What is The Institute for Intrapreneurship?

An “intrapreneur” is a corporate entrepreneur working to drive innovation within an existing business. The idea of intrapreneurship is not new, it has been around for decades. It was developed first by researchers who recognized that the skills, processes and cultures required to support innovation are different than conventional management techniques. They also recognized the need for a better path for innovation within the structural confines of an existing enterprise and the necessity of the entrepreneurial spirit. Research has surfaced the challenges faced by internal innovators and their enterprises. The topic has been written about, spoken on, and consulted within companies for years. The concept has been given different titles like “innovation management” or “building a culture of innovation” and has spawned new corporate positions such as Chief Innovation Officer. However, research continues to show that too much of the corporate world is not “getting it” and as a result innovation has fallen short of its potential to drive business growth.

Clayton Christensen, widely acknowledged thought leader about innovation, notes: “Historically, management is about “straight lines” and “right angles.” The tools of traditional business planning – “the software” – that managers use today have helped them perfect the art of analyzing, planning, and executing when the problem is standard and the interdependencies are known. But innovation is about uncertainty and nonstandard processes, curves and weird angles and the management literature and the tools we use have not yet caught up with the new kinds of problems that managers and innovators face. New software is needed, a new set of guidelines and rules that managers can use for facing high uncertainty problems.” [1]

There is much work to be done. The need exists to move from theory to sustainable action that transforms how innovation is initiated, operationalized and monetized. Three groups have responsibility, even ownership, for successful innovation and will therefore benefit from the development of better understanding, tools and management of innovation.

  1. Enterprises with the need to grow recognize that innovation is essential. However, research indicates that very few companies understand the principal of how to successfully innovate. Internal entrepreneurs are rarely encouraged or given required resources, and when they are, there are few mechanisms to allow them to benefit from their innovation. The core business model reigns supreme and managers fear to risk distraction from the main objectives of that core. Executives are learning that you can’t declare “we will be innovative” and then fail to deliver results.
  2.  Government agencies have a charter to drive the economy, grow jobs, and assist businesses with their challenges to start up or to grow. These agencies have an interest in using taxpayer dollars to effectively drive success. Much of the assistance focuses on entrepreneurs and assisting with the initial launch phase of a startup, or in giving larger corporations attractive incentives to move a part of their business to a given locale. The missing bridge for government is developing a way to assist businesses to grow internally, thus fortifying the economy, generating job growth and creating new tax revenues.   Growth creates a “stickiness” for businesses to stay local. 
  3. Colleges and universities along with their research and experiential learning programs are tackling the challenge of helping businesses be strategically aligned with the today’s new economy. More and more they are becoming invested and committed to preparing students for today’s changing work environment. Yet there is a feeling that today’s higher education product is not adequately prepared to enter into the challenging world of business and deliver immediate impact, especially as it pertains to innovation. There are entrepreneurial courses and centers in virtually every business school in the country, teaching the how to of starting a new business from a great idea. But in fact, most graduates will never start their own business, rather they will be called upon to lead an established enterprise to greater heights from within.

The Institute for Intrapreneurship was formed to bring these three interested groups together, joined by experienced operators, to solve the challenges associated with the successful execution of growth centered innovation. Recognizing that the changing economic times require a different set of management skills and abilities, The Institute will better understand what is needed and how to prepare individuals and companies to more effectively discover ideas and bring them to invention, to innovation, to income, and resultant growth.

The case for innovation is compelling, but recognition alone is not enough. The challenge is to move from talk to effective action. The major responsibility of The Institute for Intrapreneurship is to bring together the research of thought leaders, the vision of innovators, and the experience of operators to pioneer answers that impact the ability for companies to plan and execute innovation initiatives. The need is for business, academia, and government interests to bring brand, intellectual property, research and resources to focus explicitly on one question: What must be true for existing businesses to develop and sustain profitable growth centered innovation in a changed economy?


[1] Clayton M Christensen, Professor, Harvard Business School in the foreword; “The Innovator’s Method” by Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer, Harvard Business School Press, 2014

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