Intrapreneurs and Intrapreneurship: Effective Ways to Encourage Innovation

Steve BushStarred Page By Steve Bush, 22nd Oct 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Business>Leadership

Do you know what an intrapreneur is? This article discusses intrapreneurs, intrapreneurship programs and how they can help to improve business innovation.

Failure to Innovate in Business Is Not an Option

Innovation continues to be a universally-loved concept in the business world. While the need to innovate is a critical goal for companies of all sizes, many enterprises are not successful at connecting the dots to make innovation a practical reality. Companies that fail to innovate often pay a steep price for falling short in this department. As described by Steve Jobs, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

One Secret to Success: Intrapreneurship

How do the leaders approach innovation differently than the followers? One strategy that is gradually emerging as a secret to business success is called “intrapreneurship.” This process is not yet as well-known as the popular concept of “entrepreneurship.” The ongoing lack of familiarity is possibly the biggest obstacle to making intrapreneurs as common as entrepreneurs.

Intrapreneurship Is Not New

Even though intrapreneurial programs might not be a commonplace component in contemporary business strategy, this management and leadership approach has been around for several decades. Steve Jobs referred to it in 1985 as a secret to the early success of Apple Computer: “The Macintosh team was what is commonly known as intrapreneurship: a group of people going, in essence, back to the garage, but in a large company.”

What Are Intrapreneurs?

As described by Steve Jobs and many other intrapreneurship experts since then, intrapreneurs are individuals with the mindset of risk-taking entrepreneurs but are working in a large organization instead of on their own. Here is how three of these experts describe the increasingly-successful practice:

• “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, often leading efforts that went against the grain.” (Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group)
• “An intrapreneur is someone who has an entrepreneurial streak in his or her DNA, but chooses to align his or her talents with a large organization in place of creating his or her own.” (David Armano, Forbes, “Move Over Entrepreneurs, Here Come the Intrapreneurs”)
• “Whatever the stage your company is in, with respect to encouraging and motivating intrapreneurs, the first step to be taken cannot be simpler: Look for them. Looking for intrapreneurs is the natural first step to harnessing their talents.” (Howard E. Haller, author of a book about intrapreneurship and intrapreneurs)

Why Is It Important to Identify Intrapreneurs?

Businesses that have intrapreneurs need to keep them if the race to innovate is to be successful. The term “brain drain” often refers to the exodus of experts with specialized skills from an organization. In many cases, intrapreneurs leave their employer to become entrepreneurs operating on their own or with a small group of like-minded individuals. Steve Wozniak, a co-founder of Apple Computer, is one of the most famous examples of this “brain drain” possibility. After unsuccessfully attempting to convince his original employer (Hewlett-Packard) to develop personal computers, Wozniak joined with Steve Jobs to innovate in a more conducive environment.

How often does this happen? A study conducted at Harvard by Tomas Chamorro revealed that 70 percent of entrepreneur success stories originated while intrapreneurs were working in an earlier job with another employer. Losing innovators on a regular basis is unlikely to be viewed as a winning strategy for businesses in their constant attempts to gain a foothold against competitors. In an extension of the Steve Jobs observation about innovation, the loss of intrapreneurs is one way that leaders can become followers in a competitive business environment.

How Many Intrapreneurs?

How many innovators and intrapreneurs might be “hiding” in a typical organization? In one Harvard research study, 5 percent of employees were found to be “natural innovators” and 10 percent of these innovators were described as intrapreneurs. With such findings, a firm of 10,000 employees is likely to have 500 innovators and 50 intrapreneurs.

Is There an Intrapreneurship Book?

Should organizations take a closer look at intrapreneurship programs? An initial common-sense answer seems to be, “Any business wanting to remain competitive should be racing to be first in line to try a proven strategy that creates an atmosphere for more effective innovation.” However, as is the case with many specialized business processes, the previous lack of a definitive and easy-to-read book about intrapreneurship might provide one explanation for the absence of structured intrapreneurship programs in most companies throughout the United States, Canada and beyond. In a classic example of an excellent step in the right direction, this mysterious void of books by intrapreneurship experts finally came to an end in early 2014 when Dr. Howard Edward Haller published his in-depth but concise book about the flip side of entrepreneurship — “Intrapreneurship: Ignite Innovation.”

The 2014 intrapreneurship book by Dr. Haller also conveniently deals in some detail with strategies that companies everywhere should adopt if they are serious about becoming better at innovating. He devoted an entire chapter to his thoughts about 10 uncommon and effective ways to encourage innovation, risk-taking and out-of-the box thinking within organizations of all sizes. Here is the short version:

• Getting middle management to participate.
• Improving visibility for organizational strategies and goals.
• Publicizing efforts involving new ideas.
• Encouraging employees to work together regardless of departmental assignments.
• Offering creative thinking forums, classes and speakers.
• Making it easy for employees to contribute new ideas.
• Providing financial, marketing, production and technological assets.
• Establishing a concrete pathway for intrapreneurial efforts.
• Producing a steady flow of praise and recognition.
• Increasing the element of fun and enjoyment.

One of the enduring strengths of this book is how effectively it accomplishes its literary mission in about 130 pages. The last thing that anyone needs in today’s frantic business environment is another heavy book gathering dust on their desk. Learning from Ken Blanchard’s formula for keeping it short and simple, Dr. Haller has focused on what readers really need to know about intrapreneurship programs within their organization. This includes an informative collection of 17 case studies that shine a helpful light on what intrapreneurship looks like in real life.

Of course, Kindle books don’t get dusty regardless of their length. Nevertheless, a Kindle version in addition to a cost-effective paperback version of “Intrapreneurship: The Secret to Success” provide prospective readers with the best of both worlds: digital and paper. Intrapreneurship has been brought with full force into the 21st century by Dr. Haller with the Kindle treatment of a subject that deserves to be understood by intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, owners and students everywhere.

A Video Explanation of Intrapreneurs

Here is a short video explanation about the concepts just described:

Images provided by Stephen Bush under End User License Agreement.


Entrepreneur, Intrapreneur, Intrapreneurial, Intrapreneurship, Intrapreneurship Expert, Intrapreneurship Programs

Meet the author

author avatar Steve Bush
Steve Bush is a business finance consultant and writer. He served in the military as an officer in the U.S. Navy Supply Corps. Bush obtained an MBA at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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