Intrapreneurs are the new entrepreneurs

Innovation doesn’t just happen – leaders must encourage it by empowering their teams with the right skills, tools and support. Could reimagining organizational culture through the lens of intrapreneurship be the key to success?

In a complex business environment, being able to not only navigate change but embrace it is the hallmark of good leadership. That’s something Chitra Anand understands firsthand as a communications executive and management strategy expert. In this Q&A, we spoke with her about the impact of embedding innovation in organizational culture, new tech trends for CPAs and the power of intrapreneurship.

Intrapreneurship is a concept some people may not be familiar with. As an expert in the field, how is this new movement inspiring a much-needed culture change for many organizations?

Good question. If the marketplace is being disrupted, then why don’t more organizations look within to reimagine how they operate in a new economy? Intrapreneurship is about taking an entrepreneurial approach to problem solving internally, which is difficult for many organizations to do. So why not challenge the structure?

For a long time, organizations have been set up to be governed or operated in a particular way, but this status quo approach is no longer sustainable to be truly competitive. Intrapreneurship really dissects this premise and offer insights on how to reframe.

One thing many high-growth companies have in common is a people-first attitude fueled by intrapreneurship. You dive into this with your book, The Greenhouse Approach: How to Cultivate Deliberate Innovation in Organizations. Can you tell us more about that?

At the core of any organization is its people – the talent. How organizations handle talent can make or break them. You need great talent to realize your vision and purpose; to unleash support and mobilize each other. That starts by building a culture of empowerment and intrapreneurship.

I believe that companies need to spend more time enabling their people’s talent, recognizing the skills and abilities of their teams. This is what you need to be innovative and ready to challenge current business norms. Let your people, your output and your goals be the true north star in everything that you do.

You have an award-winning background in the technology industry, from Microsoft Canada to TELUS and Open Text. What do you think are the top tech trend changing how we do business? What should CPAs keep in mind?

From my perspective, the top tech trends are artificial intelligence, data privacy and the internet of things. 

Artificial intelligence is really about automation. Businesses are looking at new and creative ways to use robots to optimize processes and other functions, which can be significant. The question then becomes what kind of new skills will CPAs need in the world of AI that can complement this?

Trust and privacy in data are also key. All businesses run on data. What we need to be cognizant of is how that data is used, changed or potentially altered and misused. Companies now face increasing demands for accountability and transparency. For professional accountants, this is critical to consider. We rely so heavily on people’s data – security and transparency must become business imperatives.

As for the internet of things, it’s worth evaluating how all technologies will come together and operate together in context, such as AI, mobile apps and cloud computing. What we need to do is bring together these intelligent systems to ensure that they will create value for you and your customers.

Companies that foster curiosity and the free expression of ideas aren’t just better places to work; they’re also more innovative. What’s your advice to leaders who want to foster more creativity and disruptive thinking in their teams?

Leaders need to provide an environment where creative freedom can take place. It has to go beyond just saying that you invite creativity or welcome new ideas. It needs to be broken down and actionable.

For example, what does the free expression of ideas mean to you as a leadership team? As a company? Consider how your team members can safely express those ideas, take steps to implement them and then be recognized for their contributions. Being able to accept feedback, support health risk-taking and create opportunities for growth is central to disruption. 

We’re excited to have you join us and speak at The ONE National Conference this fall! What are some of the highlights attendees can look forward to in your session?

Thanks! In my keynote, I will be diving into macro tech trends that are influencing the world at large, then build the business case for intrapreneurship: how it can give your business more edge, and how to unleash its principles in practice, so you can start to build your own “green house.”

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Learn more about intrapreneurship and how CPAs can make a difference in business at The ONE National Conference from September 23-24, 2019. This year, we’re coming to Montreal and exploring the theme of Innovation for Sustainability. Register soon to reserve your spot.