WANTED: A team of competitive, confident individuals who are committed to innovation, passionate about work and producing higher value for their employer. They will need to have an entrepreneurial spirit, be activators of ideas and have a willingness to take calculated risks. In return for their desire to help the growth of the company over financial reward, they will receive support and resources to help make their ideas a reality.
What is described above may seem too good to be true, but some people are willing to put the company’s interest first, in fact, they most likely already work for the company. Sustainable business school founder, Gifford Pinchot III, coined the term intrapreneur in 1978 and defined it as “dreamers who do.” “Intrapreneurs are employees who do for corporate innovation what an entrepreneur does for his or her start-up.” is another definition he uses. Intrapreneurship is nothing new, Richard Branson believes, “A title hasn’t gotten nearly the amount of attention it deserves is entrepreneur’s little brother, ‘intrapreneur.” An employee who is given financial support and autonomy to create new products, services and systems for the benefit of the company, “While it’s true that every company needs an entrepreneur to get it underway, healthy growth requires a smattering of intrapreneurs who drive new projects and explore new and unexpected directions for business development.”
One mistake many businesses make is to stifle the creativity of employers with innovative ideas that have the potential to keep the company moving into the future. Unfortunately, the general status quo is what happened to Kodak. While working at Kodak, electrical engineer, Steven Sasson invented and created the first digital camera. When he presented his idea to the executives at Kodak, they saw Sasson’s invention more of a threat than an evolutionary corner for photography. Even though they allowed him to produce a prototype, he was asked to keep his invention quiet and the camera never saw the light of day. In 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy as they were not prepared to compete on the market of digital technology.
Utilizing and optimizing existing products while embracing innovation is a key element of lasting growth and profitability. A simple yet powerful approach to advancing innovation is to use existing resources within the company, as its employees. In 1968 chemist, Spencer Silver, developed a low tack adhesive while working at Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, now called 3M. By 1977 he had convinced 3M to produce the popular desk accessory, Post-It Note, and by the end of his career at 3M Silver had, all together, filed for 22 patents. Some companies nurture intrapreneurs, like DreamWorks. They offer their employees free training from script writing to pitching before putting them in front of the company’s executives. If their ideas meet the required standard, they put them into development. Employees at Google are given a few hours a week to dedicate to innovative projects of their choosing. The success and longevity of these companies are due to them embracing intrapreneurship and innovation.
The only constant changes, to fight it is futile. Companies that are threatened by new ideas, who protect their organizations status quo will lose the entrepreneurial-minded people working for them and inconsequence end up in a similar situation as Kodak. The more the intrapreneur can express themselves, the more the company is confronted with their effectiveness. If the organization is supportive, the intrapreneur succeeds as will the company. When the organization is not supportive then the intrapreneur usually fails, leaves to join another company or to start a new company.