A Holistic Approach to Innovation and Fostering Intrapreneurship

A Holistic Approach to Innovation and Fostering Intrapreneurship

Aaron W. Smith, Nayem Rahman, M. Abu Saleh, Saima Akhter
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/IJKBO.2019040104
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A plethora of research and management theory exists on how a business should create and maintain an internal engine of innovation with emphasis on top-down programs with direct management support being the most important factor to encourage employee innovation and drive intrapreneurship behavior to tackle some of the issues for dealing with current challenges and uncertain future. In this article, the authors propose counter points to three beliefs which have become accepted as common-place assumptions. First, that intrapreneurship must have management directed programs to succeed. Second, that given management support of innovation programs all (or a majority of) employees will act as intrapreneurs. Finally, that an intrapreneurial program should receive the focus of management to ensure the continued success of the enterprise; the assumption being day-to-day business operations will function successfully without focused management attention.
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Innovation is a valuable engine for the continued success and profitability of any business (Parker, 2011; Alpkan, Bulut, Gunday, Ulusoy, & Kilic, 2010). It can be argued that without ongoing innovation, any industry or enterprise is doomed to a slide into commoditization, loss of profit margin, irrelevancy and eventually bankruptcy. Therefore, fostering innovation within an enterprise is a critical activity for business leaders to focus upon. Furthermore, any innovation efforts by an organization to advance its competitiveness without measures taken at the individual level (employees) tends to be more reliant upon top management (top-down approach) as against bottom-up approach which has an impact on a wide range of different actors and stakeholders (Gibb, 2002).

The intense pressure on leadership from shareholders, customers, and the marketplace to ensure a continuous flow of innovation in products, services, branding, and internal processes driving competitiveness requires management pioneering effort in building entrepreneurship skills (such as problem-solving, high readiness for change, self-confidence, and creativity). As such, these constitute a viable platform for economic development in a competitive environment. Therefore, it has been maintained that the need for intrapreneurship has never been greater, and the opportunities have never been so abundant (Henry, Hill, & Leitch, 2005). Leadership feels a responsibility to create, increase and guide intrapreneurial activities to ensure they succeed in supporting the company's profitability and ongoing viability. In younger or smaller companies, the leader(s) may even have been the original source of innovation and are driven to remain involved.

As unsurprising as leadership's involvement is in designing, building, and rewarding intrapreneurial programs in a top-down and centralized approach, the authors intend to show this may actually lead to decreasing the very behaviors leaders hope to encourage in their employees. Unintended bias has put too much focus on management driven approaches to internal innovation initiatives resulting in actions and this research seeks to present a case for a decentralized, bottoms-up, approach where management intentionally stays in the background; supporting and encouraging the natural tendencies of their employees’ intrapreneurial spirit.

Newlands (2015) state that intrapreneurship is a comparatively recent concept that centers on employees within a company who usually have many of the attributes of an entrepreneur. He defines intrapreneur as the employee within a company that takes risks in an effort to solve a given problem. There are some major activities related to intrapreneurship – opportunity perception, idea generation, designing a new product or another recombination of resources, internal coalition building, persuading the management, resource acquisition, planning and organizing (Jong & Weenekers, 2008). Trenchard (2016) cites some examples of key cultural and technological events which are the results of encouraged intrapreneurship. Such as Facebook ‘like’ that came from Facebook’s celebrated ‘hack-a-thons’, where coders and engineers are given a platform to create and develop ideas; Sony PlayStation was a prototype based on the original Nintendo console whose creator was an ‘intrapreneur’ working for Sony as a junior member of staff; Google exercises intrapreneurship by offering their workforce a 20 percent timeframe on developing personal projects one of which was initial template for Gmail and the search function from Paul Buccheit. Good intrapreneurship means such intrapreneurial work that excels the organization’s overall activity. Almost on a similar note, Deeb (2015) observes that several big companies actively promote intrapreneurship within their organizations that allows the employees to spend 10 to 20 percent of their time on innovative ideas that are unrelated to their normal jobs.

Jeff Bezos, the founder, and CEO of Amazon presents two concepts named ‘Day 1’ and ‘Day 2’ (Quora, 2018). Summing up the ‘Day 1’ concept includes – focusing on the results but not on the process as most of the companies stop looking at outcomes and scrutinize whether they followed the process; making decisions quickly; looking outside the company to embrace the major trends such as machine learning and artificial intelligence and market research.

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