Teaching Employees to Be Entrepreneurs Will Become Standard Fare

03/11/2015 11:27 am ET | Updated May 11, 2015

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Teaching employees to be entrepreneurs will become standard fare in corporate America.

Today I would like to discuss some trends we're seeing in our work with various corporate partners who are either already implementing or considering internal programs for teaching employees entrepreneurship.

First, consider what an entrepreneur does.

(S)He comes up with a new idea. Validates it with customers. Develops a business model and a pricing model. Assesses the market size for the business opportunity. Assesses competition. Develops a go-to-market strategy. Packages all this in an investor pitch, if (s)he is looking to raise funding. Goes and convinces customers to buy, and in some cases, investors to invest.

Now, consider what's happening inside corporations.

Companies want employees to come up with new ideas, innovate, be leaders. However, most of these employees, unless they came in through an acquisition, or from a startup, do not have entrepreneurial experience. So they don't really know how to frame an idea, how to validate an idea, how to assess its commercial potential.

Thus, the focus of corporate incubation needs to shift from expecting employees to be capable, on their own, to be able to originate, assess and package new ideas, to teaching them how to do so.

We're seeing early trends of this shift.

One of our corporate incubation partners, a Fortune 500 technology company, runs entrepreneurship development programs three times a year where employees are invited to apply to spend a year studying and learning entrepreneurship, developing their idea, validating, developing a business model, a pricing model, a Total Available Market (TAM) model, revenue projections, resource requirements, etc. They get to pitch this to their management.

Management, in turn, gets a fully fleshed out business case and investment thesis, rather than just a nebulous, half-baked idea. They can make meaningful decisions on what to do with the projects accordingly.

Even when employees do not succeed in getting support for their ideas, or if their ideas do not really validate, or perhaps, the idea is not large enough to interest their employer, they still learn invaluable skills.

They can try again. With a different idea.

The corporation wins, because the employees are motivated and energized to engage in highly stimulating activities. And they stand to produce innovation internally that doesn't cost billions to acquire from outside.

Just looking at the early trends, I predict, that in a few years, training employees in entrepreneurial skills will become a core learning and development best practice within the HR departments of all corporations, especially technology companies.

Photo: Bureau of IIP/Flickr.com.