Posted: 5:33 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20, 2013
By Samuel Bacharach
Staying creative is as simple as avoiding bureaucracy and letting innovators do what they do best.
With every success, your organization is going to grow. That much is obvious. But as it grows, you'll have to ask yourself what implication this has for the intrapreneurs who made it possible. Will the growth of your organization, and its bureaucracy, drive them out--or will they stay?
Both laymen and academics believe that as organizations grow, bureaucratic rigor mortis sets in. There are too many procedures, too many routines, and too many constraints. As a result, innovation gets stifled, ventures slow down, and the entrepreneurial spirit weakens.
The long-held belief is that once organizations begin to sprawl, they generate “exiting entrepreneurs”--i.e., creative, innovative individuals who leave to pursue opportunities elsewhere. As one engineer told me, “If I can’t be innovative inside the organization, I’ll go and innovate on the outside."
On the other hand, some say large organizations are in a better position to bring new ideas to fruition. A recent paper by Aleksandra J. Kacperczyk of MIT’s Sloan School of Management shows the size of an organization is “negatively associated with the rates of entrepreneurship but positively associated with the rates of intrapreneurship.” So it's unclear whether intrapreneurs will flee at the first sight of bureaucracy.
In fact, if opportunities are given, perhaps many will stay. To help your organization retain its intrapreneurs, here are some things to consider:
Let Innovators Innovate
In large organizations, there is a peculiar (and somewhat dysfunctional) tradition of promoting people with keen technical knowledge to managerial positions. Trouble is, that removes them from the passion that drew them to the job in the first place. Promote sparingly and when it's in both parties' best interest.
An increase in bureaucracy is necessary for managing people and getting more products to market. But as a leader, you have to ensure this bureaucracy doesn't impede the innovators. After all, what makes small companies impactful is their agility. Intrapreneurs need that, too.
As organizations grow larger and more complex, they become rigid when it comes to allocating resources. Sure, there may be more funds to go around, but they aren’t readily available. That, combined with the constant need to coordinate and be accountable, can kill the spontaneity that is the spark of innovation. Don’t forget to give intrapreneurs a degree of control over some of your resources.
Create internal networks.
The size and complexity that comes with success may result in silos of departments, products, and businesses. Which can destroy the innovative spirit. Make sure there is motivation to network across silos and that ideas are being exchanged.