Intrapreneur

What Is Intrapreneur?

An intrapreneur is an employee with entrepreneurial skills and is responsible for developing innovative ideas, products, or services for their company. Their goal is to enhance the sustainability of the business and help it stay ahead in the competition.

The employer provides such passionate job crafters, also known as inside entrepreneurs, the resources and capabilities needed to complete the project. Intrapreneurs also get the freedom and flexibility to work without worrying about the risks or rewards. Part of their task involves exploring company policies, analyzing market trends, and making changes to or introducing new concepts.

Key Takeaways
  • Intrapreneur meaning refers to the ambitious employees in an organization, who have a passion, skill, and drive to convert unique ideas and concepts into new products and services, which would add to the list of offerings of their employer.
  • Many top MNCs, including Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., offer intrapreneurial programs in separate R&D departments.
  • Intrapreneurs are free to use the resources, capabilities, and technical support made available to them by their organizations.
  • Unlike entrepreneurs, inside entrepreneurs operate under the label of their organization with no risk or reward attached. And hence, the organization is accountable for everything that follows the experiment.

Understanding Intrapreneurs

Many employees possess entrepreneurial skills but do not get the right platform to explore and implement their innovative ideas. Similarly, companies are always searching for talents who can take their business to the next level with new products, services, and processes. And intrapreneurship serves as a connecting link between the two.

Another historical explanation is the departure of many senior executives from their employment in the United States in the 1970s. It was because they did not feel appreciated by their superiors for their revolutionary ideas. Eventually, they started their businesses, giving tough competition to their previous employers. It demonstrated how employees with entrepreneurial skills can help their companies grow and achieve success in a changing market.

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As per the intrapreneur definition, these are the employees that use their innovative, business-level skills to help improve the performance of their companies. An intrapreneur can be anyone from an entry-level executive to a vice-president. They are free to work on the assigned projects without any intervention from their employers. They utilize company resources to experiment, explore, create, and develop new products.

Lately, the concept of intrapreneurship has got a lot of attention from companies worldwide in the wake of challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The organizations have realized the potential of intrapreneurial leadership in bringing innovation to their processes and strategies. It is helping businesses to accelerate changes in their products and services in a recession-hit world.

Timeline Of Intrapreneurship

  • 1978 – Gifford Pinchot III, the founder of sustainable business school, coined the term “intrapreneur”.
  • 1982 – Howard Edward Haller, the founder of the Intrapreneurship Institute, published the first formal academic case study of intrapreneurship.
  • 1985 – Time magazine published the article Here Come the Intrapreneurs. It was when the term started gaining popularity.
  • 1985 – Steve Jobs quoted the term during an interview with Newsweek. It was then intrapreneurs began getting recognition worldwide.
  • 2011 – The first conference on intrapreneurship was held in London, England.

Examples

  • One of the very first instances of intrapreneurship can be traced back to 1974. Then 3M, an American multinational corporation, introduced a policy in which employees were allowed to devote 15% of their working hours to their project ideas.

As part of this policy, Spencer Silver, an engineer at 3M Co., created a lightweight repositionable adhesive and promoted it within the company, but it did not work. Another 3M engineer Art Fry observed during his regular choir practice that his bookmark was coming out of the hymnal every time he tried to fix it. Both the engineers, under the same program, collaborated and created the Post-It Note together.

  • In another intrapreneur example, Ken Kutaragi, a junior employee at Sony Corp., devoted hours to tweak a Nintendo game console to make it more user-friendly. His idea was rejected by many. But the group chief executive officer Norio Ohga trusted his creativity and let him work the way he wanted. The combined efforts led to the emergence of Sony PlayStation in 1994, the most trusted gaming brand across the globe today.
  • Google Inc. favors both open and closed innovation models. While the former is an approach that allows collaboration with outside companies, the latter is an innovative process with no external influence. As part of its closed innovation program, the tech giant gives the in-house resources a chance to use their ideas in developing new tech products. Google Wave is a perfect example of a product developed without any external involvement.

Intrapreneur vs Entrepreneur

Intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs are similar in terms of the skills, passion, and willingness to achieve the desired output. Still, there are some points of differences to have a look at:

  • Inside entrepreneurs are the innovators working in an organization who use their ideas to develop innovative products and services. Entrepreneurs are also innovators, but they start their businesses and use their ideas to create new products for customers.
  • Intrapreneurs are allowed to use the resources of their companies. They can utilize the technological support made available to them by their employers. The entrepreneurs have to arrange for the whole setup and bear the cost of everything themselves.
  • Inside entrepreneurs are not directly held responsible for the success or failure of the experiments they do. They neither receive any credit individually for the success nor do they get blamed for the failure. Entrepreneurs, on the contrary, are accountable for every action or decision they take.

Intrapreneur Characteristics 

Intra is a term that signifies “within” or “from inside.” Intrapreneurs, therefore, are people having an urge from within to learn, innovate, explore, develop, and implement ideas that can add value to whatever they are doing or are associated with. They focus less on worrying about a problem and more on working on a solution to it.

According to an exploratory study, intrapreneurship can help small businesses remain competitive in the globalized market by innovating constantly. Here are the traits of such employees:

  • They fill the premise with the drive to learn, discover, implement, and act on new ideas and concepts. Hence, they are always a positive influence in the workplace.
  • They never stop learning and always try to implement their ideas to yield output beyond the original products and services.
  • Inside entrepreneurs are silo busters and do not have the term “impossible” in their dictionary, no matter how much they are opposed or discouraged. 
  • They look for satisfaction more than rewards or recognition and chase the result of their creative ideas.
  • They do not hesitate to take up the standby projects and work on them from scratch with fresh enthusiasm.

FAQs

What is intrapreneurship?

Intrapreneurship is a system wherein employees stay in an organization and devote a portion of their office hours working on their ideas to develop advanced products to add to their company’s list of offerings.

Who is an intrapreneur?

An intrapreneur is an ambitious individual with entrepreneurial skills and the drive to turn new ideas and concepts into unique saleable products and services.

What is the difference between an intrapreneur and an entrepreneur?


intrapreneur vs entrepreneur

This has been a guide to Intrapreneur and its meaning. Here we discuss characteristics, examples of intrapreneur along with its differences from entrepreneurs. You can learn more from the following articles –

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