What's a company to do if they discover emerging social intrapreneuers among their rank and file employees? This may sound like a simple question to answer, but it really is quite complex.
As I started my career, I worked for several companies that made it clear that moonlighting was not accepted. The term social intrapreneur had not been thought of yet. When I was in my 20s, I did not have the experience or the maturity that would have helped me to think like a social entrepreneur. Once I reached my 30s, I felt an incredible urge to step out on my own and start testing the waters of moonlighting. This all happened pre-social media when the Internet was still in its infancy. That urge, I feel, was the beginning of my social entrepreneurship coming to life.
What Is a Social Intrapreneur And Why Are They Emerging?
Today, both social media and the Internet have propelled the idea of social intrapreneurship into everyday conversation. Linkedin, Twitter, Harvard Business Review, Inc.com, Forbes, Fast Company and Wired are just a few of my favorite online resources that promote and assist intrapreneurs and innovative business minds. In fact, Forbes helps define a social intrapreneur in this article.
I have experienced the benefits of these online resources myself and see why social intrapreneurs tap them to expand their knowledge base, influence and network. In my experience, engaging with these resources continually helps me broaden my exposure to outside ideas, people and companies. This allows me to think about new ideas and tactics used by others and apply them to my day job. Social intrapreneurs who are exposed to professionally enhanced online resources are essentially receiving free training. It can be an incredible asset for employees and employers if it is used well. I think a few of the reasons why the social intrapreneur is emerging in business now is because of the employee's desire to create, inspire and innovate in their job. Additionally, there are five other components that also helped create the emergence of social intrapreneurs.
• 24x7 online Internet access, especially on mobile and tablet devices
• Maturity and growth of social media channels
• Online business resources on the rise
• Increased discussions on new ideas and innovation in business
• Global business climate is easier to access
Innovation or Disruption?
We've all heard these two words over and over again. Innovation and disruption have become common vernacular in corporate America and small businesses for years now. They don't seem to be going away anytime soon. Here's the question; are both helpful to businesses or not? I feel companies need to embrace innovation and disruption and also need to understand that employees may already be doing it. Employees are bringing their entrepreneurialism to work every day in the form of innovation and disruption. Employees are already on social media, reading blogs, interacting with webinars, or on Hangouts. There are dozens of outlets for them to expand their knowledge base and build their creative resources. If you're a boss, try to understand and embrace these channels and employee behaviors so you can get increased value from them. Innovation and disruption do not have to be negative. The end result of these can turn into new ideas for your company.
Employees Never Thought Of That - Oops
If the employee is causing angst with their boss because the boss does not see the value in the employee's creative, innovative flair, this can create major disruption in a department or professional relationship. This is not disruption or innovation that is helpful. It is disruptive to the workflow and the boss may start to think about replacing that person with someone who is more in-line with the company's vision and values. If you are one of the innovative employees who are inclined to push, poke and stretch the boundaries of corporate normalcy, keep in mind, this is not always helpful. Remember, you are an employee that is hired to do your job to the best of your ability and do it within the culture and business climate that is acceptable for the company. Think about using your innovative and disruptive mind in ways that will accelerate business goals and processes, not hinder them.
Is It Possible That Innovation and Disruption Are Good?
Bosses, my suggestion is, take a look at your employees interests. Ask what drives them each day (besides money). Encourage your employees to think about what makes them want to be innovative? After all, being innovative and disruptive can be used to benefit the company. Understanding more about these will help you manage them and ultimately make your employees happier and more productive.
Old school management styles used to be more command and control in nature than today's management styles. This perceived domineering control style does not work as well with today's social intrapreneurs who are actively engaged in innovative and disruptive activities. As a manager, your first reaction with an employee who is a social intrapreneur may be to take an even stronger grip on managing them and their workflow. This is probably not a good idea. A better tactic may be to recognize those innovative and disruptive skills and passions in your staff and think about how to integrate those strengths into their workday to yield positive results. This may help them feel happier about their job. You will also begin to see how innovation and disruption will appear in small, simple ways that could be highly beneficial for your business.
Embrace The Social Intrapreneur
In my opinion, the emergence of a social intrapreneur in a company should be embraced and coveted. That person won't be tough to spot. They could however be tough to manage if as the boss you don't seek them out and try to understand them as people and professionals. I do think social intrapreneurs are emerging in companies. I also think we will continue to see more of them as technology, the Internet and social media mature in the years to come.
Follow Scott MacFarland on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@scmacfarland