The importance of intrapreneurship

So how does an organization harvest the positive attributes of entrepreneurs within their ranks while keeping those people employed at their company?

Our society has never placed more value on the entrepreneurial mindset. The inventiveness and willingness to hustle are seen as the ultimate traits for someone entering the business world. The challenge for companies then becomes how to embrace that kind of attitude and spirit while maintaining a talented, results-oriented workforce who don’t work for themselves, but for their company.

One study found that 58% of managers were willing to encourage younger employees who have aspirations to pursue business opportunities. So how does an organization harvest the positive attributes of entrepreneurs within their ranks while keeping those people employed at their company? By embracing the concept of intrapreneurship.

What is an intrapreneur?

​An entrepreneur is someone who takes risks in business to stake out their own claim. Conversely, an intrapreneur is someone who has the same sort of mindset as an entrepreneur but still works for a company owned by someone else. Gifford Pinchot III, a business school founder, came up with the term in 1978. He called referred to them as “dreamers who do.” He also defined them thusly:

“Intrapreneurs are employees who do for corporate innovation what an entrepreneur does for his or her start-up.” ​​

Envision all the elements that make up the entrepreneurial spirit. This involves calculated risk-taking, innovation, creativity, and thinking that attempts to circumvent your industry’s accepted norms. Now apply that to someone who is working at a company rather than their own start-up or business endeavor.

Intrapreneurs apply the concept of ownership to the work they do in their roles, just as an entrepreneur does. The difference is that this ownership applies to their roles and responsibilities within their current organizational structure.

What breeds a culture of intrapreneurs? More than anything, it’s having a mission and value set everyone at your company can buy into and believe in. When team members believe in the mission, they’re more likely to throw 100% of their time and effort behind it. It also means empowering your team with independence and authority. The micromanaged rarely become intrapreneurs. Allowing your team members the creative freedom to apply unconventional solutions to problems is a great way to encourage intrapreneurship.

Why are intrapreneurs important?

No business can survive without having embracing intrapreneurship. It’s almost a certainty that any successful company has benefited from this in the past. They may not identify those employees with the term intrapreneur, but they embraced the same values that make them successful: independent thinking, the ability to take risks, and a seemingly inextinguishable work ethic. Intrapreneurs are important to your organization in two critical ways:

Intrapreneurs help you fight a false sense of comfort and security

​In business, it’s criminally easy to fall into a set of routines and patterns that appear to be working. In some cases, this can encourage better efficiency. But at a strategic level, it’s important to fight the urge to fall into a false sense of comfort about the way you do things. One of the most deadly phrases a company can use is, “That’s the way it’s always been done.”

Intrapreneurs challenge the status quo. They ask questions. They poke and prod at the accepted methods. They always ask, “How can we do this better?” One of the main tenets of intrapreneurship is embracing the idea of risk. There’s no risk in following the same protocols ad infinitum.

They introduce extreme disruption

​It’s also not enough to have someone in your organization who simply questions everything you do. It’s also important to have people who introduce new, innovative ideas — actionable ones that you can implement ASAP — to help disrupt the way you do business in a positive way. That’s why having open-minded leadership within your hierarchy is critical. Without a tacit acceptance of new ideas from the top levels of your organization, you’ll never hear the great ideas you may have from the intrapreneurs at various levels of the company.

How can intrapreneurs change your company from the inside out?

​You understand why intrapreneurs are important, but in what ways can they help? What are the tactical and strategic advantages you can gain from embracing intrapreneurship within your team? Intrapreneurs give you more than just the ability to think differently about how you do business - they can also help change your company from the inside out by doing the following:

​Make recommendations on process improvements

Your company has existing processes in place to win, maintain, and evaluate the prospects for new business. While it’s easy to look at metrics to determine how well you’re performing, sometimes finding a new path forward isn’t so easy. Having an innovative intrapreneur who can apply a fresh set of eyes to your processes and procedures can help make recommendations on how to adapt effectively.

Promote growth and expansion

​It’s one thing to change the way your company approaches obstacles. It’s quite another to look outward in an attempt to grow your organization beyond its current scope. Intrapreneurs embrace growth and expansion as not just a necessity to survive, but an inevitability.

Intrapreneurs are, by definition, part of your internal organization. But because of the entrepreneurial spirit they possess, they often tend to look outward to what the next step in your company’s evolution should be. It’s on the company leadership to facilitate this growth and expansion, equipping their intrapreneurs with the ability to seek and pursue new business opportunities.

Key takeaway: How to embrace intrapreneurship within your company

​To get the most out of the intrapreneurs within your company, it’s crucial to:

  • Find out who they are. Regularly seek out new ideas from all levels on your organizational chart. Intrapreneurs are rarely limited to upper and middle management — they can appear at any level of seniority, from junior employees to executives.
  • Foster a culture in which change, adaptation, and the best idea are valued. If you place an emphasis on innovation within your company’s values, you’re sure to encourage more intrapreneurs to come forward and share their contributions.
  • Open the lines of communication that enable your employees to share their insights that challenge and disrupt the status quo.

If you need any help changing your company to enable intrapreneurship, look no further than Digital Leap. For more on how we can help your business grow, contact us today.

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