We have been looking at the subject of innovation for our client Stylus. In particular, what drives successful innovation within organisations and the issues that business leaders face with developing new ideas, processes, services and products. In most cases the issue is not the amount of ideas, but choosing the best ones and then getting them to market quickly and efficiently.

In a research project published this month, Vijay Govindarajan and Jatin Desai looked at this very point.  They describe an organisation’s “innovation engine” as the capability to think and invest in long-term opportunities along with the competence to drive continuous innovations for top-line growth each year. To build your innovation engine, an organisation must excel at operationalising ideas from their  people who are willing to do everything they can to fight off internal resistance without creating chaos – your intrapreneurs.

They went on to identify six patterns of successful intrapreneurs:

Pattern #1: Money Is Not the Measurement. The primary motivation for intrapreneurs is influence with freedom. They want to be rewarded fairly, but money is not the starting point for them. Reward and compensation are a scorecard of how well they are playing the game of intrapreneurship.

Pattern #2: Strategic Scanning. Intrapreneurs are constantly thinking about what is next, one step into the future. These passionate change agents are highly engaged, very clear, and visibly consistent in their work and interactions. They are not sitting around waiting for the world to change; they’re figuring out which part of the world is about to change, and they will arrive just in time to leverage their new insights. Learning is like oxygen to them.

Pattern #3: Greenhousing. Intrapreneurs tend to contemplate the seed of an idea for days and weeks between calls, meetings, and conversation. As they shine more light on it, the idea becomes clearer, but they don’t yet share it. They know that others may dismiss it without fully appreciating it — so they tend to ideas in their greenhouse, protecting them for a while from potential naysayers.

Pattern #4: Visual Thinking. Visual thinking is a combination of brainstorming, mind mapping, and design thinking. Only after an exciting insight do intrapreneurs seem able to formulate and visualize a series of solutions in their head—rarely do they formulate just one solution. They do not act impulsively on a solution immediately, keenly aware of the need to honor the discovery phase for the new solution, giving it time to develop and crystallize.

Pattern #5: Pivoting. Pivoting is making a significant, often courageous, shift from the current strategic direction. It sounds scary and unfathomable to most mature organizations, although it’s often what is needed to resuscitate a dying company.

Pattern #6: Authenticity and Integrity. The intrapreneurs we studied demonstrate the attributes of confidence and humility, not the maverick-like behavior often associated with successful corporate innovators. They all, however, exuded high self-awareness and sense of purpose.

Do you recognise these patterns within your organisation? And what have you put in place to nurture your intrapreneurs?