The Lens - Changing Perspectives

Bold and brave leadership

One of the most important building blocks for developing an innovative, intrapreneurial culture is to clearly communicate an organisation’s purpose along with the message that creative approaches will help you deliver it. 

Unleashing the creative potential of our people may well lead to some uncomfortable conversations. Most new ideas are a response to something not working the way it should - something that is irritating, or frustrating people. Often these people closest to the problem can see challenges more clearly and those with an intrapreneurial mindset who are able to develop truly successful solutions. 

For a step-change to happen in an organisation it can mean putting a focus on culture above all others, since it’s the foundation of how you do what you do. Being clear on purpose alone will not create the conditions for creativity, innovation and intrapreneurial mindsets. Leaders also need to provide an organisational mandate for innovation that will refocus how services and products are developed and delivered. Whatever shape this takes it must be communicated clearly, regularly and widely so that eventually it becomes business as usual. 

Creating this kind of change is rarely quick or easy, but the payoff is substantial, even exponential. Ultimately, it means senior leaders need to demonstrate bold and brave leadership through their strategic decisions and communications. 

Staff, often incorrectly, assume that senior leaders aren’t interested in their ideas and that they don’t have permission to put them forward. By explicitly asking for ideas and committing to their implementation senior leaders are sending a strong message that they want to hear new thinking and perspectives.

Demonstrating this goes beyond a video at the beginning of a new innovation programme with the hope that staff will act. Changing a culture requires trust, but that may need to be built on the back of previously unsuccessful initiatives and a challenging financial outlook. The senior leadership team needs to use whatever opportunity they can to explicitly ask for new ideas and ways of working wherever possible. This message should not have an expiry date. By providing a mandate, it increases acceptance that people have permission to think and work in this way, which in turn helps to cultivate an intrapreneurial mindset.

Most importantly, this messaging needs to backed up with action, primarily through the creation of a structured process and environment to develop ideas and people, with a focus on implementation.

An environment where people can talk openly and candidly to each other (including to managers and leaders) without fear of judgement or reprisals is crucial. It allows people to share learning, be direct, take risks, admit where things aren’t working and be willing to ask for help. By creating this climate of psychological safety intrapreneurs are able to stick their head above the parapet and say, “what if”. 

Finally, leaders need to make a long-term commitment to developing an intrapreneurial mindset. We know that culture change takes years, and that developing people and ideas take time, as does the implementation of ideas. We have seen in recent weeks the pace of change can be rapid, yet culture develops and changes slowly.

It is therefore key for leaders to appreciate it will be many months before they will start to see results. And, even then, initially it will only be from a small group of trail blazers. 

However, over time with these people acting as champions and role models, others will start to see, and believe, in the new ways of working. It will generate more and more waves of intrapreneurs, cascading across the organisation, and changing how people think about how they work. 

It takes bold and brave leadership to allow people the space, flexibility and trust to work like this, but the organisations that take these steps are creating organisations fit for the future.

Key Takeaways:

Connect the purpose and vision of an organisation to the culture needed to deliver it.

Be prepared for uncomfortable conversations that unearth deep rooted challenges.

Go beyond on the usual suspects - those closest to challenges often have the most innovative solutions.

Keep communicating to build understanding and trust.

Listen and act – everything needs to be built on a process and environment for development, learning, testing and implementation.

If you would like to know more about developing an innovative, intrapreneurial culture in your organisation why not check out our Lens Labs, a range of free 90 minute workshops.