I continually remain perplexed by the number of people in Australia, and especially those within the business community, that are still not familiar with the meaning of the term ‘intrapreneurship’.
Thousands of people proudly claim the title ‘entrepreneur’, but have ignored the entrepreneur’s little brother: the ‘intrapreneur’.
We also know that entrepreneurs can be stereotyped as mavericks, adventurers, visionaries, risk-takers, experimental, and much more. But exactly what traits do intrapreneurs possess, and what value does this offer an organisation that employs them ?
History & Definition:
In developed nations like America and the UK, business leaders of successful companies like ‘Virgin’, ‘3M’, ‘Toyota’, ‘Texas Instruments’, and ‘Sony’ have embraced entrepreneurial work habits within their organisations since the 1970’s.
Before we go any further, we need to define the term ‘intrapreneur’. The simplest definition or correlation to this word is an ‘entrepreneurial employee’; ‘a person within an organisation that embraces change, innovation, forward thinking, and pioneering of new ideas for the benefit of the company as a whole.
Intrapreneurs are passionate / driven individuals with a desire of changing how things are done; they are willing to challenge the status quo; they seek a level of freedom; they also seek acknowledgement and encouragement from their management team.
Richard Branson himself defines the intrapreneur as: “an employee who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services and systems, who does not have to follow the company’s usual routines or protocols”.
These definitions per se, fall short of defining the true potential of the entrepreneurial employee. We must go further and outline how we can best leverage on these people within the workplace, and how we need to manage their ambitions and thought processes, for a win-win situation.
In today’s complex world, where social issues are ever present and shifting trends are challenging the existence of business, management must learn to deal with entrepreneurial employees more effectively and swiftly. Successful leadership of intrapreneurs will equate to improved competitiveness, enhanced productivity amongst staff, and the difference between a thriving organisation or a dying one.
Organisations cannot afford to remain complacent and adopt traditional management styles that limit innovation and suppress new ideas from being shared across the teams. What is needed instead is an altered framework and a paradigm shift in thinking.
So how does the leadership team manage this monumental shift, whilst successfully managing everyday priorities within a business, and also keeping the intrapreneur satisfied and fulfilled ?
Let’s explore five simple but effective methods that will facilitate and encourage entrepreneurship within the workplace environment:
- Develop the Culture: identify potential employees within your team that appear entrepreneurially spirited; nurture this mindset, and encourage this attitude across the workplace. Encourage an open dialogue and sharing of new ideas. Instigate meetings focused on ‘innovation’, ‘societal trends’, ‘new technologies’ , and ‘intrapreneuring’;
- Recognise Effort & Reward: reward employees that have pioneered new ideas, particularly those ideas that benefit society as a whole (eg. sustainability / environmental, social impact, etc). Reward doesn’t have to be monetary, but rather an acknowledgement of effort, giving out a clear message to other employees, that similar ideas are welcomed;
- Allow Freedom: encourage the entrepreneurial employee to work autonomously and outside the boundaries of their normal duties and responsibilities. Allow a percentage of their time for creative brainstorming, research, testing of new ideas, and forward thinking;
- Tolerate Failure: leadership must learn to embrace more the typical mindsets of explorers or adventurers, and leverage on their passion and vision for success, whilst dealing with setback and failure in a graceful humble manner. Accept failure as a catalyst to success, don’t have regrets, and just move on;
- Invite Change: an excellent way to foster innovation and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit is to embrace change. Change invites an employee to share their ideas, and explore commercial opportunities, and take ownership of those ideas. Minimise red tape or unnecessary processes that might hinder change;
In essence, this new futuristic outlook includes pioneering of new ideas; meaningful solutions that benefit society as a whole; creative imagination; patience and tolerance to failure; visionary ideas that inspire, educate, and empower people; challenging the status quo; an ethos of collaboration; and the sheer willpower of upper management to efficiently deal with red tape, bureaucracy, and other factors that would corrode or even destroy the entrepreneurial spirit.
About the author:
Federico Re is an Entrepreneurial Coach and founder of creativeentrepreneur.com.au. For nearly two decades, Federico has assisted an array of fast growing SME’s in Australia, focusing on entrepreneurial leadership and innovation
To understand more about ‘the exponential value of entrepreneurial employees’, please visit this video link.
 Entrepreneur Magazine: ‘Richard Branson on Intrapreneurs’