Right now, we hear a narrative that you can either be a corporate cog in the capitalist machine, or an entrepreneur innovating new worlds - but what if there is also a third path? Intrapreneurs traverse the landscape of disruption, new technology, initiatives and uncertainty, while also enjoying the resources and structure of an established organisation.
In many ways, it’s the best of both lives. It's very much a case of 'and' rather than 'or'. You can absorb much of the creative stimulation of entrepreneurship and significantly reduce your personal risk, while not having to choose between forgoing a paycheque and exercising your creative spirit. To be an intrapreneur is to create new possibilities and forge innovation within existing companies, while also not missing mortgage payments trying to fund a fledgling start-up.
Here's three things we can learn from the best of intrapreneurship…
As Winston Churchill once said, "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." It can take a while to make your dent inside a company, and persistence is key. If your initial ideas and initiatives don't receive the success you had hoped for, the most important lesson is to treat each endeavour like an experiment.
Take the key learnings, reassess and iterate to create a better outcome on your next venture inside the company. The best entrepreneurs are able to remain upbeat and energetic in building out new ideas, even when a path of prior failed ideas lies littered behind them. In parallel, this truly applies to intrapreneurs as they embrace innovation within a corporate structure.
How others support, buy in and position your ideas within a company becomes the greatest indicator of your future success. It's a tough lesson to learn, but just like being a start-up entrepreneur, intrapreneurs need to build powerful networks to back them. These networks can be horizontal - getting buy in and support from your peers is crucial. Just as important is finding a mentor or mentors to champion you. Having a senior authority with clout to position you and push your initiatives through any bureaucracy or red tape, is the difference between your endeavours never seeing the light of day, and getting full backing to success.
Embrace your ability to see new, novel solutions and a different way of doing things, especially related to digital. The way companies have operated in the past, cannot be indicative of what's coming. Today, every company needs to become a technology company as we all live further online. Have the confidence in your own vision to present alternatives within your organisation.
Without change, companies stagnate and are left behind in the race toward innovation. If your vision isn't immediately received with enthusiasm, think again: persistence and the power of your network will take you the rest of the way.
Intrapreneurs are a new breed within the corporate world and large organisations. They create changes of scale and bring companies into 'future thinking'. Without the intrapreneur a company will most certainly deteriorate by lack of action, lack of risk taking, and fear of innovation. The role of the intrapreneur is one of the most important inside a team, and best of all, is self chosen - you don't need anyone to add it to your job title, you just need to start thinking like an entrepreneur in your workplace.