What is intrapreneurship? Here’s the answer based on explanations from 5 entrepreneurs, academics, and investors
Most people confuse the word ‘intrapreneur’ with ‘entrepreneur’ because they sound alike and have similar meanings. However, intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs are two very different kinds of people. So what is intrapreneurship? It’s not just a question of intrapreneur vs entrepreneur – or looking for a classic ‘intrapreneur example’. It’s a wide range of personality traits that a person exhibits at work.
The other thing making the question “what is intrapreneurship” so vague is that many business owners, academics, and investors refer to intrapreneurship by different words. Here’s how a few people talk about it.
Billionaire Richard Branson talks about cultivating creativity in employees
The world knows Richard Branson for making a splash in the business world. But when it comes to employees, the billionaire business owner says that happiness is key.
Citing a University of Warwick study showing happy employees are 12 more productive, Branson published an op-ed in Canadian Business magazine about why he prioritizes happiness at Virgin. Getting to happiness – and the creativity that goes along with it – means Branson and Virgin Group offer as much flexibility to employees as possible.
This flexibility, coupled with creating space to be creative at work, leads to intrapreneurship within Virgin’s many business lines. The results have been spectacular for the company, including Virgin winning many international business awards.
Dragon’s Den investor Michele Romanow talks about encouraging resilience
When Michele Romanow joined investing reality show Dragon’s Den, she was the youngest person to become a “Dragon”. While she looked glamorous on TV, it took years of resilience and being scrappy to get to the level of success she has today. When it comes to intrapreneurship, resilience is a key factor.
She credits her rise to success with being the “Chief Everything Officer”, as she mentioned in an interview with YouInc. Now, she encourages the same mentality of scrappiness and resilience in her employees at Clearbanc. These values are so necessary to her that she ingrained them in Clearbanc’s company values of Speed, Transparency, and Independence.
As a mentor to her employees, she advocates for “launch now, fix later,” a philosophy that it’s better to get something going and test it – struggling through the hard days – than waiting for a ‘perfect’ time.
Willful Wills CEO Erin Bury talks about resourcefulness
If you ask Erin Bury what is intrapreneurship, she’ll likely talk about being resourceful. In an interview with PulseBlueprint, the entrepreneur and investor said she looks for employees that show resourcefulness over direct skills.
“You can teach people to be better writers, or to person tasks at your company – but what you can’t teach is that innate sense of ‘figuring it out’ and coming to you with solutions, not problems”
Part of this comes from her experience as an intrapreneur. When she started her career, a startup founder taught her that being resourceful was more important than having all the skills at once. When you have resourcefulness, you can learn nearly anything.
Academic Richard Florida talks about the creative class
Outspoken academic Richard Florida talks about the future of cities. In his research, he indicates the “creative class” will dominate the working world in the future. These people are characterized by their creativity and their ability to solve problems – skills that are necessary for intrapreneurs as well.
For a city to attract people of this class, it must have what Florida calls the “Three T’s” – Talent, Tolerance, and Technology.
That means aspiring intrapreneurs, need to be highly educated on topics that affect the future of work. Further, they have to be aware of differences and know how to leverage diversity, and they need to be technologically savvy (or able to learn).
Amazon challenger Marie Chevrier talks about taking ownership
Marie Chevrier’s company, Sampler, is taking on Amazon in the race for consumer-packaged goods (CPG) sampling. To get there, the company will need to be really special. This is especially true when you consider the funding differentials – Sampler raised $3 million for the whole company. Jeff Bezos made that in less than a week).
To grow, founder and CEO Marie Chevrier talks about encouraging employees to take ownership in their work and the company.
Whether hiring, team meetings, or even employee recognition, Chevrier believes that employees should own as much as possible. When it comes to intrapreneurship, owning your work (and outcomes) is a necessity.
What is intrapreneurship? It depends
Each company will have a slightly different definition of what it means to be an intrapreneur there. That’s not because the word is different, per se, but how it applies in specific environments changes.
Each person in this list wants the same thing – passionate employees that solve company problems and take pride in their work – but each describes it slightly differently. These differences are a great way for intrapreneurs to identify which company they are most likely to succeed at.
It’s not one size fits all with intrapreneurship, so make sure that one of the first problems you solve as an intrapreneur is finding the right environment for you to thrive.