Five keys to thinking like an intrapreneur

Innovation experts dish on bringing startup culture to large organizations in a new podcast episode and video.

Tags: Employees, Innovation
Published: June 14, 2019

A recent report found that the average tenure of companies on the S&P 500 index was 24 years in 2016. That figure is down from 33 years in 1964. And more, the figure is projected to slide to 12 years a decade from now.


Given this accelerating pace of change, companies are increasingly looking to disrupt from within by building innovation teams, spending heavily on digital, implementing agile development and more.

In a new episode of the U.S. Bank Podcast and in a recent video, “Disrupt-It-Yourself” author Dr. Simone Ahuja and U.S. Bank Chief Innovation Officer Dominic Venturo talk about the type of employee that thrives in this type of environment. They said that one of the keys to driving sustainable innovation is to empower “intrapreneurs” – those who are part of a large organization but act and think more like entrepreneurs than employees.


How can you be more intrapreneurial? Here are five takeaways from their conversation:

  1. Do something – like, anything. Ahuja talked about the importance of making tangible progress, saying, “One of the most critical things they can do is to access an idea they’re passionate about and take one small action that they think will advance it.”
  2. Time can be on your side. Venturo explained that resource constraints spur innovation, saying, “Work fills the time allotted … so my bit of advice would be to make deadlines shorter because it turns out that time constraints cause people to be very creative and energized.” Ahuja seconds this and said that spending a lot of money, especially in early stage projects, can damage chances for success.
  3. Create space as a manager. The pair talked about how managers should look for opportunities for individuals on their teams to develop their own capabilities and reputations as innovators and leaders in the organization, with Ahuja summing up the risk in not doing so, “If we don’t support the intrapreneurs, they will leave.”
  4. Celebrate both success and failure. They also discussed the need to highlight far and wide the outcomes of people trying new things, with Venturo saying, “There has to be a constant drumbeat of communication,” even if the outcome was not what was anticipated. Ahuja added, “I suggest reframing failure as learning. When we prove out a hypothesis, it’s learning. When we disprove a hypothesis, it’s learning. It removes the stigma of failure – and when learnings are shared broadly, it signals to the rest of the organization that all learning is valuable currency.”
  5. Innovation is not an accident. Ahuja said that she found in researching for her book that more and more companies are embracing innovation as a discipline and, she said as a result, “I feel very bullish about the role of large firms driving innovation in the future.”

The second season of the U.S. Bank Podcast will continue to explore how the fast pace of innovation in society today is changing the skills needed to succeed in the economy tomorrow. The podcast is available on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts and Spotify, or via web browser below.


LISTEN: What is an intrapreneur and how can you become one?