The Essence of Intrapreneurship

The January issue of the Harvard Business Review contains an article authored by Ashford and Detert entitled “Get the Boss to Buy In.”  It’s an insightful article that prompted many positive comments from readers about the proposed steps one needs to follow to successfully promote an idea internally.  The article unintentionally highlights two things:  1. that there are good ideas that come from the rank and file that need to be surfaced; and 2. the process of giving ideas there “day in court” is really much harder than it needs to be.  The net result of the difficult process is time and resources wasted, those with the ideas becoming at best frustrated and more likely disenfranchised, and ideas are lost because of a perception that surfacing an idea isn’t worth the effort.  Solving this problem is the essence of intrapreneurship.

An intrapreneur is an entrepreneur within an established enterprise.  While innovation is commonly sought from R&D, strategy groups or product management, the nucleus of innovation usually comes from the observations of an individual.  If the source idea for the innovation can’t easily be identified, understood, vetted and evaluated, there is serious risk that the idea, and even worse, the source of the idea may just go away.  Intraprenuership grooms those sourcing innovation and concurrently it provides the organizational and structural adjustments within an enterprise to make effective and functional the process of determining the means to extract value of innovative ideas.

Just like innovation can’t be a declaration from the executive suites, intrapreneurship requires a conscious decision and a top down commitment to pursue what must become part of the culture of an enterprise.  The demonstration of commitment becomes real as intrapreneurs find support to innovate, understand clear mechanisms to promote ideas in a limited risk environment, and see ways to personally benefit from the adoption of their own innovation.  Growth of an enterprise can be accelerated with a new approach for innovation to find its way to productive use.

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