What is Intrapreneurship and Why is It Important?
If the information age were to be broken down into chapters, the last decade would surely be known as the age of the entrepreneur. The industrial age has faded into the background while the information age has emerged from the shadows. With all this information circulating faster than ever before, we have seen a new priority placed on startups, small businesses, solopreneurs, and side hustles. More than ever, qualities like self-motivation, ambition, innovation, creativity, and thinking outside the box are not only highly sought after, but handsomely rewarded. But instead of starting new, why not bring those qualities that make entrepreneurs so special into an existing organization?
Many companies and individuals are capitalizing on this premise through intrapreneurship. Intrapreneurship is the act of bringing entrepreneurial spirit, vision, and initiative to an existing company or team. By acting like entrepreneurs within an organization, not outside of it, companies who foster intrapreneurs are discovering just how huge the potential is. How is intrapreneurship defined? Is it the same thing as entrepreneurship? What are the benefits to both the organization and intrapreneur? How can an organization effectively foster a culture and environment for intrapreneurship? This article will provide the answers to all your intrapreneurship questions.
What is intrapreneurship?
There is no single definition for intrapreneurship. Yet intrapreneurship revolves around just what the name suggests: bringing the entrepreneurial skill set into an established business, company, or team. Intrapreneurship can take the form of an intrapreneurial program within an organization aimed at fostering talent, an attitude held by ambitious employees within a startup, and more. Intrapreneurship can be located in tiny startups or huge corporations. While the applications of intrapreneurship might vary, the qualities that define intrapreneurs are similar. Intrapreneurs (or any programs designed to foster intrapreneurship in an organization) are known for their proactive initiative, taking action long before leadership asks you to, being self-directed and autonomous, staying motivated by intrinsic factors, thinking outside the box, a willingness to take risks, and more.
With these traits and qualities, they can launch new company initiatives, save time and energy for team members, uncover hidden profit opportunities, and more. Intrapreneurs are motivated by a vision without needing to take big risks themselves. Why not? Because their existing organization provides a safety net for their initiative. If an intrapreneurial endeavor fails within an organization, it’s simply a learning moment. Intrapreneurship sure sounds like entrepreneurship but it’s slightly different. Mitigated risk, as mentioned, is just one way intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship differ.
What’s the difference between an intrapreneur and an entrepreneur?
So, how are intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs different? Despite having some similarities, they are different and the terms are not interchangeable. One of the biggest key differences is in their execution. An entrepreneur works for themselves. They have shouldered the burden of leadership. It is their vision that they will have to follow and depend upon. An intrapreneur, however, still works for another organization. They may have a vision but it must fit within the overall structure of the company’s leader’s vision. In a way, intrapreneurs act as a support role to the overarching company vision. An entrepreneur seeks to grow their company. An intrapreneur seeks to grow the company that employs them. Another key differentiator here is how much risk an intrapreneur or entrepreneur takes on. Due to the structure and resources available to them within an established company, an intrapreneur takes on much less risk. An entrepreneur, on the other hand, shoulders all the risk.
What are an intrapreneur’s goals? To streamline processes, uncover hidden revenue streams, find creative solutions to daily challenges, build a better team, find ways to save time and money, implement processes and systems, create an empowering work culture, and much more. Is that different from an entrepreneur’s goals? Yes and no. Entrepreneurs may also share these goals but they also stay focused on a larger goal that an intrapreneur doesn’t need to worry about: build, grow, and lead a company that solves a problem for customers toward profitability. Intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs do share a few common traits: leadership, intelligence, vision, problem-solving, adaptability, communication, and perseverance.
Benefits to an organization
Qualities that an intrapreneur may possess are an asset to any organization. But what are the benefits of having an intrapreneur on your team? Here’s how intrapreneurs may benefit your organization:
- Your company may grow in scale and revenue with the added initiative and creative problem-solving.
- Your company may begin to ooze innovation and creativity with all of the outside-the-box thinking put toward the organization and its goals.
- Your company may find its next top leadership talent internally by fostering a place where leaders have a highway toward their own goals.
- Your company may increase its productivity and efficiency by allowing “boots on the ground” to streamline processes they personally deal with daily.
- Your company may improve retention and increase engagement and work satisfaction of ambitious employees.
Benefits to an intrapreneur
If you’re an intrapreneur, how does it benefit you? Here are some of the ways it may benefit the daring intrapreneur who would like to use their skill set toward their company’s vision:
- Intrapreneurs are provided a “sandbox” inside of which they can create something they are passionate about without the dangers and risks (so long as it helps the company).
- Intrapreneurs may get access to extremely valuable feedback inside an environment full of potential mentors, teachers, etc.
- Intrapreneurs can launch something in an ecosystem where it may actually survive the trials and tribulations of getting “off the runway” because systems are in place to ensure its success.
- Intrapreneurs may be rewarded by their companies when their initiatives are successfully launched and recognized.
- Intrapreneurs may increase their job security by proving they are truly an invaluable asset.
How can you attract and foster intrapreneurs?
Interested in implementing intrapreneurship in your organization? Whether that’s a full-blown intrapreneurship program or just an aspect of company culture, it would be wise to start thinking about intrapreneurship in your organization. Intrapreneurship may spell growth for your company. If you’re an aspiring intrapreneur, it could be the ticket to a more rewarding position. So, how can you implement it?
Make the space: To inspire and nurture intrapreneurs, you must create a space where they feel free to take risks and be creative. This may involve allowing employees dedicated time to creatively problem solve or it may be seminars. This also means allowing them to make mistakes. Companies ought to remove barriers that stifle creativity, risk, and innovation.
Incentivize: Incentivize them to think big, take risks, and try new things for the good of the company. You might incentivize them with extra time off or monetary rewards. To properly incentivize involves rewarding and acknowledging the “winners.” It also takes foresight to be able to nominate those who may have potential as an intrapreneur.
Educate: Educate them on what it means to be an intrapreneur. As the old saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know. Some may not be aware of what’s possible as an intrapreneur. Some may not even know your company is looking for fresh, creative innovations and processes. Additionally, don’t be afraid to train employees on soft skills a.k.a. those entrepreneurial traits located within intrapreneurs of which everyone seems to be so in demand.
As technology shapes culture and vice versa, the way we work also changes. Perhaps gone are the days when employees looked elsewhere for leadership, motivation, vision, and direction. Could we be entering a new age where companies are not only guided by top-level leadership, but by ranks of intrapreneurs thinking outside the box and shaping their small but important vision of the company’s future?
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