The Art of Intrapreneurship

I have the bug. The entrepreneur bug that many business owners and serial entrepreneurs talk about. It’s the characteristics of someone always coming up with new ideas to start businesses. Businesses love when employees have that entrepreneurial spirit that brings new ideas into their business and continues to encourage creativity within their business environment.

In 1978, Gifford Pinchot coined a term called, “Intrapreneurship” that Pinchot defines as “dreamers who do. Those who take hands-on responsibility for creating innovation of any kind, within a business.” Three years ago I started using this term “intrapreneurship” as something I could identify with. I didn’t want to own a business but wanted to innovate someone else’s business. I thought I was creative in coming up with this amazing term. It wasn’t until later I found out there’s a whole institute created by Pinchot with an emphasis on intrapreneurship. I didn’t come up with the concept, but I did quickly identify with the notion.

Vijay Govindarajan and Jatin Desai, contributors for the Harvard Business Review (HBR) say, “Intrapreneurs can transform an organization more quickly and effectively than others because they are self-motivated freethinkers, masters at navigating around bureaucratic and political inertia.” Intrapreneurship is everything an entrepreneur possesses in reference to key attributes that make them successful but desires to create without the burden of running a business. This is not to be mistaken with their fearfulness of starting a business or failing without consequences. Many intrapreneurs want the opportunity to create and be held responsible for the outcome no matter the praise or consequences. HBR continues to outline six key characteristics related to successful intrapreneurs:

1. Money is not the measurement – The ability to influence is more motivating than reward.
2. Strategic scanning – Intrapreneurs are always looking at what’s next.
3. Greenhousing – Ideas are kept contemplated internally as they develop.
4. Visual thinking – Brainstorming, mind mapping and design thinking are important.
5. Pivoting – Intrapreneurs can make significant shifts from current direction.
6. Authenticity and integrity – Intrapreneurs strike a balance between confidence and humility.

If you were to ask a majority of entrepreneurs why they left their previous roles, many whom probably came from corporations, they would say it was their leadership’s lack of allowing innovation and creativity. What if we as business leaders started to allow intrapreneurs to thrive in a creative environment? What would that do for your business?

How do you spot an intrapreneur? There are a few key attributes that could quickly help you spot an intrapreneur in the workplace.

1. Are they constantly asking “why” questions?
2. Do they ask to try new things with your employees even if what is being done is not broken?
3. Do they long for more creative projects?
4. Do they bring attention to short falls in your business process/intelligence?

The benefit of having intrapreneurs in the workplace is essential. Allow them to innovate and create in the workplace. This will ultimately lead to your company’s long-term success. When organizations become complacent, you will need innovators to come up with what sounds like crazy ideas and challenges to see if it takes your company from one place to the next.

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