Intraepreneurship is not a new idea by any means, yet in today’s business world it’s being embraced like never before and for good reason. Big corporations need to be innovative and the most cost effective way of harnessing ideas is with employees, not just acquiring companies. Intrapreneurs, for all of you who don’t know, are employees who behave as entrepreneurs within a large organization. These are employees who take on initiatives outside of their job description for the benefit of the company. Successful intrapreneurs get full support from their organizations and their ideas or inventions can become service offerings or new products. A great example of this is in 3M, where employees are able to spend 15% of their time on side projects (at Google, they get 20%). Through one of these side projects, Post-It Notes was conceived. Intuit, makers of TurboTax, QuickBooks, and QuickBase (the sponsor of this blog), is also noted for its Innovation Catalyst program designed to foster intrapreneurship by giving employees the tools to help each other innovate. Another famous story is how Ken Kutaragi, an employee of Sony back in 1994, helped his company develop its own gaming system which eventually was called Sony Play Station.
While some companies have incubators and flexibility programs, others have “hackathons”, where developers stay up all night programming new products together over beer and pizza. The most famous hackathons come from Facebook, where they developed features such as the “like” system. Shutterstock, a leading global provider of high quality stock photography, just launched their own annual hackathon.
Intrapreneurs, much like entrepreneurs, are risk takers because if a new product fails, management will point the finger at them. On the other hand, if it’s successful, you become the company’s “golden child” and might even get to become a president of a product line or division. It’s far more exciting to be an intrapreneur instead of a regular employee because you can have a bigger impact and the potential is bigger. Here are your first three steps in pursuing your intrapreneurship dream:
- Work at a company that embraces intrapreneurship. If your company doesn’t give you flex time, isn’t very innovative and it’s highly political, then it will be near impossible to become an intrapreneur. Strict corporate hierarchies make it extremely challenging to get your ideas heard and seen and companies that have no plans to expand their product or service line aren’t willing to support new ideas. Companies that embrace intrapreneurship usually use it as a marketing tool to recruit top talent. It could be in the form of a perk or a program supported by the organization.
- Come up with an innovative idea. You can be the best salesperson in the world, but if you don’t have a strong idea or product to demo, then you are wasting your time and risking your internal reputation. It’s important to use your time in and out of the office to refine your idea, get feedback on it and improve it before presenting it to other people in your group.
- Get the organization to buy into the idea. The best way to get your group to buy into your concept is to meet with a few key stakeholders individually to sell them on it and then to hold a group meeting. This way, you’ll have project sponsors who will endorse the idea in front of the group if it’s a good one. When you present your idea, try and use market data, facts, and quotes. If you have a demo of a product, which can really help your cause. You have to treat your team members as venture capitalists during this process because they need to buy into the idea and support it both with their time and financially.