Stephen Bush is a consulting and career training expert. He is the CEO and Founder of AEX Commercial Financing Group.
Why Should Businesses Adopt Intrapreneurship Programs?
Business owners and managers are usually obsessed with improving "the bottom line." With this mentality, investors and executives share expectations for constant improvements in profits and market share. However, achieving these lofty goals is rarely easy. The management team for any organization is increasingly under fire if they do not keep expenses under control while also increasing sales. What are the most successful strategies for dealing with this ongoing struggle?
Two words come to mind: "innovation" and "intrapreneurship." We see daily examples of companies going out of business when they fail to innovate. On the flip side of the innovation coin, new products and services allow businesses to move their enterprise to the next level. But how can companies improve their odds of generating new ideas that lead to "the next new thing?"
While entrepreneurs like Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google are responsible for many notable examples of successful innovation, there are practical limits to what individuals can accomplish operating on their own in risky entrepreneurial ventures. This is why the concept of intrapreneurship can serve as a practical strategy for innovation within existing companies.
What Are Intrapreneurs?
Intrapreneurs are employees who think like entrepreneurs but work in an established organization rather than on their own. For every successful entrepreneur like Steve Jobs, there are many more intrapreneurial individuals that can contribute to innovation within organizations everywhere.
How can you learn what you need to know about intrapreneurship? The answers are waiting for you below.
A title that hasn't gotten nearly the amount of attention it deserves is entrepreneur's little brother, ‘intrapreneur’: 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 . . . Virgin could never have grown into the group of more than 200 companies it is now, were it not for a steady stream of intrapreneurs who looked for and developed opportunities . . .
— Sir Richard Branson, Entrepreneur.com (January 31, 2011)
The Intrapreneurship Journey Could Start With a Book
One place to start your journey of discovery about intrapreneurs is a book published in 2014 by Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D. Reading Intrapreneurship: Ignite Innovation is a recommended entry point for anyone who wants to learn more about this important business strategy.
This book represents a definitive guide to intrapreneurs and intrapreneurship. It provides a superb foundation about intrapreneurship for business owners, managers, leaders, employees, and students. Kindle or paperback? For less than $30 total, buying both could be a smart choice. For those without a Kindle, Amazon provides a (free) app that will allow you to view the Kindle version on other devices such as a desktop computer or iPad.
The Importance of Intrapreneurs
As you will learn by reading the suggested book, intrapreneurship is a superb example of what can happen when management, leadership, planning, and communication come together as they should. This can be a "Eureka!" moment for business owners, managers, and employees. Despite the many answers provided by this book, astute readers will still have questions. Who will be in charge of doing this? How many intrapreneurs are there?
For students planning ahead for a successful career, think of this book as part of your due diligence process. Career development should include as much planning as possible, and a realistic career plan should start with some hard questions. What kind of role do you want as an employee? How can businesses create an atmosphere that is more conducive to innovation? Do you want to be an intrapreneur?
Of course, even the best book on any subject cannot answer every imaginable question. It will be a successful reading and learning experience if a book inspires readers to take the next step. For anyone interested in connecting the dots between profits, market share, employee retention and product development, Intrapreneurship: Ignite Innovation should be a helpful tool.
Intrapreneurship has a solid track record. Many experts, in fact, say it may be the best way for established businesses to discover new products and markets and perhaps ensure their very survival in today's rough and tumble corporate world.
— Howard E. Haller, Ph.D.
Three Enduring Organizational Benefits
Intrapreneurship: Ignite Innovation is ideal for readers who want business authors to get to the point quickly and without requiring readers to invest excessive time during a frantic schedule. For example, in 130 pages, the author manages to cover critical topics such as six ways for organizations to build a culture of intrapreneurship and nine essential habits of successful intrapreneurs while also including more than 15 practical case studies to illustrate what intrapreneurship looks like in the real business world.
As "perfect" as this book is for anyone wanting to learn more about intrapreneurs, it is the beginning of the journey and not the end. Reading it will not replace the need for business leaders and managers to do plenty of "heavy lifting" in order to implement a successful and effective intrapreneurship program.
The Bottom Line
Remember the "bottom line emphasis" mentioned in the introduction? Any prudent business owner or leader should ask "What are the benefits for my company?" when examining a new strategic direction such as an intrapreneurship program. According to Intrapreneurship: Ignite Innovation, here are three of those benefits:
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- Increasing market share and profits: the “bottom line” at its finest.
- Recruiting and retaining the best employees: the “human element” in the bottom line results.
- Developing new products and services: increasing sales is a great way to improve the bottom line.
This a short video (90 seconds) that provides a concise introduction to intrapreneurship. As mentioned, some confusion about the differences between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs cannot be avoided. However, any confusion should disappear quickly after you read Intrapreneurship: Ignite Innovation (discussed above).
What Are the Costs of Ignoring Intrapreneurs?
With a prudent bottom-line mentality, managers should examine both costs and benefits as part of a disciplined review of whether an intrapreneurship program will be cost-effective for an organization. In this assessment, it will be worthwhile to include a candid discussion of what might happen if a company ignores the potential of intrapreneurs. The following table includes four examples described in Intrapreneurship: Ignite Innovation.
|4 Potential Outcomes When Intrapreneurs Are Ignored|
Lost profits due to fewer new services or products.
Downsizing because of shrinking sales activity.
Going out of business: Blockbuster, Circuit City, and Borders are real-life examples.
Intrapreneurship can be the difference between businesses failing or surviving.
Intrapreneurs in Canada
Here is a four-minute commentary with a Canadian perspective of intrapreneurship. Intrapreneurs are important to organizations throughout the world, and intrapreneurship programs have the potential to provide national and international benefits.
What are intrapreneurs? They are employees who think like entrepreneurs but work in an established organization rather than on their own.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Stephen Bush
Please add your thoughts about intrapreneurs and intrapreneurship.
CLARIDETH LUNA on May 06, 2020:
The concept of Intrapreneurship is quite relevant in today's times particularly in large, established companies which are struggling to get their act right as far as innovation and agility is concerned. By introducing the concepts of Intrapreneurship to their workforce and running an appropriate program for the same can inspire, motivate and galvanise their teams to meaningfully contribute towards sustained operational improvements in the working of the organisation.
Mark Edmundson on January 02, 2019:
I couldn't agree more with comments made by Sanjay Sacheti... So true of large organizations is the elusive innovation/agility card executed well.
Sanjay Sacheti on January 02, 2019:
The concept of Intrapreneurship is quite relevant in today's times particularly in large, established companies which are struggling to get their act right as far as innovation and agility is concerned. By introducing the concepts of Intrapreneurship to their workforce and running an appropriate program for the same can inspire, motivate and galvanise their teams to meaningfully contribute towards sustained operational improvements in the working of the organisation. This would also make the organisation more agile and immune to the risk of being Aristocratic, Bureaucratic and Complacent, the top three risks which established companies face as they grow older.