Intrapreneurship and innovation are intrinsically linked ideas when you’re talking about corporate innovation programs. Whether you’re calling it a corporate accelerator, an organizational incubator, an innovation management program, you’re relying on the thinkers, creators and mobilizers to share their inspiration and find ways to integrate that value into your organization.

Perhaps the best articulated difference between the two terms came up in a presentation that I saw recently from Dr. Irena Yashin-Shaw (innovation and creativity specialist who authored Leading in the Innovation Age). She quoted one of her students who said, “Innovation is a word for the organization, whereas intrapreneurialism is a word for the individual – it resonates because it is engaging and empowering.”

It is this very focus that defines a lot of IdeaScale’s product development work. We often say that we require our product be rigorous on process and generous towards people. What that means is that we acknowledge the engine of the entire innovation program is actually people and that we need to find ways to empower them, connect them, and inspire them in scalable ways. That work needs to be easy and delightful.

This is also what is required of innovation managers. They need to remember that an individual is at the center of their success and so it is absolutely imperative that they invest in the professional development of their crowd of employees. And when it comes to innovation, there are eight distinct skill sets that need to be nurtured at an organizational level.  So it pays to test their skill level and develop training programs that help level-up those skills throughout an organization.

Dr. Irena Yashin-Shaw also states that there are seven steps that a company needs to take to intrapreneurialism. The first step is to start identifying your intrapreneurs and after that you need to take steps to empower them (giving them permission, training, and processes), but another way that you support intrapreneurs is simply to take obstacles out of their way. That means if they don’t know how to do something, you train them. If they’re not good at communicating the value of their promising ideas, you coach them in how to promote and articulate business value. Good innovation managers should even be working with HR to find ways to create environments that are constantly enriching the lives of employees and innovators company-wide, because an investment in innovation skills for all employees is an investment in your entire innovation portfolio.

To learn more about how to identify and empower intrapreneurs, download this infographic.

By Rob Hoehn

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.