Understanding Intrapreneurship

Two men working together in an office.

Intrapreneur is a word that has been gaining popularity in the business world in recent years. It’s a term that describes a person who is encouraged to spearhead new experiments, projects, or initiatives by and within their company. While intrapreneurship may sound like something only startup companies can do, that’s not the case at all. Google and DreamWorks are just two successful companies that encourage their employees to innovate (and thus propel the whole company forward) through intrapreneurship projects.

What Is the Difference Between an Entrepreneur and Intrepreneur?

Intrapreneurship combines the innovative nature of entrepreneurship with the security of working within an employer’s fold. While entrepreneurs must come up with their ideas and resources on their own time, an intrapreneurship is usually worked into an employee’s regular work schedule – with access to colleagues and company resources to support them throughout the project’s development.

While there’s no limit to what kinds of projects an entrepreneur may pursue, intrapreneurships focus on ideas that will ultimately benefit the company and its customers. An intrapreneur may create a new type of deliverable product, or streamline an existing process, or even ideate a whole new branch of services. Intrapreneurs often help their organizations reverse the symptoms of tunnel vision by exploring new revenue streams and diversifying their company.

How Are Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs Alike?

Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs have a lot in common. One important aspect of both is that they require a similar combination of personality traits in order to be successful. Namely, a good entrepreneur and intrapreneur is usually:

  • Goal-oriented
  • A self-starter
  • Motivated to keep growing
  • A challenge seeker
  • A problem solver
  • Curious
  • Passionate about what they do

Not every employee is well-suited for intrapreneurship, and that’s okay. All employees may still play critical roles by offering their expertise and support to intrapreneurs who are building their internal project teams.

What Are the Benefits of Intrapreneurship?

While intrapreneurships usually cost the company virtually nothing, the resulting tangible and intangible benefits can be staggering. When it’s done right, intrapreneurships benefit both the company and employees.

  • Intrapreneurships boost employee engagement. On average, just 15% of a company’s staff members report feeling engaged with their work. That means 85% are going through the motions of their workday until a better opportunity (or retirement) comes along. So it’s no wonder that increasing engagement also increases productivity and profitability for the company, and improves morale among staff. When staff create new revenue streams and can observe the financial payoff of their hard work, they will feel accomplished and motivated to do it all over again with a new project.
  • A company that encourages intrapreneurship is adaptable, and therefore more stable through volatile economic periods. With employees engaged in innovative projects and developing ways to tap into new markets, a company that embraces intrapreneurship is more likely to survive the next economic downturn.
  • Intrapreneurship encourages employees throughout the organization to develop leadership skills, which are critical for staff at all levels – not just managers. Your organization can use intrapreneurships to grow its next generation of managers and directors.
  • Intrapreneurship encourages a more positive workplace culture by allowing employees to take ownership over a slice of the company they are innovating or optimizing. With staff members constantly looking forward and feeling engaged in their work, morale and motivation will naturally rise.
  • Companies that offer intrapreneurships can more easily recruit top talent and retain great employees. This is especially true if the organization is trying to bring in young staff. In fact, one recent study showed that half of millennials would forego more pay in order to do more meaningful work. An intrapreneurship program offers motivated employees the opportunity to design and create the meaningful work they yearn for.

How Can Companies Promote Intrapreneurship?

Fostering intrapreneurships in the workplace can transform employees’ workday experience and strengthen the company as a whole. The formula for successful intrapreneurships is simple.

  • Leaders at every level must encourage their teams to innovate and pursue their ideas.
  • To ensure the right people are brought aboard, create more complete job descriptions when promoting openings that have the potential to include intrapreneurship projects.
  • Help intrapreneurs evaluate their ideas to ensure the initiatives fit the company’s mission, vision, values, and goals.
  • Give your intrapreneurs the autonomy and resources they need to complete their goals and bring their projects to fruition.
  • Recognize and reward intrapreneurial successes.

Want to Learn More About Intrepreneurship? Wharton Online Can Help

Wharton Online offers flexible, applicable programs to help working professionals grow their careers. If you would like to learn how to be more creative and adaptable in your current role, we encourage you to check out the Entrepreneurship Specialization at Wharton Online.