Everyone knows what a start-up is, but not everyone knows what an intrapreneur is. In this article we’ll explain what intrapreneurs are and what they do. We’ll also highlight the three different types of intrapreneur that you could become. Finally, we’ll look at some of the benefits of being an intrapreneur as well as some of the challenges that you will face being one.
What is an intrapreneur?
An intrapreneur is someone who behaves like an entrepreneur while working with a large organization. Steve Jobs described it in terms of the startups he worked with as a young man: “a group of people going back to the garage, but in a large company.”
The term intrapreneur was conceived in the 1980s and is becoming increasingly popular as large companies seek to defend against innovative startups, grow their business in the face of digital disruption, and find new and creative ways to solve customer problems and serve unmet market needs.
The 3 Types of Intrapreneur
Intrapreneurship is not a solo sport! Successful intrapreneurs work in teams to deliver breakthrough impact. And our research has uncovered three distinct types of intrapreneur that together make up a great team.
In no particular order…
The Advocate typically comes from a customer-facing role. They play a leading role in shaping the problem to be solved, defining the attributes of the customer and what the solution itself should look like. They are often easiest to spot in a company as they constantly come up with a stream of new ideas. They often have roles like designer, business analyst, user experience architect or perhaps come from a sales or marketing background.
The Creator is an internal facing role. The Creator is the person that will give life to your idea and create the prototype solution. In the tech-centric world we live in, this person is often a programmer or engineer, but depending on your industry, they could have a very different job title. For example, if you work in the food industry then the Creator might be a chef, nutritionist or confectioner.
The Change Maker
The Change Maker is external business-facing person. This is the person that makes things happen… funding, partnerships, finance, sales. This person is usually an extrovert, self-confident and a great networker. The team will rely on The Change Maker to open doors for them, win-over the gatekeepers in the company and get the necessary buy-in from stakeholders. The Change Maker can come from anywhere in the company and be of any grade.
Who can become an Intrapreneur?
In short – anyone!
There is no intrapreneurship gene. All the skills you need to be an intrapreneur can be learned.
It does help if you have a bias for a few key intrapreneurial characteristics – such as being open to new ideas, conscientious, action-oriented and self-motivated. But beyond those basic traits, you can go on to learn all the skills you need.
Here at Intrapreneur Nation we’ve created a Skills Framework to explain the full array of skills and abilities that an intrapreneur needs to exhibit before they can be considered expert in their field.
You can use this Skills Framework to understand the complete range of skills that you need to master to become an expert intrapreneur and devise your own intrapreneurial development plan.
When you’re ready to take the next step and start developing those skills, be sure to check out the Intrapreneurship Mastery Training Program. You’ll learn everything you need in a complete 10-week programme.
Is Intrapreneurship Right For You?
So now you know that anyone can become an intrapreneur. But is intrapreneurship right for you? Ultimately only you can determine that.
We know some people who are very successful business people, but to deliver their best work they need to work in highly structured, process driven environments. In innovation projects – where the end goal is unknown, there are many potentially contradictory data points, and what we know (or think we know) is constantly changing – those highly talented individuals can crumble.
But… what we’d say is this: If you’re motived by solving problems, if you like big challenges and if you strive to make a positive impact on peoples’ lives and businesses – then you’re probably going to enjoy it! 😊
The Challenges of Intrapreneurship
We’ll keep this brief here (this topic is worthy of an article in its own right – and we’ll try and add one as soon as we can).
Like any other worthwhile activity, there are challenges to be faced as an intrapreneur. The 3 biggest ones to consider:
- You need a solid understanding of lots of different concepts. From innovation to project management; leadership to marketing and more besides. There are many skills for an intrapreneur to master.
At first it may seem daunting, but with the help of some expert assistance we’ve found attendees on our intrapreneurship program can become proficient in a few months.
- Large companies are full of what we call Gatekeepers. These are the people who can block you or make your life difficult. Often these people are in back-office roles (IT InfoSec, Finance, Procurement, Compliance, HR) but sometimes they can also be people who feel threatened by your innovation.
- Big companies rely on strong governance processes to enable managers to feel in control. Many of the intrapreneurial best practices feel alien to managers – they no longer feel they are in control, or maybe feel they don’t understand what is happening at all.
Why Companies Need Intrapreneurs
As business leaders we strive to create the products and services that customers want.
Until recently, the limiting factor has been the means of production. Overcoming this meant investing in efficiencies of all kinds.
The companies that could scale whilst developing the most efficient processes won.
But today, thanks to globalization, the way in which technology destroys the competitive “moats” that companies have created around their products and services, and endless choice in nearly every competitive niche, the buyer has total control.
Intrapreneurship enables you to systematically listen to people needs, goals, pains and frustrations; innovate and prioritize based on strategy, risk and market opportunity; and launch new products and services successfully. It’s something all companies should consider and Intrapreneur Nation can help you get started today!