This is a guest post by Céline Degreef, CEO MyCrowdCompany.

Intrapreneurship: what is this new wave currently sweeping companies all about?

Like pirates, corporate innovators seek to transform companies and create new business models, even if it means breaching the scope of their job description or their company’s hierarchy.

Intrapreneurs are determined to change the rules of the game. They will be the ones initiating new types of careers, new definitions of professional fulfilment, and refusing the overbearing influence of traditional organisational structures.

Companies, it is high time that you reach out to these rebels. They are the ones who will help you reinvent yourselves. Like pirates taking over a vessel to use as a mothership, intrapreneurs are making inroads into companies.

Above all, intrapreneurs are driven to create the new, and improve upon what already exists. No, this isn’t just about Millennials – although they are often the most successful in encouraging an intergenerational willingness to share. And it isn’t just about executives and the pyramid of senior leaders – although it is often to them that we mistakenly entrust all responsibility. This is a new breed entirely.

So, who are intrapreneurs?

They are employees who know the company inside and out, including its weaknesses and untapped potential. They are of all ages and professions, and come from all sorts of backgrounds. Flying a flag of innovation and initiative, they strive to reinvent traditional corporate models that are too slow and thus cannot keep up with their expectations.

They know that in building a structured community, they will go even further, faster and with more power. They break down barriers and span beyond silos to foster collective, collaborative work. As creators of “interpersonal relationships”, they can collaborate in a transversal, open and simplified manner, working across all conventions without having to involve their managers.

It feels like a mutiny – but it’s essential to revolutionise and build the future of companies.

Their mutiny has but one objective: to make the best possible use of collective intelligence to reinvent one’s company. Armed with an inexhaustible drive to trigger change, intrapreneurs initiate high value-added projects that make sense for companies. They are inventing the business models of the future and are optimising existing processes, all the while taking part in boosting productivity, efficiency and agility.

Faced with the difficulty of adequately accounting for these new aspirations, companies are challenged by a new, parallel concept: corporate hacking. Many employees push for independence because their companies are too slow – or unwilling – to respond to this new flow of energy. So, they join forces and become corporate hackers and, like submarines operating underwater, prepare to wage their revolution on all fronts.

At EDF (Electricity of France), the interests of a group of employees have crystallised around one ambition: that of “hacktivating” the company’s innovation capability. “Génération connectée” is the name of this body, comprising actors of change who are eager to initiate projects and strive to make them succeed.

So, when it comes to intrapreneurship and corporate hacking, what do companies generally do? They see these privateers arriving and are not ready to embark with them on their adventures. They remain anchored in troubled waters – a company’s fear and concern become their organisational and managerial rigidity.

Can the role of managers be repositioned? Can decision circuits change for the better? They must. The operating system as a whole must evolve, so these talented intrapreneurs can be identified, nurtured, and valued.

Like pirates claiming the spoils, intrapreneurs are on a quest of self-fulfilment and commitment

Intrapreneurship has caught a strong wind – more and more employees are setting sail to try it for themselves. Employers and jobs-for-life are no longer their main goals. As proof, business creation has seen a jump of 205% among young people. Why is this? Because the digital and collaborative era has made it easier than ever to become entrepreneurs. Many of us aspire to a different ideal, where fulfilment, expression and creation take precedence over job security and longevity.

Employees are also customers – but they suffer from a significant gap when it comes to the way companies consider them. Customer experience, on which all hopes are set, gives way to the unchartered territory of employee experience, which is just as important. It is no longer legitimate for their voices, ideas, and expectations to be ignored: employees have things to say, as well as the power to be heard.

While unilateral corporate communication is obsolete in the conversation, this expressive and communicative network can become a community of outstanding ambassadors–provided their ability to do so is nurtured, and so long as their aspirations for meaning and recognition are answered.

Large companies that were once attractive simply due to their size and/or reputation must reposition their values to meet the expectations of a growing community of sometimes disillusioned employees.

Change is essential, and they have everything to gain from it – especially in this context of talent warfare. Commitment should become the flagship of their strategy: a fundamental notion that aims to attract, retain but also federate employees to create the best working conditions, as well as foster a new culture that brings collaboration, initiative, and the fulfilment of all employees at the highest level.

For now, the road ahead is still winding, as over half of employees say they feel disengaged from their work.

So, what to do?

  • Reposition leadership and the role of managers to aim collective intent, experiments and experience.
  • Develop an entrepreneurial culture to develop collective intelligence and turn it into the company’s new engine.
  • Grant employees the right to fail and take risks, because “smooth seas do not make skillful sailors”. (African proverb)
  • Unlock potentials to gain performance and agility while embarking on new horizons that are richer, more value-creating and more meaningful.

As Bill Gates put it, “(…) in the next century, leaders will be those who empower others”.

LVMH, for instance, with its DARE initiative (Disrupt Act Risk to be Entrepreneur), gathered over 4,000 employees around an ideation process to make them think about this industry’s breakthrough innovations. 60 employees were selected for a start-up weekend and had three days to work on 12 projects. Following this event, the three winning projects were accelerated, mainly thanks to MyCrowdCompany’s intrapreneurship digital platform that connects talents. LVMH, therefore, creates a real community of entrepreneurs who can reinvent luxury professions, inject the intrapreneurial spirit and make employees work within the group’s Maisons in a start-up atmosphere.

In conclusion, the intrapreneurs–these rebels in disguise–have already set out to transform the company and turn its model into one that is able to make them dream again. Intrapreneurship is becoming a collective adventure, as it gives meaning to the developments aspired by companies: new methods of collaboration, management, participatory innovation and sustainable performance.

Intrapreneurship, as a reflection of the creative energy that marks our era, promises to be a genuine treasure that all businesses should go after. So, who’s on board?