In almost every department of every organization in every industry, a key challenge is how to drive rapid innovation in response to marketplace changes. For many companies, it is almost an existential challenge to build teams that can inspire and execute major innovation initiatives.

But the answer is in plain sight — the people already in your organization, and the entrepreneurs and startups that may be circling your business. Employers need to see their potential and shift to a learning-focused, project-driven environment where employees play the role of owner.

Identify the innovators

Your unidentified intrapreneurs are often the ones who get bored easily, may be completing side projects or outside work during office time, and have diverse interests. They’re the ones who challenge assumptions at a meeting and push themselves to try new things and projects. They may be outliers who are described by co-workers as different. They stand out from the crowd. Their quirkiness and diverse way of thinking make them incredible at bringing a fresh perspective to a discussion.

If company leaders identify those hidden innovators and give them projects they can develop and own, they will drive innovation within the firm. But these intrapreneurs must be given room to fail and the support to operate within an environment of uncertainty. Even if an idea doesn’t pan out, the team will have learned a tremendous amount about the marketplace or internal process that needs to be changed. Celebrating what has been learned rather than commiserating on a failure will herald a shift in corporate culture.

Build strong relationships

Instead of feeling threatened by entrepreneurs and startups that are active in your space, embrace them!

Entrepreneurs are always searching for the next great opportunity and it might just be with an asset of your organization. For example, finding under-used protected assets — like copyrights, intellectual property, and proprietary processes — within your organization that an entrepreneur can repurpose, license, or use to build a commercial opportunity can create value for both parties.

Startups love to have strategic partners, especially organizations who already have the customers, connections, resources, funding, and support they need to move forward. Businesses that work collaboratively with entrepreneurs, support them, and celebrate their success can create a win for everyone. Change your corporate culture to see opportunities where you would have otherwise seen threats from new marketplace players.

A common thread

Within organizations, intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs are the jack-of-all-trades business people with expertise in design, systems, user experience, and research and experiments.

They are your agile project managers, critical market and industry analysts, futurists, and above all, great salespeople.

In the Master of Management Innovation & Entrepreneurship program at Smith School of Business, we find natural talent and strengths that match both the intrapreneur and entrepreneur profiles. Through the program, we create leaders of corporate innovation and startup and scale-up experts from an entrepreneurial point of view.

We’re launching careers for innovators and entrepreneurs and supporting organizations with innovation or startup internships. We partner with organizations to build capacity, find startup assets within the organization, and strategically align your needs with our students whether they are corporate innovators or entrepreneurs.

At Smith School of Business, we offer executive education, consulting, and customized corporate packages to assist organizations around the world with their transition to the era of innovation and entrepreneurship.