Intrapreneurship. A term that is going to have significantly more impact on organisations in the next few years. In fact it is going to become a make or break for more companies than people realise.
- What does intrapreneurship really mean for an organisation?
- Do organisations really needs it?
As a concept intrapreneurship is well recognised and revered by a few, understood and largely ignored by the majority and almost unknown by about a third of people in mid-size and large companies. If you ask for a definition you would get something which talks about “entrepreneurial thinking applied to solve problems in large companies”.
Sounds useful enough as a definition but it hardly gets the “we need more of these” bells ringing does it? Let’s look at what this means if – and its a big if – intrapreneurs are successful in an organisation:
- Intrapreneurs are constantly looking for new ideas and ways of doing things, solving problems and creating new customer propositions. The better and elusive idea for finding solutions to problems or opportunities is a key driver for them.
- They are comfortable with change and often crave it. The status quo is akin to slowing progress in their eyes.
- They think outside their core specialisation box. Good ones become a jack and a master of many trades. This is partly driven by curiosity and a love of learning and partly because of the need to seek new challenges
- Intrapreneurs are prepared to drive themselves and others to make things happen. Restless and relentless are words often attached to the better ones. These are the people who will also start early and work late – you will catch them working or at least thinking deeply and learning at weekends.
I would argue that these are exactly the type of companies desperately need – but who are often not well recognised.
I would also argue these are precisely the people that larger companies don’t want.
In other articles, I have argued that technology innovation and the ability to knit this into a massively expanding communication infrastructure is going to create a volume of customer propositions beyond anything we have ever seen. By 2020 we are going to have 20 billion devices on the planet all processing information relating to anything or everything we are doing communicated in massive quantities to anywhere on the planet in a fraction of the time of today.
Some people are going to love it and some people will hate it. If predictions are right 50% of the S&P 500 companies will be replaced within 10 years demonstrates one inescapable theory. If the world changes outside changes faster than the world inside then ultimately we will fail. The restless creative and relentless spirit of the intrapreneur will be a critical human factor that will be needed to harness and drive success.
The problem is many people don’t like these sort of people. They make people uncomfortable which goes against some of the pillars that drive people engagement. Doesn’t it? People who are well entrenched into companies are very good at resisting the things they don’t like. The culture clashes created will destabilise people sufficiently to mean many intrapreneurs will end up failing – which will be a shame.
Whatever your beliefs, ask yourself this question:
If you are a leader in a large organisation with the clouds of rapid pressure starting to be observed rather than specifically felt – who would you like around you? People who are difficult, tough,and sometimes downright painful but who drive change relentlessly to keep you successful? Or the team of polished, stable “Harley Street” types who hold your hand whilst you die?