The Rise of the Intrapreneur: How Corporations are Leveraging Startup Culture to Innovate and Grow

Posted by Suzanne Huber

With the rise of the startup movement, large corporations are quickly realizing that in order to sustain and survive, they must innovate and change. Corporate movers and shakers, AKA intrapreneurs, are becoming increasingly important in a global society that continues to evolve and advance with technology faster than ever.

Corporations have been learning that the entrepreneurial mindset does not only serve startup companies: increasingly more firms are implementing intrepreneurial projects within departments to test and launch new products, services and systems.

Intrapreneurs are in charge of a project within a firm where they are given autonomy to work on a project with freedom and resources, taking ownership of the success and failure of an endeavor. Implementing the changes you propose as an intrepreneur is a sales process. This role is challenging in that you have to have enough support from senior management to buy into your ideas and concepts.

Proof and testing are paramount before you implement changes in a large corporate setting, which is much more complicated than in a small startup venture. Acting as an intrepreneur within a firm does diminish a lot of the startup risk as the firm has the resources to pay the intrepreneur to innovate with more security. That is not to say that the intrepreneur is not still taking the risk of getting fired for failure to achieve results—and they may not get full credit for what they created.

SEE ALSO: How to Infect Your Startup's Culture with a Mentality of 'Intrapreneurship'

To be successful in this role, this type of modern employee needs autonomy and trust with the firm’s resources to achieve solutions or find innovative directions the firm should develop. The intrepreneur drives agility and creativity and has to be able to think and act like an entrepreneur and not be afraid to fail with an audience.

Compensation can vary between a regular paycheck to project completion or fees tied to results. Larger companies that are slower to adapt and react to changes in the market are learning the significant value of this type of employee that can help the company survive the test of time.

Though the job sounds glamorous and fun, it can be very challenging and relies heavily on the stakeholders to support the project. It is important that the intrepreneur does not get frustrated with the lack of support to grow or implement a project as it can often be inevitable. It can require thick skin when challenging the existing status quo or project implementation.

The intrepreneur has more satisfaction when they are empowered by senior management. When the project fails, the intrepreneur and their team will take the hit, when it is successful, the humble intrepreneur may lose a lot of credit, though in the long run they are still the one who benefits. Taking ownership of the task and project enhances job satisfaction for employees who feel they own the project and are responsible for the outcomes.

When firms are looking to hire an intrapreneur, they will assess if the candidate has launched other ventures or has participated as a team member or lead an initiative in the past. Diverse teams come up with more innovative solutions when inventing and innovating which often results in the collaboration of sophisticated problem solvers. Intrepreneurs may already be in house as the inquisitive team member that is always looking for answers and coming up with solutions to existing problems. The ability to think outside the box allows intrepreneurs to prevent firms from becoming stagnant.

Richard Branson has been known to hire intrepreneurs to manage projects within his firms and drive change while taking accountability for results. He has stated that his 200 companies would not be where they are if he didn’t have intrapreneurs employed constantly looking for new opportunities and new areas for business development. A lot of the systems, services and products in the Virgin companies came from the freedom and financial support to innovate from management, not following any one particular routine.

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Suzanne Huber

Suzanne Huber

Suzanne started her career by launching a software company that offered real-time flight information and digital advertising to hotels. In just over a year the company grew throughout Canada and into the US. Clients included Westin Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Marriott Hotels the Pan Pacific in Vancouver and many others. Since then Suzanne has advanced marketing and technical expertise and has been... more



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