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www.expresscomputeronline.com WEEKLY INSIGHT FOR TECHNOLOGY PROFESSIONALS
16 November 2009  
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Home - Technology Life - Article

Feature

Intrapreneurship—driving innovation and growth

Organizations today understand the need to identify and nurture intrapreneurs, for competitive advantage. By Sudipta Dev

In a highly competitive business environment, organizations have begun to understand the value of those people who defy the norms of just being “an employee”, and possess the zeal, excellence and innovative mind and spirit of an entrepreneur. These are the “intrapreneurs”—the ultimate transformation managers, who work for their organization with the same passion as if they were running their own business.

To combat competition, it makes strategic business sense for any organization to invest in nurturing intrapreneurs, whose drive and innovation can go a long way in giving their company the competitive edge.

“In today’s dynamic environment, the person who is at the front-end has to take decisions and is disconnected from the rest of the organization when it comes to hierarchy. He runs a project/geography/ team as if it is his business,” stated Anand Pillai, Senior Vice President and Global Head-Quality, Talent Transformation & Intrapreneurship Development, HCL Technologies. An intrapreneur has to act with responsibility and authority. He must be multi-skilled/competent and have the right attitude/frame of mind. “The difference between an internal and an external entrepreneur is that while the latter starts his business, the former runs the business of his organization as his own,” pointed out Pillai. His department has the responsibility of identifying and developing intrapreneurs in his organization. Called “Next Gen leaders”, there are 486 intrapreneurs amongst 50,000 employees across all functions (at macro level).

Identifying and nurturing intrapreneurs

It is not an easy task for any organization to identify a handful of people, amongst thousands of equally educated and skilled employees. What makes it possible for them is the fact that such people make themselves identifiable through their sheer hard work, efficiency and the ability to stretch themselves beyond their expected level of duty.

At HCL Technologies, identification of intrapreneurs is a three stage process. Pillai informs that first they look for individuals who show extraordinary skills in ordinary circumstances. Once these people are observed for seven months, for the next seven months they are tested for extraordinary skills under extraordinary circumstances. The last is normalization of the entire situation and seeing the best results. This happens across all functions/geographies and levels.

“The manner in which an organization can encourage such people is easy, however it’s important to always instill the values and make sure that the goals and objectives of the organization are met in this process,” asserted Iti Kumar, Vice President-People Development, GlobalLogic. This, according to Kumar, can be done by the following:

  • Identification of the right employee particularly at a managerial level and above and giving them a platform to share their ideas and thoughts. This can be through focused group meetings, discussion forums, one on one meeting with the management, etc.
  • Training and development plays a crucial role in further enhancing their skill sets.
  • Internal entrepreneurs always think of innovative ideas and an organization should give them the platform to do so.
  • Adding new initiatives at an organization level in the appraisal system also helps in promoting new thoughts.

"In today’s dynamic environment, the person who is at the front-end has to take decisions and is disconnected from the rest of the organization when it comes to
hierarchy. He runs a project/team/geography as if it is his own business"

- Anand Pillai
Senior Vice President and Global Head-Quality, Talent Transformation & Intrapreneurship Development, HCL Technologies

"The manner in which an organization can encourage such people is easy, however it’s important to always instill the values and make sure that the goals and objectives of the
organization are met in this process"

- Iti Kumar
Vice President-People Development,
GlobalLogic

“Encouraging internal entrepreneurship not only creates responsible employees who have a sense of ownership of tasks but makes them feel that what they are doing is beyond just a job. They are usually very passionate people. Fostering entrepreneurial activity can help the organization identify growth-oriented businesses as well,” said Bhavin Turakhia, Chairman, CEO & Founder, Directi Group.

Benefits to the organization

For an organization, there are multiple benefits of nurturing internal entrepreneurs. The rate of change/transformation becomes much higher apart from giving a fillip to the innovation quotient.

As these individuals think out-of-the-box, they help their organization to survive and grow in a competitive market. “Market is agile today and companies need people who can not only proactively understand the market needs but also can mould themselves to meet the agility. When companies pay special attention to such identified people and invest through training, fast track career progression, they in turn are able to retain such people for longer duration and it actually becomes a ROI for them,” added Kumar. These people also help their companies to continue innovate in their business domain.

Culture of innovation

Intrapreneurship is intrinsically linked to innovation. To build a culture of innovation it is necessary to have organization-wide commitment to creative thinking and problem solving.

“Innovation must become routine, not a random accomplishment and must be central to the way business gets done. It must excite and motivate people, not scare them,” asserted Turakhia. He believes that the first step is to hire the best talent and give them an environment where they can challenge traditional ways of doing things. There is also a need to encourage bi-polar thinking capabilities amongst employees. The other essentials are freedom, empowerment, room to make mistakes and learn from them, a strong sense of discernment and of course, passion.

Pillai lists the essentials of building a culture of innovation:

  • Intrapreneurship
  • Open culture—freedom to do what people are good at
  • Spirit of openness—boundary-less behavior
  • Multi-skilled competency

Innovation goes beyond responding to change, it creates change in the environment that other organizations must respond to. “Many organizations follow a top down approach since various strategies are formulated at the top along with major initiatives for achieving it. In GlobalLogic, we give opportunity to people to share their innovative thoughts and ideas,” added Kumar. The Idea of the Month on the intranet invites employees to voice their opinion on new ideas, thoughts to change the existing processes, culture, policies or new suggestions and feedbacks. Discuss-ion forums on new topics or sharing of concerns, etc., also help in the changing existing processes. Competitions like like White Paper Contests, Competency Development and other technical contests gives employees opportunity to explore, research and submit papers on challenging topics which would help the organization. GlobalLogic promotes focused group discussions amongst old timers, people in senior management, and those who have contributed as internal entrepreneurs. Topics are given to the groups, which are of concern in the company and also new thoughts and suggestions are welcome. The presentation is then shared with the executive teams and action items are picked from them.

The caution areas

Too much of freedom and authority with a select few can bring with it its own set of problems. It is necessary to take precautions so that an initiative meant to encourage organizational growth and competitiveness should not vitiate the work atmosphere or disappoint any internal and external stakeholder.

Careful observation and assessment is consequently a critical aspect of any such program. Pillai agrees that there might be the tendency of being a bull in a china shop. “You may not skill that person and then expect him to produce in boundary-less behavior. This apart, others need to be informed and sensitized to this culture because if people are resistant then the job of an intrapreneur becomes difficult,” added Pillai. Furthermore, rewarding such individuals is necessary—in terms of fast-track promotions or other incentives.

What differentiates a regular employee from the best is not just the latter’s skills and knowledge base, but his spirit of ownership, drive and the ability to think out-of- the-box. When intrapreneurs are given the freedom, authority and the right work culture to flourish and develop, the whole organization follows their growth pattern.

sudipta.dev@expressindia.com

 


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