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Creative Leadership in Arts and Culture Promotes Inspiring Intrapreneurs

by Rolling Stone Culture Council / Dynamic Growth

In today's volatile markets, it's more important than ever to hang onto your most creative team members. One of the best ways to do this is to create an environment where intrapreneurs can thrive.

Intrapreneurs are like in-house entrepreneurs. They are visionary, forward-thinking individuals who have the drive and creativity to generate new, revolutionary ideas and see them through to implementation. Those ideas can help scale those organizations from within.

With the ever-changing landscape of the marketplace, intrapreneurs can help you adapt quickly in order to stay ahead of the competition and continue generating essential "buzz" in your field. You will stay top-of-mind in your market and become the model for other arts and culture organizations.

With a handful of outstanding intrapreneurs, it is possible for your organization to reap the benefits of altering - and even disrupting - an entire industry. These benefits may include impact, as well as profit.

Wouldn't it be best if those people were on your team?

Recognizing that different leadership styles work well in different situations, you may want to consider providing a base for intrapreneurship to be part of the culture in your organization. Here are some of the best strategies for encouraging your best team members to thrive as intrapreneurs.

Who are the best intrapreneurs?

Intrapreneurship is all about a particular mindset. To identify who has that kind of mindset, here are a few key characteristics that all great intrapreneurs share:

  • They have a can-do attitude and believe that anything is possible
  • They're not afraid to take risks
  • They're passionate about their ideas
  • They're excellent communicators and are able to rally others around their vision
  • They're great at problem-solving and have a knack for coming up with creative solutions
  • They are willing to work at their craft, learn new skills and knowledge, and hone their existing skills
  • They are comfortable with being uncomfortable while testing what works... and what doesn't
  • They see what the latest trends are and can anticipate how to stay ahead of the competition
  • They not only know how to start something, they also know how to finish important tasks, as long as they are getting good results
  • They are not divas, but are authentic in their enthusiasm
  • They are good at networking and making connections

Sometimes intrapreneurs are able to solve specific problems like cutting costs through minimizing or developing more efficient systems. Many times, they improve processes that make the company more productive or reduce cycle time.

And at other times they come up with ideas for products or services that no one else would even consider.

Intentionally cultivating a diverse group of intrapreneurs means each person's unique skillset is valuable.

Encouraging intrapreneurship in your organization

As a creative leader you can develop a culture of innovation within your organization - and positive disruption within your industry - by identifying potential intrapreneurs. Here are a few key strategies you can use to encourage their creativity and innovation.

1 - Give them the freedom to pursue their vision

The most important thing you can do for intrapreneurs is to give them the space and freedom to pursue their vision. This means allowing them to take risks, and not micromanaging their every move. It also means trusting them to come up with new ideas and solutions.

2 - Encourage open communication

Intrapreneurs need to be able to communicate their vision clearly to others in the organization in order to rally others around it. Encourage open communication by providing opportunities for them to share their ideas with the rest of the team. This could be in the form of regular brainstorming sessions, presentations, or even just informal conversations.

3 - Make sure they have the resources they need

In order to bring their ideas to life, intrapreneurs need access to resources. Essential resources for your "team within a team" may include special funding, technology, and office space. Make sure they have what they need in order to make their vision a reality.

4 - Provide mentorship and training

Many intrapreneurs are eager to learn, so provide them with opportunities for mentorship and training. This can be in the form of formal programs or simply assigning them a more experienced mentor within the organization. You can also encourage them to attend conferences and workshops related to their field of interest.

5 - Promote collaboration

Intrapreneurship is not a solo endeavor. In order for new ideas to thrive, intrapreneurs need to be able to collaborate with others. Encourage collaboration by creating opportunities for team members to work together on projects. This could be in the form of cross-functional teams, task forces, or committees.

In addition, by promoting collaboration within your organization as a whole, you create an environment where great ideas can flourish for all team members. This means encouraging everyone to work together to solve problems and come up with creative solutions, both for standard problems and for issues on the horizon.

6 - Encourage out-of-the-box thinking

One of the hallmarks of intrapreneurship is being able to think "outside the box". That means it is in your organization's best interest to create an environment where new and innovative ideas are welcome. It also means giving team members the freedom to experiment.

Establish innovation labs or skunkworks projects, where intrapreneurs can test out their ideas without fear of failure.

7 - Celebrate failure

Innovation often requires taking risks, which means that not every idea is going to be a winner. Encourage your team to take risks by celebrating failure. This doesn't mean rewarding poor performance, but it does mean recognizing that sometimes failing is part of the process of succeeding.

8 - Reward creativity and innovation

Another great way to encourage intrapreneurship is to reward creativity and innovation, and especially successful new initiatives. This can be done in a number of ways, such as offering financial incentives, giving public recognition, or offering more responsibility and autonomy.

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What are the benefits of encouraging intrapreneurship?

Here are just a few of the benefits of intrapreneurship in your organization:

  • It fosters creativity and innovation
  • It helps you stay ahead of the competition
  • It improves morale and motivation
  • It attracts top talent
  • It reduces turnover
  • It helps you tap into the collective intelligence of your team
  • Seeing the energy and success of a small group inspires other members of the organization
  • Intrapreneurs are catalysts for new ways of thinking, and in turn, new products and services

What are the challenges of encouraging intrapreneurship?

Here are a few of the most common challenges:

  • It can be difficult to let go of control
  • There is always the potential for conflict
  • It can be difficult to measure success
  • It can be challenging to change the culture of an organization

What are some examples of intrapreneurship?

Some examples of intrapreneurship include developing a new product or service, improving an existing process, or coming up with a new way to do something.

Innovation doesn't have to be big to be impactful. Sometimes, the most successful innovations are simple tweaks to existing processes or products. For example, 3M's Post-It notes were originally developed as a way to keep track of bookmarks in a lab manual. And the top-selling product on Amazon was originally designed as a way to keep a baby's pacifier from falling on the floor.

In both of these cases, the intrapreneurs who came up with the idea had a problem that they were trying to solve. And by thinking outside the box, they were able to come up with a solution that ended up being extremely successful.

What are some intrapreneurial companies?

Although they are outside the arts and culture industry, it's helpful to see how some big companies have integrated a highly successful intrapreneurial culture. These include Google, 3M, and Amazon.

Google is well-known for its innovation labs, which allow employees to work on side projects that are outside of their normal job duties. This has led to a number of successful products, including Gmail and Google Maps.

3M is another company that encourages its employees to be intrapreneurs. In fact, the company has a program called "15% time", which allows employees to use 15% of their work time to work on projects that are outside of their normal job duties. This has led to a number of successful products, including Post-It notes and Scotch tape.

The Gore company is another example where internal innovation is encouraged because it leads to all sorts of new ideas and products. The same company that produces Gore-Tex jackets, medical devices, and products for industrial applications, is also the company that created ELIXIR guitar strings. They do this by engineers getting to pitch their ideas to “investment committees of colleagues who have relevant expertise. Those concepts seem like they would appeal to a specific market, receive additional funding and more employees to help. 


Intrapreneurs tend to be highly engaged and motivated employees, which can lead to increased productivity and morale. So if you want to keep your most creative team members happy and engaged, while setting up your organization for potentially wild success, creating opportunities for intrapreneurship could be the game-changer for you.