Become An Intrapreneur At Your Company And Thrive
During a recent networking event, a guy (with teeth far too white) starting raffing on at me about ‘intrapreneurs’. I nodded along, pretending to know what he was talking about (I didn’t). Cue: frantic Googling on the train home.
It turns out that it was not a drunken mis-pronunciation. ‘Intrapreneur’ is a legit word and has been around for several years. Although, MS Word is late to the party; every time I type it autocorrect changes it to ‘entrepreneur’. Also, the Oxford English Dictionary has no definition of ‘intrapreneurship’. I alighted the train with my pride intact.
What does intrapreneur mean?
Although intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs have similar qualities, their friends would describe them both as creative, assertive and more risk averse than your average Joe. Entrepreneurs build their empires by heading out on their own. Whereas an intrapreneur demonstrates the same skill set and focus within the boundaries of an organisation.
According to Wiki, ‘intrapreneurship is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working within a large organisation. It is a corporate management style which integrates risk-taking and innovative approaches, as well as the reward and motivational techniques, that are more traditionally thought of as being the province of entrepreneurship.’
According to Forbes, ‘[intrapreneurs] think and behave like [company] owners….They are invaluable to the company’s health.’
Entrepreneur vs intrapreneur
Wired explains the entrepreneur vs the intrapreneur as follows: “Whereas entrepreneurship is the act of spearheading a new business or venture, intrapreneurship is the act of spearheading new programs, products, services, innovations, and policies within your organisation.”
I hate my job. Should I leave and start my own business or be an intrapreneur?
‘I hate my job’ is a phrase that rolls off far too many people’s tongues. If you’re unhappy at work, you’re not alone. You might be working ridiculously long hours with little job satisfaction (7am – 10pm is the norm, right?) Steve from marketing probably gets on your nerves and to top it off you have no voice or visibility in your organisation. Whatever it is, you’ve probably day dreamed more than once this week about handing in your resignation and heading off into the sunset, ready to start your own biz.
If you’re unhappy at work, you’re not alone.
In the right company an intrapreneur has the ability to exercise their creativity, take a leadership position, build their credibility and make a meaningful impact on the business, all while retaining the safety net of gainful employment.
Imagine you’re an employee at a cupcake company. Whether you’re decorating the cupcakes in the kitchen or you’re the Head of Finance, it doesn’t matter. Get creative. Get sassy with figures and KPIs and pitch some rockin’ ideas to your boss. It could be (almost) anything. Beetroot flavoured cupcakes? / linking up with a fluffy bed socks company for sponsorship? / targeting new audiences at equestrian events? The possibilities are endless.
Why not try a few intrapreneurial moves on for size? It may mean the difference between moving on and staying put so you may as well give it a go.
Here’s one cool example of intrapreneurship in play. ‘Ken Kutaragi was a relatively junior Sony employee, spent hours tinkering with his daughters Nintendo to make it more powerful and user friendly. What came from his work is one of the most recognizable brands in the world today, The Sony Playstation.’
‘Sometimes, intrapreneurship happens by accident. Dr. Spencer Silver, a scientist at 3M, was attempting to create an extremely strong adhesive to use in aerospace technology. Instead, he accidentally created a light adhesive that stuck to surfaces well but didn’t leave a nasty residue.’ Wired
They are creative, assertive and more risk averse than your average Joe.
Intrapreneur advantages and disadvantages
The financial risks faced by intrapreneurs are far less than those faced by entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship comes with huge financial risk, minimal capital, few resources – you’re alone. The buck stops with you.
As an intrapreneur, you have the opportunity to put forward and nurture your ideas and still get a pay check every month. And if the organisation gives you the green light to implement your idea, you’ll also have the support of other employees, resources at your fingertips and financial backing – win, win, win.
There is not one single path to becoming an intrapreneur.
Buuuut, on the flip side, entrepreneurship is riskier and requires a huge investment of personal time, buckets of stress and unexpected sacrifices. It follows that the potential upside for entrepreneurs is greater than the upside for intrapreneurs. For example, if you come up with a ridiculously amazing, revolutionary, life changing product at work which changes the world your organisation will probably own all rights to this idea and reap the financial benefits of its success. Boo. But at least you’re still getting a pay check and it was your idea.
So, you want to be an intrapreneur?
There is not one single path to becoming an intrapreneur.
Intrepreneurship is all about building your profile within your organisation by doing whatever you can to enhance the organisation itself. It means not worrying about labels; an intrapreneur will help the whole company succeed without ever saying, ‘That’s not my job.’
Some forward-thinking companies already facilitate intrapreneurship. But ultimately, you have to be willing to stick your neck out with a great idea, tactic or strategy.
Give intrapreneurship a go
Intrapreneurship isn’t necessarily a fix-all career solution. But if you’re generally risk averse and dedicated to a great company, know their cause and want to help it succeed, why not try little intrapreneurship on for size?