The Rise of the Intrapreneur (Claudia Chan) The Forum applies the 70:20:10 Lens


Intraprenuers is not only a growing buzz word but in many organisations the unlabeled title is being embraced by individuals and the organisations that support them.  What is an Intrapreneuer? Think of it as an entrepreneur 'on the inside'.

Just like many entrepreneurs who chase their passions on the side while holding down their day job, Intraprenuers have positions within organisations as Developers, HR specialists, Accountants, etc. but desire the opportunity to take on sticky problems or look to create something of value beyond their 9-5.

In the article The Rise of The Intrapreneur, Claudia Chan, Founder of S.H.E. Global Media explains it like this; "employees are now starting to ask themselves: What do I want to create that is going to fill a white space? What doesn't exist that needs to exist? There is a hole and they want to fill it. There is a problem, and they want to solve it." 

Their value is in bringing fresh ideas to an organisation that impact the culture or profitability. The days of one dimensional worker, cogs in a machine, are over as companies seek the next great idea to remain competitive in fast changing markets and look to their own people, those both knowledgeable and passionate, to foster them. However not every company or individual has embraced this idea.  For many companies the reins of power are held tight and trust is not a premium. These organisations look to their hierarchy only for solutions. Chan points out that "the traditional model calls the management team of all the VPs and directors together to address a challenge, and then it’s always the same people trying to brainstorm. But you have so many more brains within the organisation. Tap into the full potential of your organisation and talent; you could be sitting on a gold mine of ideas and ideation and talent and not even know it."

Entrepreneur's and their internal brethren share similar qualities. What motivates them is typically not money or fame but the belief in an idea and the drive to make it a reality. However the difference is that the Intrapreneuer tends to be a bit more risk adverse. Knowing the majority of entrepreneurial efforts fail, creating in the science lab of a well-funded organisation is a much safer endeavor for an Intrapreneuer. 

Not all employees present as the intrapreneural type. This is not a generational issue, as some might assume a "millennial" would gravitate more to this being a change agent and a more senior individual would follow a traditional path. It's more accurate to accept that some people, regardless of age, are just not looking to stick their neck out or put in the extra time needed for what could distract from their personal or professional goals. This is not a criticism but just a reality that Intraprenuers may be a rare find which leads to the question; are intraprenueral types born or raised?  Probably a bit of both, however if a company seeks and finds self-directed, innovative and motivated people but then stifles them with requirements, protocols, processes and hierarchy, the creative flame is extinguished just as it's lit.

This is a cultural issue and one that needs serious attention if an organisation is going to capitalize on individual passion and drive. Some companies highlighted in the article are making these culture shifts. Deloitte, GFK, Accenture, Ashoka, and Barclays were all noted as having instituted formal programs to help encourage employees to create new projects and roles in the organisation. They are providing conferences, webinars, and coaching to teach people important skills related to creativity and problem-solving. Sometimes this is the way to go, but arguably more time than not an intrepreneural type foregoes formal learning as their entrepreneurial cousins do. Rather, they more likely seek mentoring, freedom to experiment (learning within their work), and space. They look for opportunities to connect and collaborate with others of similar interest and talent. Each of these elements cannot be subscribed but more they need to be supported.  Organisations that look to restructure their organisation by respecting the idea that learning happens in ones work, through peer relationships reap the broader benefits of an ecosystem of learning fueled by doing.  

No company wants a workforce of entirely made up of these innovators, but the innovators they need cannot flourish if the ecosystem isn't right for everyone. So rather than focus on nurturing a subset of the organisation, it is better to make the environment fertile for all levels of work.  Intraprenuers sprout where trust is at a premium and where managers aim to reduce barriers not create or support them with traditional command and control hierarchies. If an organisation seeks adventurous spirits looking to create meaning in what they do, the first step is to hire "right." Next, they need to move the culture to one that is failure tolerant, encourages experimentation, and supportive. With this, then like a plant which receives adequate water, sun and soil, the Interprenuer's can thrive and the fruits of their labor will be for the benefit of both individual and organisation.

READ: The Rise of the Intrapreneur