In the world of business and startups, most of us already know the term “Entrepreneur.” An entrepreneur is a person who is motivated to start a new business and propel it to success through innovation, hard work, and long hours (a lot of long hours).
However, one idea that is quickly spreading through the ranks of many high-profile companies is the term “Intrapreneur.” Rather than being a solo enterprise, the intrapreneur is part of an already-established business and leverages some of the same tools and techniques to introduce new products, services and/or processes that disrupt the status quo.
Because this idea is becoming so pervasive and disrupting the current corporate climate, we wanted to understand how it works, why it’s becoming so popular, and how it can benefit your company.
What is an Intrapreneur?
Having been both an intrapreneur for most of my career and now an entrepreneur, I know firsthand that you cannot equate the two. The most obvious difference centers on support structure and capital. Without going too much into the details, an entrepreneur often does not have the support structure or capital to pursue their idea; hence, the long hours mentioned above. An intrapreneur, on the other hand, has the backing of the company for which they currently work. This process is different and unique compared to something like research and development on a new product line.
Intrapreneurs are encouraged to develop new ideas that could potentially become alternate businesses for the company. Whether it’s a brand-new product that can be sold outside of the current business model or a new app that can be branded and identified separately from the parent corporation, ideas that are fostered through intrapreneurship are often independent of anything else going on or disrupt how companies operate daily.
Why is Intrapreneurship Popular?
Technically speaking, this idea has always been around (Gifford Pinchot III coined the term back in 1978), but lately, it’s been gaining popularity due to the sexiness of entrepreneurship in our society. The concept of a go-getter who challenges the norms and standards of a company is nothing new; it’s just becoming more widespread, and companies have recognized that these individuals differ from their average employee.
But what is it about intrapreneurship that’s making it more prevalent?
Part of it is that many “new” corporations don’t have decades of history behind them. Without those strong roots, they are more willing to explore new ideas and experiment with them. Think businesses like Amazon, Google, and Salesforce.
Secondly, there are a lot of benefits to following this line of thinking. By incorporating intrapreneurs into your business strategy, you are more likely to adapt to any changing landscape and increase your chance of success.
The Benefits of Intrapreneurship
If you’re new to this idea of fostering innovation by disrupting your current business model, then it can seem a bit daunting. We’ll get into the nuts and bolts of how to do this process correctly, but we should first understand why it’ll help your company succeed in the long run.
Too often, large corporations start to rest on their laurels. The brand is successful, so why should we innovate and try something new? As the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, this complacency can become a problem as sales stagnate and the brand starts to underperform compared to projections.
With intrapreneurship, you are always going to foster creative solutions and expand your corporate model into new branches. As such, you are cultivating a network of growth that will keep your brand active and engaged with consumers, regardless of any changes that may be happening in society.
Intrapreneurs are natural leaders, inspiring those around them to succeed. By investing in these kinds of people in your current organization, you can benefit by allowing them to become the leaders that they were meant to be. Not only will this promote better cohesion within the company, but it will enable you to grow and expand because you now have leaders who are motivated and willing to help guide your brand to the next level of success.
Keeps Workers Engaged
Although some people are okay with doing the same thing every day for years (or decades), many of us get bored after a while and crave stimulation. By cultivating intrapreneurship, you can help stimulate changes that will keep your employees engaged. Rather than following the status quo and doing things the way they’ve always been done, you can disrupt the norms of your business and create excitement in the process.
How to Become Intrapreneurial
If you’re interested in following this change and seeing how it can benefit your brand, then it’s imperative that you do so in the right way. Rather than throwing money at the problem or letting your employees run wild, it takes some level of discipline to get it right. Before we look at the right way of doing things, let’s see some real-world examples for inspiration.
- PlayStation: back when Nintendo dominated the gaming industry, it was a worker at Sony who realized the potential of a system that could produce more powerful and engaging games. Ken Kutaragi developed the first prototype while still doing his day job at Sony, which led to the first console.
- Gmail: Google has always been keen on fostering intrapreneurship, and its flagship email service is a direct result of that kind of environment.
- Facebook Likes: Another major player that thrives off of innovation and growth is Facebook, which hosts “hack-a-thons” for coders and programmers to develop new ideas. The “like” button was a direct result of one of these experiences, and now it’s become ingrained in our current culture.
So, how do you become intrapreneurial in your business? Follow these steps.
Step One: Have Open Communication with Employees
Workers who feel stifled creatively are going to develop other passion projects outside of work. However, talking to them can help you find out what they are interested in and will enable you to work with them on their next idea.
Step Two: Empower Them
In your communications, make sure that you remind your staff that their ideas are valid and worth pursuing. If they know that they can be innovative and creative within the company, they are more likely to do so.
Step Three: Engage Them Outside of Work
If employees are stuck doing the same things, they won’t get creative. However, you can stimulate their skills by providing engagement outside of their normal work parameters. If you want them to think outside the box, you have to take them outside the box.
Step Four: Invest in Their Ideas
Once you have something brewing, allow it to incubate for a little while to see where it goes. Even if it fizzles out or doesn’t work, it’s imperative that you enable your employees to pursue their creative interests along with their regular work. At some point, you will strike gold.
As businesses have to adapt to a changing world, intrapreneurship is going to play a significant role in shaping the future. Fair warning, if your company culture does not embrace failure or punishes employees for taking risks, this attempt at fostering intrapreneurship will be met with disappointment.
Are you already nurturing your intrapreneurs?
Do you know the successful qualities of an “Intrapreneur”? Next week I will release a new blog on the 5 Most Essential Qualities of a Successful Intrapreneur. Can’t wait, hit me up and I will send you an advanced copy!