For ambitious Millennials, entrepreneurship isn’t the only path to a fulfilling and successful career. An increasing number of young professionals are embracing intrapreneurship—innovating within an existing company—as a way to distinguish themselves and accelerate their careers while adding value to the companies they work for.
As an organizational identity consultant, I work with a lot of companies struggling to define their importance to society. I often discover that young employees within these organizations are full of innovative ideas that could easily rescue the company from the throes of irrelevance. After all, Millennials—more than any other generation—are ideally situated to innovate within established companies. They are attuned to the technological and cultural changes impacting our society, their creativity hasn’t been stifled by years of corporate conditioning and they are representative of a critical emerging cohort of consumers.
Unfortunately, many would-be-intrapreneurs never speak up—but they should. Research suggests that nearly 60 percent of managers are willing to support intrapreneurs and an ever-increasing number of companies like Google and 3M are beginning to actively encourage and sponsor intrapreneurial activities.
It can be extremely advantageous for Millennials to raise their voices and advocate for new products, processes or policies. Intrapreneurship allows you to demonstrate a number of qualities—like leadership, an appetite for risk, as well as strategic and visionary thinking—that organizations look for in choosing who to promote or reward. Further, intrapreneurial ideas can help bolster a company’s bottom line, establishing you as an indispensable, value-creating asset to an organization.
Intrapreneurship represents the opportunity to create, innovate and change the status quo from within—an undertaking that can be even more difficult and daunting that starting a new company altogether. Despite the unique challenges of intrapreneurship, it is an effective and increasingly accepted way to stand out and prove your value. Today, in this era of disruption, organizations of all sizes desperately need more Millennial intrapreneurs, perhaps even more than they know.
Here are some tips to help the aspiring Millennial intrapreneurs sell their ideas effectively:
- It’s not about the idea: Identify the concrete business implications of your idea. Cool ideas don’t grow organizations. Ideas that can be monetized and operationalized do.
- Understand your audience: Consider the goals of the company and the agendas of key decision makers when evaluating your idea and crafting your argument.
- It’s all about the Benjamins: When presenting your idea, spend as much time discussing how the idea will help grow the company as you do describing the idea itself.
- Extend your influence: If your idea generates interest from your superiors, offer to take a lead role in exploring or developing the idea further.
- Better to ask forgiveness: If you don’t need permission to execute your idea, just do it! People will notice your initiative. Small ideas can have big impact.
- No fear: Like entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship comes with risks. Your idea could be rejected or, even worse, be accepted and fail. Don’t get discouraged. Your superiors will appreciate your innovation and tenacity.