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Colin Sprake, left, and Kevin Harrington, right, have partnered in a new effort to spark more corporate entrepreneurship.
Colin Sprake, left, and Kevin Harrington, right, have partnered in a new effort to spark more corporate entrepreneurship.

Canadian businessman Colin Sprake is looking to unleash entrepreneurial energy within big companies, and he’s partnered with informercial creator and former “Shark Tank” investor Kevin Harrington to make it a reality. The dynamic duo appeared in Seattle today as part of Zino Society event to tout their newly-created Corporate Innovation Program, an intensive 90-day program designed to get big companies thinking more like entrepreneurs.

“Where a lot of times employees are afraid to make suggestions or come up with new ideas or tell their boss that we are doing this the the wrong way, this is now a time to say: ‘OK, how can we do things better,'” said Harrington in explaining the entrepreneurial brainstorm forums that he’s organized for large organizations such as AT&T.

Colin Sprake
Colin Sprake

Things are moving so fast these days, that large organizations must learn to tap the entrepreneurial energy within their ranks. And they can’t just provide lip service, instead following through to make sure that those coming up with new ideas are supported.

“My goal with the program with Kevin is to really take the employees that you have and take out the entrepreneurial spirit that’s within them, what we call the intrapreneurship spirit, and utilize that to really grow your business and grow the ideas, and get a really healthy return on investment,” said Sprake, author of the book Entrepreneur Success Recipe.

Sprake said there are five key factors that cultivate a culture of “intrapreneurship” within big corporations. Here they are:

1. Creativity

“We look for creativity. That is one of the most important things. Do you allow creativity? Do you foster creativity and allow the creativity to come through?

2. Mindset

“The big thing I look at around the intrapreneurial spirit is: What is the mindset? Not just of the corporate executive team but of the people who are presenting and the people who are coming forward with the ideas, because the mindset is really one of the most important parts. Mindset is the most important thing in any business: the mindset of the owners, the mindset of the executive team, the mindset of the managerial team. The mindset that you foster is really, really important. Do you clamp people down and not allow them to think outside of the box, or do you allow them to think outside of the box through really creative ideas.”

3. Culture

“Corporate culture is really important. I speak and train a lot on corporate culture. What is your culture like? Does your culture allow people to come forward with ideas. The whole pitch tank idea is to really allow people to come through in groups of 10 and present their ideas. The biggest thing, though, is what is your culture thereafter.”

4. Risk

“Are you willing to invest in those ideas and carry them forward. Or, are those ideas something that goes in, and then never get acted upon….You don’t drink Champagne unless you take risk. The big thing is to look within your organization and within your own corporate structure and ask: What risk are you prepared to take? Are you prepared to invest in some of those great ideas that people put forward, because guess what, some of them will not turn out to be successes. ”

5. Trust

“As long as you learn and you fail forward, you eventually will come up with an idea that is worth a fortune to your company that someone comes up with, and instead of pushing those ideas down, you can allow all of the ideas to continue to propagate and have an environment where you are prepared to take risk and you become a trusted corporate team that the people who present those ideas say: ‘I trust that my idea is even going to be looked at.’

Are you prepared to take the risk and then trust that some of them might work out and some of them might not work out. Not every idea that comes up is going to be a rock star idea. But, at least, you have ideas coming out because the intrapreneurs within your business, there are some people waiting for you to ask them what ideas they have. In fact, some people in certain areas of your business have some of the best ideas, but we don’t allow them to propagate and actually come out.”

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