How Intrapreneurs Can Change the World

by Granville Triumph

Many organizations are blessed with solid employees. These people show up on time, do their jobs well, have a positive attitude, represent the company well, and deliver the results that are expected of them.

However, a far smaller number of organizations provide an environment that allows intrapreneurs to blossom. An intrapreneur is an employee who takes an idea from raw concept to finished product for the betterment of the organization as a whole.

Much like entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs are risk-takers and innovators. They’re resourceful and unafraid of failure, although they know when it’s time to change course in order to achieve the ultimate goal. While they recognize the importance of economics, intrapreneurs are driven by the desire to become indispensable, realizing that financial gain and career advancement will be an inevitable byproduct of their efforts. Intrapreneurs are more humble than brash, working on a foundation of integrity with a goal of lifting everyone up instead of knocking others down.

Simply put, intrapreneurs are the “go-to” employees who have that unteachable, inner spirit and drive that make them capable of reshaping or even transforming a company.

While an entrepreneur is capable of building a profitable company around an innovative idea or concept, an intrapreneur works within an established organization to expand its horizons, change its business strategy, enhance products and services, or develop completely new ones.

For example, Google is known for giving employees the freedom to use 20 percent of their time to work independently on projects that they think are innovative and useful. In fact, intrapreneurs produced two of Google’s most successful products – Gmail and Google Sky. Intrapreneurship has also led to everything from digital light processing and Sony PlayStation to ELIXIR guitar strings and Post-It notes.

Unfortunately, most organizations lack the vision to develop an intrapreneurial culture. Far too much focus is placed on short-term financial objectives instead of long-term strategic initiatives that are inherently driven by innovation. The “do what you’re told” mentality stifles creativity while sapping employees of their self-motivation and energy.

There are a number of steps organizations can take to turn employees into intrapreneurs. The first and most obvious step is to find these people, understanding that anyone can be an intrepreneur, from senior managers to sales assistants. The key is to tap into that intrapreneurial spirit and cultivate it. Encourage intrapreneurs to collaborate. Show them how to pitch their ideas. Provide access to data that can help intrapreneurs deliver more business value.

Both employers and employees must view failure as a part of the learning process, not an intolerable result that could be viewed as grounds for dismissal. Fear of failure suppresses the risk-taking that makes innovation possible. Instead, acknowledge and reward progress and success.

A handful of intrapreneurs are probably working for you right now. Maybe they’re simply going through the motions because your culture doesn’t encourage entrepreneurship. Maybe they’re tinkering with the next great idea, wondering if they’ll be given the necessary backing and support to give their idea life.

Find them. These intrapreneurs are capable of changing the world.

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