This article was reprinted from Ernst & Young’s Exceptional Magazine.
Unlocking potential: Intrapreneurship can spark innovation and idea sharing in large organizations, helping employees to solve problems in creative ways
Entrepreneurs make a difference. They not only have great ideas, they also have the drive to make them a reality. The challenge for large organizations is to maintain that entrepreneurial spirit even once the rapid-growth phase is over. This is where intrapreneurialism — which enables individuals or groups within a company to unleash their creative potential — comes into its own.
Global not-for-profit organization Endeavor promotes exactly this kind of innovative approach to doing business. By selecting, mentoring and accelerating the progress of the most promising entrepreneurs in emerging markets, it supports long-term economic growth on a worldwide scale.
Keen to play a part in this growth and build an entrepreneurial culture within the business, Ernst & Young Financial Services has joined forces with Endeavor to launch an Intrapreneur Program that encourages consultants and entrepreneurs to share ideas and learn from one another’s experience.
The Program enables Ernst & Young’s top-performing managers to carry out six-week placements at entrepreneurial companies based in emerging markets such as South Africa, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. Participants work with the leaders of these companies to help them tackle critical business challenges, including international expansion, financial management and operational efficiency.
Amr Shady, founder of Endeavor Egypt and CEO of T.A. Telecom in Egypt, says: “Participants in the Program have a skill set that we — as entrepreneurs in the Middle East — don’t have. Their knowledge and experience can help us navigate the threats and risks we face each day, while enabling us to pursue the growth opportunities that will transform our companies and countries.”
In addition to helping young companies expand more quickly, the Program encourages the growth of intrapreneurship within Ernst & Young’s own business culture by giving participants a first-hand experience of what it takes to be an innovator. Participants also form part of a virtual network of 350 professionals, all of whom are keen to share ideas about creative approaches to problem solving.
One person who has been learning a lot about innovation is Lene Sogaard, who works for Ernst & Young Financial Services in Luxembourg. As part of the Intrapreneur Program, Sogaard has been spending time at the South Africa-based social enterprise Shonaquip, which aims to enhance the lives of people living with disabilities through mobility and seating solutions, support services, policy change and research, and awareness-raising activities.
In helping Shonaquip to implement more efficient processes, Sogaard says that she has learned to be more flexible and to think more creatively. “In order to implement a project in the best possible way, without having the time and resources needed, I’m having to improvise,” she says. “I’m trying to create a simple operational structure and process that can work for both these projects. At the same time, I want to pass on as much of my project management knowledge to the employees before I leave so that they can continue to sustain this in the long run.”
Sogaard’s experience illustrates the benefits of learning and cultivating intrapreneurial skills within a business.
When employees go outside their comfort zone, they are more likely to bring a fresh perspective to a business challenge and come up with innovative ideas. This approach is key to maintaining an entrepreneurial approach at even the largest of organizations.