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Intrapreneurship For The Modern Workforce

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by Bjoern Sjut, managing director of productivity and IT at Front Row

What do the McDonalds Happy Meal, the Apple Macintosh, and the Post-It Note have in common? They are all products developed by intrapreneurs. That’s not a spelling error — intrapreneurs function as entrepreneurs within an organization.

Read on to learn what intrapreneurship is, why it matters, and how it can benefit your business.

What is intrapreneurship?

Intrapreneurship is a system of encouraging employees to act as entrepreneurs within a company instead of independently. Intrapreneurs identify areas of opportunity and use the company’s resources to create products and services to generate revenue and develop new, optimized processes to maximize efficiency.

Why is intrapreneurship important?

Ideally, intrapreneurship is a win-win for both the employee and the company. The employee gets to shape their work in challenging and fulfilling ways, carving out a career path that suits their unique goals and talents. The company gets a source of new ideas and initiatives, leveraging existing talent and hopefully retaining that talent long-term. By creating an environment encouraging intrapreneurs, your company can develop an agile workforce to identify and solve emerging problems, drive revenue, and minimize waste.

What are some issues with intrapreneurship?

Entrepreneurs absorb most, if not all, of the risk in new ventures. However, intrapreneurs draw on company resources, so the business takes on the risk. That means that if an intrapreneur identifies a problem or opportunity and develops a process, service, or product to address it, there is a chance that it could fail and that failure will cost the company money and time.

Why might intrapreneurs fail?

Just like entrepreneur-driven ventures, intrapreneur-driven ventures can fail within companies.

There are a few possible reasons for failure:

  • Resistance to change. If the new venture requires change from other employees, they might not see its value and resist making the necessary changes for success.
  • Lack of resources. It can fail if the company does not provide sufficient resources for the new venture in terms of time, labor, and capital.
  • The venture is not viable. Even if enough resources exist and sufficient buy-in from all stakeholders, the venture may fail because of a lack of fit between problem and solution. The problem may not be well-defined, the solution may not work, or simply not fit the problem.

What are some benefits of intrapreneurship?

If companies assume the risk of intrapreneurship and failure is possible, why encourage it? Here are some reasons:

  • New ideas. Simply put, intrapreneurs are innovators. They see opportunities where others see none, which can give your business new ways to cut costs, enter new markets to open, and new ways to serve customers. Some might use new technologies like ecommerce data analytics to identify potential opportunities.
  • Agile problem-solving. Intrapreneurs can often solve business problems more quickly and creatively when given the latitude to think outside the box instead of sticking to SOPs that might not fit emerging situations.
  • Greater job satisfaction. Unsurprisingly, a work environment encouraging intrapreneurship often leads to higher employee job satisfaction and can drive greater engagement and retention.

How can you encourage intrapreneurship in your business?

Are you convinced that intrapreneurship could help your business? Here are some ideas to encourage it:

  • Prioritize innovation. Model it yourself and expect it in your employees. Some companies, like 3M, have famously built time in their employees’ schedules for pursuing innovative ideas. Could this work for your company?
  • Allow failure. In environments where failure is frowned upon or even punished, intrapreneurship cannot thrive. Work to create an environment where employees feel free to try new things, understanding that short-term failure can often lead to long-term success.
  • Celebrate creative problem-solving. Recognize employees who are attacking problems in new and creative ways. Let them hear it from you in person and front of their peers, formally (at awards ceremonies), or informally (through a company newsletter intranet).

Encouraging employees to think like entrepreneurs can bring fresh ideas and make work more enjoyable. While it might have some challenges, the benefits, like staying ahead in the market, make it a worthwhile approach for modern businesses.

 

Bjoern Sjut

Bjoern Sjut is the managing director of productivity and IT at Front Row, which offers custom ecommerce data analytics solutions. Previously, he was co-founder and CEO at Finc3, now part of Front Row. Bjoern is a frequent speaker at international online marketing events. Previously, Bjoern was a member of the marketing board at international dating platforms be2 and C-date. He also co-founded the wine platform Navinum.