At a breakfast last week, I had the opportunity to speak with Iris Nafshi, Campbell Soup’s head of learning and development and former head of leadership development for Microsoft, about unlocking intrapreneurship in your organization. One of the things Iris shared is that if I really want to understand intrapreneurship, I should look up Chitra Anand, the head of public relations for Microsoft Canada. She has dedicated herself to studying intrapreneurship and is even completing a PhD on the topic.
Chitra has been pushing boundaries and driving innovation from within large organizations her entire career – before she had even been introduced to the term intrapreneur. When Chitra was the director of marketing for TELUS Corp, she tapped into her disruptive spirit to lead award-winning campaigns for brand, social media, and sponsorship that helped support the company’s transformation from traditional telecommunications to ICT.
There are two types of companies: one in which being a “good employee” means following the process and doing what you are told, and another in which a “good employee” is someone who rethinks the process and does things differently.
For example, when she was given the project of marketing the Surface 2 tablet just after joining Microsoft Canada in 2013, Chitra could have done the obvious – hire a marketing firm, design some ads, sponsor an event. But instead she hired deadmau5, a hugely popular electronic DJ, to play at the Toronto launch party. Because of the use of technology in his music and his popularity with the younger demographic Microsoft was trying to appeal to, deadmau5 was a perfect strategic fit.
With about 2.5 million Twitter followers and 7.9 million Facebook fans at the time (he has even more than that now), he was one of the most popular DJs on social media – and Chitra and her team used that, rather than any traditional media, to promote the event.
And it all paid off. “By being provocative, different and disruptive, we were able to drive a change in direction and have a meaningful impact,” said Chitra.
You need to decide what kind of organization you want to have. Do you want people to repeat or reinvent? To follow rules or change them?
Chitra argues all companies would be better off becoming more intrapreneurial, and advises starting that shift by hiring intrapreneurs. Here are five reasons:
- They challenge the status quo. Most people tend to be creatures of habit, tentative of trying something new for fear of failure or rejection. But intrapreneurs aren’t afraid to do things differently.
- They can spot trends. Because intrapreneurs are constantly researching, observing, listening and reading, they have insight into things that other people aren’t paying attention to.
- They know how to pivot. They can change direction at any time without losing focus on the end goal – and they do this without fear because of confidence and a strong intuition.
- They’re driven by passion. Intrapreneurs do what they do because they truly believe in it – they’re enthusiastic about it – and this helps them naturally produce their best possible work.
- They’re trailblazers. They become the very change they wish to see. They don’t just drive change – they pave the way so others can change as well.
Encouraging intrapreneurship is a key factor in fostering innovation within your company. Hire the right people – the challengers, the trend-spotters, the about-facers, the enthusiasts, the trailblazers – and you’re well on your way to success.