Food firms need intrapreneurs, expert argues

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Food firms need to create an environment where creative ideas flourish
Food firms need to create an environment where creative ideas flourish

Related tags Food innovation solutions Risk

Food industry cultures must be overhauled to foster the development of ‘intrapreneurs’ if genuine innovation is to be encouraged, according to an expert in the field.

Entrepreneurs took the financial risk of launching and growing a business in return for the potential reward, Mike Faers, founder of Food Innovation Solutions (FIS), told Intrapreneurs, by contrast, were employees measured against the success of business units, he said.

Companies needed to create an environment in which these intrapreneurs could risk failure, but were also accountable, said Faers.

“What’s important is the traits that the intrapreneur displays and I firmly believe that they are fundamental for a business’s growth, even when they have not always been rewarded or recognised in the past,”​ he said.

“Nevertheless, there is a now a positive movement towards encouraging these skills, with many large organisations changing their recruitment and graduate schemes to reflect these traits rather than academic prowess. Within FIS it is the primary measure we look for when recruiting a new team member.”

Eight characteristics of the intrapreneur

Faers distilled the character of the intrepreneur down to eight traits:

  1. The ability to visualise an opportunity early in its evolution;
  2. The capability, courage & conviction to bring it to life and garner support;
  3. Innovative thought processes
  4. Highly creative problem solving;
  5. Ability to take risks and accept failure as a learning;
  6. Highly motivated to succeed and will put the effort in to deliver;
  7. Adaptive, nimble, agile and still remained focused on the goals; and
  8. Never realise the goals – there will always be a another goal to aim for creating a profitable virtuous circle for the organisation.

“Allowing this behaviour to exist ultimately highlights the gap between the philosophy of the organisation and the intrapreneur,” ​said Faers. “If the organisation supports them, then they will flourish. If not, then they will leave and set up their own business becoming an entrepreneur.”

There were several examples of such companies, he said. Post-it notes were created by 3M after it allowed its employees to dedicate 15% of their time to working on projects they liked that would enhance the company.

And Google was renowned for allowing its staff to spend 20% of their time working on ideas they believe are cool and innovative, said Faers. “But when I ask myself how many food and beverage businesses operate such schemes the answer is very few.”

Five top tips

He outlined five top tips for creating an innovative culture.

  1. Tension should exist in the decision making process – this is a healthy and positive tension.
  2. There should be open and transparent communication at all times, with no retribution but always constructive.
  3. Teams should be a muttering and whinging-free zones – no politics as this destroys teams.
  4. Leadership rules and shared priorities are in place.  It’s not a free for all and there must be an expectation of delivery that impacts the organisation’s performance positively.
  5. Trust is placed in team members to deliver. If the trust is broken it is very hard to recover for any individual.

“If the industry demands differentiation and innovation in order for companies to become market leaders (scale is not a good enough reason) then surely we should adjust our human resource strategy accordingly?”​ Faers concluded.

FIS advises blue chip clients, including top supermarkets and food and drink brands on product development. On August 13 it was named the winner of the Gold Stevie Award in the Company of the Year category for the food and beverage industry in the International Business Awards.

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1 comment

great article!

Posted by Tanja,

What an inspiring article! I want to share with all my colleagues.

Printed and attached to our notice board.

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