Effectiveness of promoting ‘intrapreneurship’ | Sunday Observer

Effectiveness of promoting ‘intrapreneurship’

10 January, 2021

‘Entrepreneur’ is the term most of us are familiar with concerning the concept of entrepreneurship or ownership of a business entity.  It is known that entrepreneurship is challenging with many responsibilities that predominantly runs along with dedication, commitment, and relentless hard work. In contrast, ‘intrapreneurship’ is the system where the principles of entrepreneurship are practiced by the staff, often senior members, in a company.

These senior members of the organisation take on the responsibility of developing products, services, or processes of the company by innovating new ideas and methods.  In short, they act as entrepreneurs inside the boundaries of the company. 

According to Wikipedia, Gifford Pinchot III, the legendary American entrepreneur, author, and inventor, defines intrapreneurs as those who are responsible for creating innovations of any kind within an organisation. The term was acknowledged by “The American Heritage Dictionary’ to mean the new word as a person within a large organisation who takes the responsibility of turning an idea into a profitable product or service through assertive risk-taking and innovation. Since then many ideas on the subject were published to improve the concept with introductions of several similar definitions.

Intrapreneurship allows an employee of a business organisation to act as an entrepreneur in selected areas. Similar to entrepreneurs, the intrapreneur is a self-motivated, proactive, and innovative individual who takes the initiative to pursue to improve the success of a product or service.

The main difference between the two concepts is that the intrapreneur does not have a personal cost in case of a failure as it does for the entrepreneur.  

Intrapreneurship creates an environment to allow the employees to think like entrepreneurs and encourage them to use their independent skills for the benefit of the company. They are allowed the required freedom to experiment. Also, the opportunity given by the company gives them an opening to grow within the organisation. Intrapreneurship encourages independence. It enhances the commitment of the worker with more creativity and commitment.

The biggest challenge for entrepreneurs is to identify employees who can be groomed to be assigned the tasks of an intrapreneur without taking risks. Recognising such employees from the cadre with an entrepreneurial spirit can be a delicate process due to possible negative impact that may arise if a wrong choice is made. The concept of developing intrapreneurs is not without adverse effects as well. 

The main among them is the possibility of an employee leaving the organisation and competing in the same market. Nevertheless, employers who support and promote intrapreneurship tend to benefit more than those who do not. The employees, who are suitable for intrapreneurship generally, display qualities such as confidence, ambition, and goal-oriented. They are self-starters and individuals with multi-tasking capabilities.  

Entrepreneurs are usually possessing higher levels of skills compared to average employees. They also have the capacity to resolve specific issues and show higher levels of leadership skills and assertiveness. They are not afraid to test ideas to achieve an identified target or goal. They can identify market trends and conditions to think outside the box to generate results.  

If practiced consistently, the concept can be crucially important to long-term sustainability. According to Deloitte, one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, and the largest multinational professional services network, 88% of Fortune 500 companies do not exist anymore. They may have run out of innovative ideas that are usually limited to either the ownership or the top management. 

Typically, large companies, after a successful run for many years, struggle with fresh business ideas due to complacency, less entrepreneurship, and the diminished interest of employees. Unless the employers encourage them to think out of the box and come out with innovative ideas,  complacency can prevail. Companies usually get comfortable with past successes and pay less attention to competitive market conditions.  Without creative innovations, they can go out of business eventually. Hence, developing intrapreneurship is one model that can prevent such possible occurrences.    

A person does not have to own the business to be an entrepreneur. It is the individual mindset that is important. Many people with such mental abilities and skills are awaiting an opportunity. Nevertheless, some of them never run their own due to a lack of resources and various factors. A smart entrepreneur can identify such people and groom them to be assets and integral parts of the development of the business. 

Employees with an entrepreneurial attitude are generally different from others. During my near forty-year career in the private sector, I have come across people with exactly what we discussed here concerning intrapreneurship. I have witnessed some of them rising through the ranks rapidly to reach the top-notch. Therefore, if a company wants to create an environment to nurture such assets, they should attempt to manage and guide them appropriately. Hence, let us examine how to lead and manage possible entrepreneurs in an organisation. 

Keeping the rules and guidelines at reachable and minimum levels is helpful. Simple guidelines can help the chosen employees to operate better with a stress-free mindset. With easy rules, instinctively they will evaluate the situation and solve problems for the company

Meanwhile, the company must allow them the freedom to challenge a situation, issue, development, or any other growth-related scenario. A good intrapreneur is not a ‘yes man’ who will accept things without evaluating them. If they challenge, they do not mean harm but seek ways to find better answers.  

Your employees whom you have selected to be intrapreneurs are habitual with outstanding characters, traits, and skills. Therefore, they will be happier if you give them more problems to solve without taking on such problems on your own. Turn them loose and watch the results and perhaps they will surprise you. However, if you feel that they are not on track, subtly pull them back to the correct path. 

Intrapreneurial employees are dreamers most often. They like to dream up ideas or help others to develop ideas. In both ways, the employer wants new, stimulating, and innovative things to happen continuously in the company that will possibly assist the growth. As a business owner, you will constantly need new ideas for your products or services. Therefore, you must help them bring new ideas to be successfully completed.  

The intrapreneurs in the company will admire the freedom to work more than the others. They may not like to abide by too many rules. Therefore, the company must find a suitable method to offer more autonomy to them without breaking or bending common regulations, taking into consideration that other employees follow existing rules and regulations. You must let them concentrate on the mission they are assigned and they will do everything to produce results.  

Providing these employees a real sense of purpose and accepting failures are salient factors. The entrepreneur should share the actual purpose of the organisation, entrepreneurial vision to help them to feel that they are not just following but contributing to the purpose. They will honestly feel that they are on a meaningful journey with the company. However, the calculated failures should be consented to encourage them.  

By accepting and practicing the concept of intrapreneurship, the business can build a company of leaders. Leadership is not a legitimate title but a tool to keep the sustainability and growth of the company intact. Therefore, more leaders who act as entrepreneurs in the company contribute immensely to the long-term existence of an organisation.

When an employee believes that their voice is heard and accepted as an intrapreneur within the organisation, they undoubtedly will make the best effort to contribute more.