Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Employees gather in one of the collaborative work spaces on the 28th floor of the Telus Tower in Toronto.


Who is an intrapreneur? Usually highly self-motivated, proactive and action-oriented people who are comfortable with taking the initiative, even within the boundaries of an organization, in pursuit of an innovative product or service. This series examines eight companies that encourage an intrapreneurial culture. Read other stories about  Hootsuite, Canadian TireLoblaw, Metrolinx, Duha Group, Oil Country Engineering Services and Absolute Software.

To keep its large telecommunications firm fresh and creative, Telus Corp. encourages its employees to treat the company like it's their own, believing that intraprenuership can offer up great results.

In 2013, Shawn Mandel, vice-president of the company's digital team, led the redesign of the company's website,

Story continues below advertisement

"We believe the only way a large organization can tackle projects of this magnitude is to act like a small startup," Mr. Mandel says.

While the Vancouver-based company employs 24,000 people in Canada, in contrast the redesign project involved just 20 people. Over an 80-day period, the group analyzed and redesigned the website from the ground up with the aim of delivering a best-in-class online customer experience in both consumer and business segments.

The site was built on an open beta platform which meant the public could access it, test the environment and provide feedback on what they liked or what they thought needed to change. The sharing and transparency brought the team closer to Telus customers and made it a success, Mr. Mandel says, allowing the team to try and test activities in a digital sandbox.

"This makes a lot of sense, you need be set up where you can try things out, think about ideas and test them with your customers," says William Mitchell, the Anthony S. Fell chair in new technologies and commercialization at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Mitchell explains that while entrepreneurship is the experiment of creating value, intrapreneurship is doing the same thing – but in the context of an existing firm. Too often firms fall into the trap of believing that breakthroughs happen only in new firms, he says. Innovation can take place within established firms, but Dr. Mitchell says it needs to be visible.

At Telus, the culture of intrapreneurship is fostered by creating a physical environment that is conducive to it.

"I believe in leading by example" Mr. Mandel says. "I got rid of my office and now sit with my team in an open space." The environment is full of visuals such as customer journey maps and process maps. Most employees have abandoned traditional desks and now have open work spaces.

Story continues below advertisement

"This drives transparency which drives creativity. The cross team awareness and collaboration is all about the culture," he says.

Mr. Mandel further explains that the physical space also allows project teams to co-create, fail and learn which then can be applied to other projects. "We have something called standups," he says describing a team ritual where failures are dissected and even celebrated.

During one of the standup sessions, the customer experience of was discussed. "Team members thought performance and reliability were someone else's problem," Mr. Mandel explains. Through the standup process Telus quickly started driving the right changes to create a performance culture so that everyone was maniacally focused on things like reliability and performance. This led to more stabilized and well-performing website.

Jim Senko, senior vice-president of small business and emerging markets at Telus, and his team are responsible for product development and management. This includes technologies such as mobile payments, mobile wallets, mobile commerce, consumer health and consumer identity solutions.

"I boil intrapreneurship down to passion and innovation that is outcome driven, and by bringing an entrepreneurial spirit to this environment," Mr. Senko says. He believes agility in a large organization is extremely important for innovation.

He employs a fail-fast, recover-fast mindset within his team – in other words, a culture where it is okay to fail.

Story continues below advertisement

"Learn from failures and move on," Mr. Senko says. To support the notion of agility, Telus has emulated a FedEx Corp. model that inspires innovation from within.

On "Telus Improvement Days," employees are given a 24-hour opportunity to present ideas to the senior leadership team. The challenge is to create working teams and develop ideas or initiatives that will drive incremental revenue, reduce costs or enhance the customer experience.

These events happen three to four times a year. They began as an initiative within the marketing team, but because of their success will be expanded to new teams such as finance and human resources in 2015. Some of the ideas that were implemented this year include more environmentally friendly packaging for SIM cards and introducing a customer-to-customer referral program.

Previously SIM cards were packaged in a booklet with instructions and terms. Telus now provides new SIM cards in a single punch-out card and has moved the booklet's content online.

For the mobility referral program, Telus customers can go online and refer their friends and family with an offer for $25 off any smartphone on a two-year term. For every successful referral, the customer receives a $25 credit toward his device balance, giving the opportunity to upgrade to the latest smartphone before a two-year term is up.

These top ideas are rewarded with a small monetary prize as well as a mentoring session with a vice-president of the winner's choice.

Story continues below advertisement

According to Dr. Mitchell, "During the process of experimentation, failure may happen, but you cannot penalize people for that. The minute you do, you kill innovation."

Mr. Senko says that Telus aims to inspire a culture of ownership.

"We encourage people to feel like this is their own company and personalize work and projects like a true startup – from getting startup funding to making things happen."

Chitra Anand is head of public relations and Communications for Microsoft Canada. She is a graduate of the Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA program and is currently pursuing a part-time PhD on the topic of intrapreneurship at the University of Bradford in Britain.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies