By Jemma Venables, Senior Manager, Deloitte

Businesses are under increasing pressure to innovate to survive. Innovation in many businesses is no longer a trendy nice-to–have, but something that is now essential to strategy and organisational change. This might be implementing new technology to streamline core services, delivering core services in an entirely different way, or designing completely new products or services. The level of ambition and pace of innovation in each business will depend on the risk tolerance of leadership, as well as the extent of disruption occurring in the business' sector.

Although change is challenging, it is something that all businesses and their employees need to become more comfortable with. Some need to do this rather more quickly than they would choose. In this environment having a healthy supply of empowered, constructive intrapreneurs can be a massive advantage.




Individual within a company who takes risks in an effort to solve a given problem

Promoter of innovation within a company who finds more effective ways to accomplish tasks

Effectively harnessing the potential of intrapreneurs can be challenging for traditional businesses, which often unquestioningly adhere to hierarchy and long-standing rules.

So, how do you spot an intrapreneur?

  1. They reframe longstanding challenges and offer a fresh perspective
  2. They like to deliver innovative ideas through practical action
  3. They are passionate, creative and curious
  4. They run counter to the status quo, unless there is a logical reason for it

Intrapreneurs are at their best when they…

...are in a dynamic, energetic business where curiosity is encouraged and there is a culture of continuous improvement

...know what the broad objective is and have freedom in the way they achieve it

...are in a business that values diversity and openness – they need forward-thinking leaders who can enable them to make their innovative ideas a reality

...are in an open-minded and collaborative environment. It can be especially difficult to embed a culture of experimentation and iteration in environments of institutional sclerosis

What can businesses do to make the most of their mavericks?

  1. Appoint a senior sponsor, at board level, with responsibility for in-house innovation in order to champion the role of intrapreneurs and channel their collective energy to achieve business objectives
  2. Facilitate an open and tolerant environment, which encourages alternative perspectives and allows a safe space for iterative experimentation and learning
  3. Create a community for intrapreneurs to share ideas and support each other, led by the senior sponsor
  4. Intrapreneurs should have a dotted reporting line in the intrapreneur community to ensure that their ‘corporate’ value is captured alongside their core responsibilities

The challenges facing businesses today are varied and can require transformation, so businesses need to be flexible, able to adapt quickly and strategically in this fast-evolving marketplace. The greatest rewards will come to businesses that understand this and are able to actively create opportunities amidst these market shifts, rather than merely respond to them. Although intrapreneurs may initially cause discomfort as they seek to innovate within their organisation, there are potentially huge rewards of harnessing their drive and creativity.

To find out more about this topic, please contact Jemma Venables at Deloitte.


Jemma Venables, Innovation Insight, Senior Manager

Jemma is responsible for research and thought leadership for Deloitte’s Innovation practice. Since joining Deloitte last year she has published several pieces of research on automation and the future of work, and supported the wider firm to take this insight to clients. Before joining Deloitte, she was a Senior Advisor at the Cabinet Office where she advised the UK Government on data and social policy.

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  • Thanks Jemma,
    Love this article and, as a frustrated intrapreneur, the advice for organisations to get the best out of us!

    Posted by: Chris MacGregor on 03/10/2017

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