With over 582 million entrepreneurs worldwide, entrepreneurship is something most people understand. However, you might not hear the word ‘intrapreneurship’ as often during your daily meetings.
“Difference between intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship is the setting.” - Vanessa Westphal, COO & Co-Founder Choosy
Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs are in reality not much different. They have many qualities in common; such as creative thinking, problem-solving, resourcefulness and ability to deal with ambiguity; the optimism of being able to recognise and take calculated risks to capture opportunities where others may not; the vision for greatness grounded in the desire to improve the pain points of the everyday; and the inquisitive relentless pursuit to achieve their vision.
They are both engines that make things happen while bringing others with them along the journey, and pushing beyond their comfort zones to grow.
However, intrapreneurs operate from within organizations, while entrepreneurs create new organizations from scratch.
What is an intrapreneur?
An intrapreneur is an employee who thinks and acts like an entrepreneur within a business. They apply problem-solving, creativity, communication skills and critical thinking to deal with ambiguity and to become agents of change and growth for their employer.
While an entrepreneur aims to increase their individual wealth and ownership by creating a new business, intrapreneurs are rewarded to leverage existing resources and networks within a company to launch transformative innovations and initiatives.
An intrapreneur is able to take the peculiar human capability of connecting the dots and mobilizing momentum and energy to take ideas to the next level, to help future-proof the organizations they work for, and future-proof themselves too from a professional point of view.
They deeply understand customers and stakeholders, see their frustrations, use insights to identify opportunities, creatively devise effective solutions and finally mobilize resources to make their vision a reality.
Entrepreneurship is commonly understood and accepted, depicted in the media frequently in all forms, from poverty to wealth visionaries to capitalist moguls, and generous geniuses to philanthropic plutocrats, intrapreneurs have largely remained unsung heroes, mostly mentioned as successful executives who may have risen to the top of corporate pecking orders.
Intrapreneurs have rarely been a mass media celebration story, and the word ‘intrapreneur’ itself is so new that it still pops up as a spell-check mistake in text editing software. But they have always existed, whether you have noticed them or not.
Skills that make an intrapreneur
Intrapreneurs always display a combination of the following:
· Problem-solving & critical-thinking
· Dealing with ambiguity
· Resilient growth mindset
· Strong communication
· Networking and Stakeholder management
Essentially, intrapreneurs can take calculated risks, have a vision for greatness grounded in the desire to improve the pain points of the everyday, and work relentlessly with the drive to achieve their vision.
How to encourage intrapreneurship
Intrapreneurship can give a business a competitive edge, motivate staff members and give them a reason to stay with the company.
“You need to make your employees see there are intrapreneurial opportunities within your company. Intrapreneurship brings more business and guarantees happier employees.” - Vanessa Westphal, COO & Co-Founder Choosy
Considering the growing trend to promote intrapreneurship within organizations the following are 6 steps that companies can do encourage intrapreneurship:
Provide the right culture, one that encourages thinking outside of the box and different perspectives.
Challenge your staff, make sure there is time set aside for idea generation, problem solving and business proposals, encourage collaboration and critical thinking.
Be clear what your business is looking for, do you need to improve a particular product or solve a problem?
Offer incentives, whether this is monetary or simply praise and recognition.
Empower your team by giving them ownership of their ideas and time to test them.
Acknowledge that the idea or project may fail. Make sure you don’t have a blame culture and that you learn from both successful and failed projects. If your staff fear failure, they'll come up with less innovative ideas.
Challenges of intrapreneurship
When executed improperly, intrapreneurship can be a disaster for both the company and the intrapreneurs involved.
Conflict of strategy
Intrapreneurs often start by solving a long-standing problem missed or ignored by the parent organization. They identify opportunities and pull resources together to execute them. But sometimes, the strategy employed may not align with that of the parent organization.
Challenge of changing culture
One of the biggest challenges of intrapreneurship is changing the way people within an organization think. It is not easy to get people to see things from your perspective, especially if they aren’t flexible.
Inability to meet expectations
Another common challenge of intrapreneurship is the inability to meet expectations. Companies are more concerned about getting immediate results than looking at the bigger picture.
Challenging to find support
You need two kinds of support to survive as an intrapreneur – financial and management support. Without adequate financial aid, you can’t garner sufficient funding to make innovative exploration.
Conflict in finding resources
Most intrapreneurial companies always grapple with complex funding issues. And they rely primarily on corporate cash flows. Usually, when things go as planned, there won’t be much issue.
The future of intrapreneurship
“I hope that companies learn to leverage intrapreneurship more. There’s a vast potential of skills that can help them grow.” Vanessa Westphal, COO & Co-Founder Choosy
The business world is changing, and the intrapreneur, once a role that barely even existed, is now gaining more and more predominance. As companies seek out creative, self-driven employees to expand their brand with new ideas, the future of the intrapreneur looks very bright.
Never before in history has creativity and innovation yielded so much power, and companies across the world have taken notice.
They’ve seen the results that a few driven individuals can have, and they have begun seeking out these types of individuals to join their ranks
As changes in the business world continue to shift more and more emphasis towards the concepts of innovation and entrepreneurship, intrapreneurs will likely be the lifeblood of large companies in the future. This means that now is a better time than ever to be entering the business world if you are a creative, innovative, self-driven individual.