How to become an intrapreneur

The world is crying out for intrapreneurs. Business struggling? Find your intrapreneurs. Bored with work? Become an intrapreneur. But how exactly can you increase the levels of intrapreneurship in a business?

Experts have come up with numerous tools to ‘unlock’ intrapreneurial behaviours. But Len Schlesinger, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and Charlie Kiefer, the founder of business advisory firm Innovation Associates, say in an article for the Harvard Business Review that there has been little change in organisations. They highlight that 85 per cent of respondents to an Accenture survey reported that “employee ideas are mostly aimed at internal improvements rather than external ones”.

So how can you become an intrapreneur?

1. Stop making excuses

As with everything that requires a bit of effort, there are a myriad of ‘reasons’ you can give as to why you’re not an intrapreneur.

“When I suggest intrapreneurial ideas students can take to their organisation, they’ll often come up with excuses for why their company culture or boss would never let them do it,” Douglas S Brown, who was a programme manager at The Malcolm Baldrige School of Business at Post University, told Wired. “Stop with the excuses. While it’s important to recognise challenges, don’t let them douse your creativity and drive. If you turn the buts around, you’ll find opportunities. For example, if you believe your boss isn’t open to new ways of doing things, then look behind the façade and find out why.”

Read more: The art of persuasion, an intrapreneur's greatest tool

2. Get a team together

Start-ups are effective because of their collaborative culture so find the people in your organisation that can help you to come up with the best ideas and to make them a reality.

“The first step is always to search through the organisation for people who are passionate about accomplishing something,” Josh Makower, chairman and founder of medical device incubator ExploraMed Development and a partner with the venture capital group NEA, told Forbes.

Makower warns that this isn’t always easy in a big business where people may be more driven by job security, but it’s about finding the right people who are motivated by the same frustrations as you are.

3. Come up with solutions

No-one knows the problems that a company is facing better than its staff. As an employee of a business, you’re best placed to make improvements or suggestions for things that you could be doing better.

“Visualise variations of current products or services your department is offering,” intrapreneurship expert Noam Wekser suggests. “How many of us are taking the time to visualise anything? Not many if any. But this is a cool exercise. You will amaze yourself with having ideas you never thought you might have. Just take 10 minutes, close your eyes and imagine new, improved products or features. Then write it down. Do 10 ideas at least.”

4. Think like a boss

As Brown points out, “your boss has objectives and quotas that he needs to meet. Your job is to help him get there.”

Work to understand what those goals are, and come up with ideas that will help him to do what he needs to do – but help him to do it better, faster and more cost effectively.

“If you don’t know what your boss’ goals are, then ask him what they are and how you can help,” Brown says. “Keep focusing on creating new value. That’s innovation – the bread and butter of intrapreneurship.”

Read more: The secrets of the world's leading intrapreneur

5. Be brave

Much like entrepreneurship, there are no guarantees with intrapreneurship so whatever you do, you’ve got to have some guts.

“As an intrapreneur, you have to be willing to fail, learn and start again,” says Chris Mahon, deputy director for MBA programmes at the Haydn Green Institue for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “It’s a given that not ever new idea will be a winner. Intrapreneurs work best in a supportive culture where people are free to innovate and are allowed to occasionally fail, without fear of the consequences.”

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