Three Ways to Facilitate ‘Intrapreneurship’

As the cliche goes, the only constant in life and business is change. In this complex and dynamic business environment, it’s necessary that organizations review and revise their business models and conceptualize and implement new products and services.

In short, organizations should adopt a culture of “intrapreneurship,” a concept defined by renowned management thinker Peter Drucker as the act of initiating new ventures or creating value within an already established organization.

The concept of intrapreneurship has become important for organizations that continuously face competition thanks to globalization. Organizations must be more entrepreneurial to enhance their performance, their capacity for adaptation and long-term survival. To fulfill these requirements, intrapreneurs must function within a paradigm of three dimensions: being innovative, risk-taking and being proactive.

Being innovative focuses on the search for creative and meaningful solutions to individual and operational problems and needs. Risk-taking involves the willingness to commit resources to opportunities that have a reasonable possibility of failure. Being proactive is concerned with implementation and using initiative to help make events happen through appropriate means.

To create a learning organization that fosters a culture of intrapreneurship, it is necessary that organizations hire and develop leaders who possess the ability to be flexible and adapt and who can manage “temporariness” by empowering their followers to perform in a “temporary” environment.

Leaders will also need to adeptly use — but not abuse — power, competently use political skill, effectively communicate and adequately deal with resistance to change. Firms simply cannot afford to remain “comfortable” if they wish to sustain their competitive advantage. They must be open to the kind of change that embraces creativity and innovation and pay attention to the factors that enable intrapreneurship, such as a creative work environment, a positive organizational culture and diversity.

Companies that pride themselves on being a learning organization should consider creating an intrapreneur development program that will play a role in helping the organization remain competitive.

Here are three tips learning and development professionals can use to develop the intrapreneur development program:

Managerial support — Support from senior leaders plays an important role in developing intrapreneurs. Support can be manifested in many forms. One is regular access to training so employees can possess ample knowledge and skills, both of which will be used in the creative process since expertise is the foundation of creativity. Another is access to resources — time, money, people, etc. — that are needed to develop or implement ideas. Employees must have the opportunity to be intrapreneurs, and resources help make opportunity available. A third form of support is the availability of rewards for intrapreneurial behavior. Rewards will motivate employees to continue to learn and to apply their learning to initiate new ventures within their organizations.

Systemic instruction — Employees must have a heightened awareness of the organization as a whole and how all the “units” within the organization fit and work together. If employees are only informed about their area, their thinking will be limited and so will their creative efforts. Intrapreneurs can serve both internal and external customers. Therefore, employees can benefit from a holistic view as they strive to innovate and create increased value for their organization.

Community — Companies should avoid the silo mentality. Involvement and collaboration is important throughout the organization. Hence, there should be some team orientation and a sense of community within the organization. In this way, ideas can be shared and employees can learn from one another, leading to a greater ability and propensity to succeed as intrapreneurs.

To become a learning organization, companies should consider adopting a human capital strategy that is focused on developing and inspiring every employee to become an intrapreneur who is equipped to create new business for his or her firm. This can be achieved if organizations invest in their employees with training and development, allow them autonomy to take greater ownership at work and reward them.

Leon C. Prieto is an assistant professor of management at Clayton State University. Simone T. A. Phipps is an assistant professor of management at Middle Georgia State College. They can be reached at