Risk aversion. These are words that haunt organizations around the world, for better or for worse. While many are risk averse, some are also risk takers. Wherever you reside, your position is often the product of the vision, philosophy, and executive leadership that breathes life into (or takes away from) culture.  It is this direction that ultimately governs the construction or deconstruction of the guardrails that separate risk and security. It all reduces down to a stock where the taste cannot be appreciated until some point in the future.

The world is always changing. However, in these disruptive times where technology is impacting how people connect, make decisions, and influence the impressions and actions of others simply by what they do and say online, risk and sanctuary are at odds in the face of evolution.

What’s at stake?

Survival. And, that’s why we live in a time of digital Darwinism, an era in which technology and society are evolving faster than many organizations’ ability to adapt.

If Darwinism represents survival of the fittest, digital Darwinism is defined by the survival of the fitting.

These times call for new approaches and measures. Innovation is certainly at the crux of barreling through any safety net. But how do you innovate or take chances when the management imperative dictates an invulnerable stance?

It starts with business goals and objectives. It’s brought to life through a culture of intrapreneurialism and employee empowerment.

The Spirit of Intrapreneurialism

An intrapreneur goes by many definitions, but each are bound by a common theme. Intrapreneurialism is, at the heart, a philosophy that promotes free creativity, imagination, and experimentation within the company. They rethink and promote innovation in processes, product development, marketing, collaboration, and anywhere and everywhere it’s needed or possible.

See, inside every organization is a sense of aspiration. The truth is that organizations are slow to change, if at all. One of the greatest threats to executives, whether they realize it or not, is the fine line between aspiration and the internal obstructions that prevent meaningful change. This eventual shift from hope to despair naturally gives rise to low morale and the loss of any agility to remain competitive in the long term.

Here’s the reality. Executives drive for growth, efficiencies, and optimization, among other things. That’s just what they do. But growth is often the derivative of ambition. And, ambition is often the culmination of vision. The question is whether or not ambition is a tenet in the culture of the organization. To survive digital Darwinism requires strategic risk taking. And, employee empowerment represents one of the most profound enablers, to use corporate speak, to spur much needed organizational transformation.

 

 

While we often speak about the need for creating a culture of customer-centricity or integrating innovation into everyday business, everything must begin with empowering employees to do what they love and love what they do.

Empowering employees creates the foundation for a culture of empathy and ambition. Imagine giving employees time to think through new ideas and providing them with a supporting process to consider and implement them over time. Imagine creating a culture that rewards significant contributions that impact areas outside of the main responsibilities. This isn’t just about those in middle management and above. This is about the younger generation of employees who think differently than your current employment infrastructure supports.

Mind the gap

The need to transform and sanction employees is already upon us.

Empowerment is often a strategy by design. Whether its purpose is to accomplish new goals or tasks, to pivot direction, or to improve morale, the need to foster ownership, progress, and relationships with employees is forever vital. Sometimes a catalyst emerges that spurs change, and right now that spark is generational.

Generation Y (aka Millennials) and Generation Z behind them, represent a tsunami of transformation that will reshape how employees are recognized, rewarded, and directed. What these employees expect, how they communicate, and what they value is very different than the previous generations that currently form the management team.

In an interesting infographic published by Millennial Branding in 2012, it was learned that…

  • Gen-Y will form 75% of the workforce by 2025.
  • Only 7% of Gen-Y works for a Fortune 500 company.
  • Startups dominate the workforce for this demographic.

On Facebook, “Owner” is the fifth most popular job title for Gen-Y. They’re an entrepreneurial group!

 

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Intrapreneurialism Becomes Part of the Corporate DNA

If large corporations want to remain competitive, they need to aggressively recruit Gen-Y workers using creative and beneficial means. Once inside the company, it is this spirit of intrapreneurialism that will challenge and inspire them to contribute and excel. Without it, recruitment turns into bait-and-switch, and management becomes the courier of false promises.

The key to intrapreneurialism is to authorize and even commission the right employees to take charge. They must possess the ability to convert ideas into accomplishments to reshape the intangible into something tangible, actionable and measurable.

The beneficiary of course is the organization as a whole. But thinking back to the need for organizations to become more customer-centric and innovative, empowering intrapreneurs within the organization equally benefits customers, partners and employees alike. Over time, empowered employees will galvanize a new movement. Management will see markets and opportunities differently. The organization will pursue goals with fervor. The workforce will adapt and earn invaluable skillsets. And, in the end, the idea of intrapreneuralism changes the very DNA of the organization until innovation, empowerment, creativity and experimentation become a way of doing business.

How do you think intrapreneuralism could help shape your organization for the better? How can you empower your employees to make a difference?

 

Brian Solis is the author of the new book, The End of Business as Usual. He is also a principal analyst at Altimeter Group. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.