What is intrapreneurship?
Intrapreneurship simply means having entrepreneurial attitudes and showing entrepreneurial behaviours whilst working within an organisation. This can be any type of organisation – third sector, education, corporate or government. It is also sometimes described as a system entrepreneur.
The impact of intrapreneurship
The benefits mean that it adds huge value for the organisation itself, for the individual with that skill and for those stakeholders that are involved too. It increases confidence, engagement and business results. Many organisations and think tanks are now using it as a key business tool and in education it is becoming an especially critical skill for leaders to develop.
How can you develop intrapreneurship?
I have in previous careers been lucky enough to have had line managers who positively encouraged this skill development and set great role model examples. In my current work I am close to several successful intrapreneurs. From these experiences I feel it is very clear that this skill can be nurtured. Supported by mentoring and learnt for everyone's benefit we include intrapreneurship as part of our training offer.
Typical behaviours of Intrapreneurs
There are so many areas in this subject. I have focussed on the top 3 behaviours that all the successful intrapreneurs I know agree with me are critical:
1. Solutions not problems
Entrepreneurs look at any challenges they have and think how they can find a way round it. They ask themselves and others the right questions to get ideas and feedback to resolve it. They collaborate and facilitate to gain insight and answers.
Employees in the traditional sense often think and focus on the problem and analyse and get drawn into the problem itself. That is a negative experience for the employee and gets a negative outcome for the business. By using these entrepreneurial attitudes and questions instead this becomes a tool that starts a thought process that is both positive and creative.
The Zambian giraffes in the example photo here were trying to drink water at very low levels. They have worked out at this level they cannot just bend and drink so the exact angle of safety is used by flexing their legs in individual ways to sort it. Of course they may not have done this consciously and that is the core of intrapreneurship – once you start thinking how to find a solution rather than focus on the problem then this becomes the way that you think automatically. It feels good and it gets great results for everyone involved.
As an entrepreneur you will have issues in some aspect of your business and it's accepted that it is ok to acknowledge these challenges. It is seen as valuable learning and feedback to yourself and your organisation. A traditional employee on the other hand is often scared of failure so will keep quiet over issues and problems until it creates for them or the company an even bigger issue. Failure takes many forms minor or major but learning from them and being confident enough to share that learning is always a relevant and critical skill to have.
As a personal example I was asked to speak at a large business event and was very focussed on the exact technical content brief from the event organisers. It turned out 80 percent of the audience were internationally based and English wasn't their first language.
I quickly realised from the panel questions afterwards that I hadn't been fully understood. That learning was key for me as I had in the process forgotten my core – I am a teacher and the audience needs come first.
The organisers were happy and I hesitated to comment. I then decided to share my learning and how I felt I could have made the event better. The organisers have now built in extra guidelines for other speakers and booked me again as they had confidence I cared about improving their results – everyone benefits.
The last example links to purpose and in my view this is the most exciting and rewarding part of intrapreneurship. If you find and create ways to align your work with your core beliefs you will get results in the right way and add value to yourself and your organisation. It happens this way as your work becomes your business and all your work focus and purpose are aligned.
Entrepreneurs are in their business because they have a passion for their business and totally believe in it. This gives them the tools to have what is known as a growth mindset which is proven to increase performance and happiness. People with a growth mindset intrinsically believe they can make something work if they focus and place effort there so they are much better equipped to handle any issues positively.
Now that you know what intrapreneurship is, you can get started and try to develop an intrapreneurial attitude too.
Ask yourself what your core principles are to help you find your purpose.
Some examples are:
- Delivering high quality service or product
- Making a difference
- Working collaboratively with people
- Designing new solutions
- Helping others to learn
I would love to hear your experiences and views.
P.S. If you would like to know more about developing a sense of intrapreneurship in yourself or in your employees please get in touch!