The myth of the intrapreneur - revisited
It was back in 2013, that I first compiled an editorial around ‘intrapreneurship’. The article was titled: ‘Intrapreneurship versus Entrepreneurship’.
My objective was to outline the differences between the two terms, and start my long term legacy of educating CEO’s in Australia, of the critical importance of ‘intrapreneurial leadership’. Ultimately, it was about empowering and instructing these leaders to better manage their ‘intrapreneurs’, to foster more innovation within their organisation.
Matt’s expertise in the mining, financial, and manufacturing sectors, and first-hand experience dealing with intrapreneurs within his workplace was of particular interest to me.
The ‘I’ Myth
I am still perplexed that the level of understanding of intrapreneurial leadership is still very foreign amongst business leaders. This is despite the clear evidence from foreign companies like Google, Virgin, 3M, DreamWorks, etc., who have proactively hired intrapreneurs to advance their innovation and competitive position in the market.
the level of understanding of intrapreneurial leadership is still very foreign amongst business leaders.
Within Australia, there continues to be a ‘myth’ that intrapreneurs are challenging to manage, and are perhaps not suited for an organisation because of their distinct personality.
Matt likes to describe the ‘intrapreneur’, as someone with a ‘Maverick’ type personality. Someone who is restless, challenges the status quo, is disruptive, and is looking for opportunities to nurture their ideas for specific commercial outcomes within the organisation they work for.
I simply like to describe the intrapreneur as an ‘entrepreneurial employee’, with a strong desire and passion to innovate. Ultimately, the intrapreneur is driven by his or her entrepreneurial endeavours, but generally prefers to work within the safe confines of an organisation, rather than going solo, and working for themselves.
‘intrapreneurs’ are employees with ‘Maverick’ type personalities...they are restless, challenge the status quo, and are disruptive
I personally believe that intrapreneurs are an essential cog in the wheel, and play a pivotal role in growth and development of any organisation, despite their different attitudes or skills compared to ‘conventional’ employees.
Freedom to Innovate
Intrapreneurs like to innovate based on their entrepreneurial endeavours. They need the freedom to operate within the organisation without the red tape and micro-management. They also need to be given the opportunity to test their ideas freely, regardless of whether they succeed or fail in their attempts.
Let’s not forget that innovation or pioneering of new ideas can yield success or failure. From my point of view and experience, the best inventions and discoveries of the past have occurred from numerous failed attempts. Essentially, the final long term outcome is worth striving for.
'intrapreneurs' need the freedom to operate within the organisation without the red tape and micro-management
Let’s also not forget that the large companies that do not innovate and push the boundaries of technology and disrupt their industry are more likely to die long term, from smaller, entrepreneurially spirited start-ups. It’s like the story of ‘David and Goliath’; sometimes the ‘underdog’ wins.
Reward the High Achiever
Entrepreneurial employees that demonstrate a strong work ethic and loyalty, and respect the boundaries of the organisation are certainly worth nurturing.
Matt believes that intrapreneurs most often seek reward as well praise and recognition for their unique ideas and entrepreneurial efforts at large. Rewards can include financial bonuses for a commercial successful outcome; freedom to operate and network outside the organisation; as well as time off to pursue and nurture their own business goals and aspirations.
Regardless of the terminology, the ‘intrapreneur’ or ‘entrepreneurial employee’, is a unique individual who carries distinct traits that need to be carefully acknowledged and administered within a complex work environment. Whilst they might be the ‘black sheep’ of the HR team, they are ultimately wired-up to create ‘outside the square’ results, which in turn will benefit the organisation in the future.