Coined by Gifford Pinchott in 1986, "intrapreneur" refers to someone who possesses entrepreneurial skills and uses them within a company, instead of using them to launch a new business. Intrapreneurs—also called corporate entrepreneurs—can help established companies implement innovative policies and procedures or introduce innovative products or services. Intrapreneurs, however, must have a fair amount of latitude within a company in order to effect any significant changes. Workers who earn the title "intrapreneur" usually go well beyond their narrow job descriptions, providing invaluable help in innovating some aspect of their companies.
Intrapreneurship differs from entrepreneurship in that intrapreneurs constantly must overcome barriers and negotiate obstacles and have opportunities to work with greater financial, technological, and human resources offered by an established company. In contrast, entrepreneurs largely work independently and often lack the resources of large companies. People with entrepreneurial skills also may choose to work within a company because they value job security, would like to practice launching a new business inside a company before launching one outside, and wish to take advantage of a company's established marketing channels.
Companies benefit from intrapreneurship because it can function as a means of overcoming aspects of corporate bureaucracy that impede innovation, allowing companies to remain creative and hence competitive. Moreover, intrapreneurship can remedy the loss of challenging and rewarding jobs, which can lead to greater job satisfaction and productivity.
Workers who are given freedom to experiment are often associated with the innovation process and the development of new products, services, or businesses within corporations. Intrapreneurship researchers refer to this freedom to experiment as innovative culture. According to Howard Oden in Managing Corporate Culture, Innovation, and Intrapreneurship, research indicates that intrapreneurship succeeds when companies provide their innovators with support, encouragement, and an atmosphere that promotes innovation. Specifically, Oden enumerated a host of attributes often found in innovative cultures, including:
Companies that foster innovation usually possess these and other related characteristics that allow intrapreneurs to seek solutions and generate new ideas, processes, products, or services, while not disrupting the regular flow of business. Although innovation can and does occur in any environment, too rigid and authoritarian corporate cultures definitely can stifle the initiative and creativity of intrapreneurs.
Intrapreneurs must possess a variety of skills themselves in order to be innovative—no matter what the corporate culture is like. In general, intrapreneurs have many of the skills that entrepreneurs have—such as market savvy, intuitiveness, creativity, leadership skills, and the ability to work independently and collaboratively. They notice opportunities—for new products, services, businesses, and so forth—and they pursue them. In addition, they also must have a certain amount of political savvy and be able to negotiate agreements with resistant or skeptical coworkers and managers, according to Lakshmanan Prasad in SAM Advanced Management Journal. Intrapreneurs must play organizational politics and reconcile the interests of different company teams or departments in order to bring about their innovations.
While many workers can develop technical plans for innovations, far fewer can have them implemented. Hence, intrapreneurs must possess strong social skills and knowledge of company politics and power, which entails identifying influential coworkers, managers, and groups within a company, evaluating their likely responses, and developing strategies to influence them.
The intrapreneurial process begins with a new idea or an innovation, and follows the steps of development, implementation, and modification. Intrapreneurs may conceive of an innovation serendipitously or deliberately. Either way, after intrapreneurs have an idea for an innovation they must begin to develop it—whether a product, service, procedure, or company—by determining its feasibility. They assess the market and need for the innovation to determine if implementing it will pay off. Once intrapreneurs are certain they can feasibly introduce the innovation, they make general plans to execute the innovation, develop the innovation, and test it.
If the innovation withstands development and testing, then intrapreneurs implement the innovation. To ensure that the innovation will be successful, however, intrapreneurs gather feedback and make any necessary modifications to the innovation in order to improve it.
Oden identified a number of strategies or techniques for intrapreneurs, which allow them to be innovative and creative while functioning inside a corporation. Wall Street Journal columnist Timothy D. Schellhardt included some of these techniques in his article "Small Business: David in Goliath," where he referred to them as part of his "Intrapreneur's Ten Commandments":
[ Karl Hell ]
Bygrave, William D. The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship. New York: Wiley, 1994.
Kuratko, Donald F., and Ray V. Montagno. "The Intrapreneurial Spirit." Training and Development, October 1989, 83.
Oden, Howard W. Managing Corporate Culture, Innovation, and Intrapreneurship. Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 1997.
Prasad, Lakshmanan. "The Etiology of Organizational Politics: Implications for the Intrapreneur." SAM Advanced Management Journal, summer 1993, 35.
Schellhardt, Timothy D. "Small Business: David in Goliath." Wall Street Journal, 23 May 1996.
Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: