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What Is An Intrapreneur And How Could You Have One On Your Team?

What is an intrapreneur and how could you have one on your team?

If you’re looking for ways of growing your company, the answer could be intrapreneurship because often the people within your company already have ideas and potential answers to your problems. They just haven’t felt able to share them. Intrapreneurship is about (intra) people inside your business (preneurship).coming up with ways of developing the business.

Far too often I find business owners, leaders and senior executive teams in companies feel that business growth is their responsibility and that they need to come up with new ideas, innovative projects and solutions to problems. Yet it isn’t necessary for everything to come from the top. Often staff can see a need or a problem and also how best to handle it, but they don’t feel empowered to do anything about it.

This is where intrapreneurship comes in. Encourage and enabling your staff to not only think in an enterprising way but also know how to ensure their ideas come to fruition and the company as well as the clients benefit.

So what is an intrapreneur or intrapreneurship?

Intrapreneurship is being seen as the next big thing in organisational growth and staff engagement, so let’s take a look at it. Intrapreneurship is also referred to as corporate enterprise. To start with, this idea is not actually that new. The concept is based on the idea that staff can add value to a company by being involved in its development and ideas which can help it to grow. The staff members can put forward ideas or work on projects which can help the company to be more sustainable and or grow. Many companies encourage this way of working, including Dreamworks, Google, Facebook, 3M and many smaller more agile companies. Over the last few years I have worked with many companies to introduce this way of working and growing, including housing associations, charities, small and medium sized companies and more recently a high street bank.

One of the most famous examples of intrapreneurial ventures was the Post-It-Note.   Back in 1968 the low tack adhesive was developed by 3M scientists. It was used for five years by staff for various things before someone used it to fix paper to mark pages in a book. After further alterations, executives took the product on and developed it for the market place, creating the sticky note.

Intrapreneurship isn’t just about developing new ideas that can be sold to clients. I often talk about the three key areas of intrapreneurship as:

  • Coming up with and developing ideas which will save the company money. Things like reducing waste or repetitive tasks, changing systems and seeking better value when purchasing goods.
  • Coming up with and developing ideas which will increase income from things the company is already doing. Ideas here can include taking things you already do to a new market place, offering different packages, levels of service or ways of upselling to current clients.
  • Coming up with and developing ideas which will bring new income streams into the company. This is an endless list and can include the development of complementary services and goods or breaking into new areas altogether.

Whilst I believe these are the three key areas of intrapreneurship, in fact it is possible that your team could come up with other ideas and will only be constrained by any parameters you place on them.

Developing intrapreneurs. Is it possible?

In short, yes. Some people have more of the right skills and mind-set which makes them more naturally enterprising. However, the basic skills required to be an intrapreneur can be learned or developed with the right mindset and support. On the whole the skills you need to be enterprising within an organisation are:

  • ability to develop new ideas / create new solutions to problems
  • focusing on client based solutions
  • making new ideas become reality
  • willingness to give things a try
  • resilience – an ability to try again when things go wrong
  • ability to learn and grow in order to continuously develop and move forward.

In developing intrapreneurship within an organisation you need to consider how the staff members will be supported and enabled to achieve their new way of working. It is about continuous development and support so that they can grow into their role and feel safe to try new ideas without a fear of consequences and blame.

To learn more about Rebecca’s work on intraprunership, please sign up for her newsletter here.

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