Although in a 1978 paper written with my wife Libba I originally coined the term intrapreneur, I ignored intrapreneuring for a while to focus on the 2002 launching of Bainbridge Graduate Institute, now Pinchot University. Since leaving the Presidency of Pinchot University intrapreneuring is suddenly becoming relevant to me again (and increasingly to others).
Intrapreneuring means two things to me:
- A set of business practices that liberates people with entrepreneurial personalities to innovate rapidly inside larger organizations for the benefit of that organization and its customers.
- The actions of an individual and/or a team that is acting in an entrepreneurial manner to serve the best interests of larger organization and its supply chain, with or without official support.
Intrapreneuring is suddenly becoming more important because bureaucracy can’t respond rapidly enough to respond to challenges like climate change and cultural turbulence.
Civilization is at a turning point. We are becoming aware that our economies and lifestyles need massive amounts of innovation to remain viable. Only those institutions that can reinvent themselves will survive. Creating the climate for intrapreneuring is an effective way increasing innovation and sustainable innovation manyfold.
In advanced nations the need for intrapreneuring is even greater.
To maintain full employment in the face of low cost global competitors, advanced nations, must innovate far faster and more cost effectively than they do today.
In studying hundreds of innovations inside larger organizations, I found that in every case the success of the project was driven by a passionate and persistent intrapreneur. This does not mean intrapreneuring was company policy, in most cases it happened despite the rules. But the lesson is still stark. Intrapreneurs are essential to innovation in large organizations. For this reason it pays to create a culture that encourages intrapreneurial activity. Not doing so in today’s innovation hungry world will lead to an organization’s extinction.
In future blogs I will address both how to increase the effectiveness intrapreneuring and how to be a successful intrapreneur.