwards and upwards, rather than stagnant. So seek, acknowledge and celebrate small and incremental progresses. It is better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly.

3. A ‘belonger’ culture

You don’t just work here, you belong here – is the culture we need to foster to get the best out of our intrapreneurs. Organisations need to enable and empower individuals to identify and pursue their passion and purpose, and align that with how they can contribute to the business. The ‘belonger’ culture enables individuals to work for the greater good and discover a true sense of ownership when their purpose is aligned to what the company is trying to achieve. Driven, passionate and purposeful individuals are never satisfied as a cog in the wheel, they want to be able to create impact, carve their own path and succeed in a meaningful way. The ‘belonger’ culture builds a tighter network and sense of community through which individuals collaborate to succeed. Success does not and should not have to depend on other people’s failures. By creating an environment where individuals can immerse themselves in the shared sense of purpose and have clarity in their role in making this vision happen, will not only make them perform – but make them belong.


Sarah Liu is a ‘slashie’: co-founder of job sharing startup Gemini3/founder of The Dream Collective/brand consultant/author.