Creating an encouraging environment for intrapreneurs in the biggest organisations can be tough. Rio Tinto CFO, Chris Lynch, offers advice on fostering innovation and some top tips on how to assess when an idea has legs!
Chris Lynch spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious’ Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.
What exactly constitutes a big idea? Rio Tinto CFO, Chris Lynch, believes that a big idea is defined as something that challenges the status quo. It’s got to be an idea that forces people within your organisation to think differently. Of course, this will only come about if the organisation and its employees are thinking differently in the first place and in a work environment that encourages it. The right big ideas can lead to enormous differences in company output.
But how do you know when it’s worth investing time, and money, into someone’s idea and what can the biggest companies do to encourage and motivate their employees to think big.
Organisations must foster an intrapreneurial environment
Chris believes that “good businesses, good leaders, good organisations, good companies and good departments all want to get better. They want to ensure they’re making progress and delivering better returns. When their employees lose the desire to improve it’s a sign that they’ve lost all their energy. Everyday, people should come to work motivated to try to make a difference and that’s why big ideas are important.”
It’s crucial that people have opportunities to make a difference, feel confident that they are indeed making a difference and are acknowledged for this. It’s unlikely that any intrapreneurs will continue to flourish within huge organisations if they aren’t rewarded and supported in their efforts and contributions.
Chris was keen to remind us that big companies have got to be very very careful in this area. It’s easy to deter enthusiastic intrapreneurs before they’ve even started innovating.
“There must be a culture that’s open, honest and diverse. But, it’s pointless being diverse unless it’s inclusive. People must feel confident to speak up and take risks without the fear of having their idea criticised.”
How do you when a big idea has legs?
Organisations need the foresight to be able to recognise a brilliant idea and the confidence to roll with it. Chris reminded us of an old business saying: “‘You don’t get fired for hiring McKinsey and taking McKinsey’s advice.’ But it’s a bit of a cop-out to have that sort of attitude.”
“A lot of large corporate organisations are risk-averse. They’ll have 27 ways to say no and 1 or 2 ways to say yes. We need to get companies to recognise their own people’s contributions, ideas and their energy and enthusiasm. This to me is the key factor about intrepreneurship. Companies must be able to recognise the best ideas and follow through on them.
How do you know when an employee’s idea has legs? It’s going to be something that makes you stop in your tracks and say ‘hey this is something that could really make a difference.’ It might spark reactions with other team members who can think ways to expand the idea.
How to make your big idea a reality
Chris had some final nuggets of advice for any budding intrapreneurs out there:
- Commit yourself. Once you’ve decided that it’s worth putting in the effort; give it everything and don’t give up
- Find someone with whom you’re comfortable sharing and testing your idea. Have a conversation about where your idea could lead and what it could do for your organisation
- Do your homework. If there’s data that you need, get the data. If there’s things that you can do to prove a point, do them. Take it as far as you can on your own
- If you need a sponsor, pick your mark carefully. Think about who would be the best sponsor for this idea
- Have the courage to take a risk– It’s important to have the confidence behind your idea to say I’m prepared to put my credibility on the line behind this idea and stand up for it at all costs
Even Bigger Ideas is a 5-part podcast series available exclusively to Big Ideas Digital Delegates. Sponsored by State of Flux, this series features interviews with five of the most intriguing power players at this year’s Big Ideas Summit in London.