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Have you got some intrapreneurs in your company? If not you need them now!

Cathy Winston on Mar 1st 2018
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Should you introduce an intrapreneurship programme into your company?

Intrapreneurship is a relatively recent concept, and one I was delighted to see Ulster Bank taking on board (Dogpatch labs Newsletter February 2018, sign up here). Ulster Bank are empowering staff to bring in new ideas and solutions to the bank, again as Newlands, 2015 said ‘problem solving’.

But what is an intrapreneur you may ask? According to Newlands, 2015, an intrapreneur is someone within a company that takes risks in an effort to solve a given problem. Intrapreneurs are the drivers behind innovation, they increase productivity, are proactive in understanding market trends and are the building blocks for a company’s success.

This has long since been a passion of mine. When I worked for a large bank in the 00’s I was gathering insights and ideas from high-end corporate clients on how the bank could improve its service and meet their needs. I then carried out the same exercise internally and not surprisingly, the results were a mirror image. The employees in the bank know what needs to be done at all times, however the internal systems and procedures were preventing them from delivering.

Surveys proved that both customers and employees were dissatisfied, however the solution was not possible without removing the internal restrictions. While it seems crazy, this is a pattern I encounter regularly. The companies where the key decision makers identify these restrictions and set about removing them, are the ones that succeed.

I refer to Zook & Allen’s ‘The Founders Mentality’ where over 45% of reasons given by CEOs for their company stalling or not growing were down to internal challenges.

I am not suggesting removing restrictions and changing work practices is an easy task but just as the ideas can come from employees on what needs to improve, so too can the solutions.

I spoke before about Cafe Conversations by World Café, where a simple conversation can open up ideas and innovation in a company, make employees feel valued and create a sustainable environment for open communication and problem solving.

There is a 5-step process in any innovation, internal or external, incremental or radical. Firstly Diverging your thinking and then Converging to prioritise at every step.

  1. Discover the challenges- What is the main problem, what needs to change to satisfy customer expectations, what can we do to meet customer and employee expectations?
  2. Ideate- Have an ideation session on how some of these challenges might be solved. Creative or lateral thinking tools can be used here for more complex issues.
  3. Prototype/concept- This is just about writing up the solution. If you can write it or draw it is possible to review it. Most of the concepts for internal change are just proposals. ‘What would success look like if we were achieving this for x” how would we do it, who would need to do it, how much would it cost and how long would it take? If it’s a thought, it can be turned in to a thing!
  4. Product-problem fit- Now to discuss the proposal and to see if it solves the problem in a test situation, before rolling it out. If the solution involves customers then involve them in the review of the solution.
  5. Implementation- Cross-functional teams implementing projects is the most effective way to effect change. If you have included your employees at the challenge/discovery stage and the solutions stage, then you are more likely to engage them in the change.

I worked with  Kore Insulations in Co. Cavan to increase business growth and within this I facilitated an open forum for employee ideas. We motivated the employees to think of solutions to current business weaknesses, developed a strategy whereby employees had an input in to decisions at all levels and mentored them to follow through with deliverable actions. On average Kore have seen a 30% increase in sales yearly, but more importantly they now have a talented team that are dedicated to the company goals and vision for the future. For more on Kore please see here.

Let’s keep it simple, no matter how big or small your team is, it is never too soon to put a more formal process of moving from challenges to solutions into action. It can be more straight-forward than you think and it avoids the discontentment and negativity that can build in companies when people with so many valuable ideas to share, have no forum or no voice.

Get a group of your employees together, take some time in the diary and start discussing the future. I have worked with many companies from startups to large enterprises and KNOW this works. Start the conversation today and if I can assist you on your exciting new path email



Newlands. M. January 6th 2015. 10 things Entrepreneurs need to know about


Written by Cathy Winston

Edited by Lisa Downey

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