Intrapreneurship: Why and How It Works

Updated from a previously-posted, widely-read blog

As someone who works jointly with talented women and their Fortune 1000 companies, I’m always on the lookout for approaches and strategies that benefit both.

Intrapreneurship is definitely a win-win strategy and especially effective for career-focused women. It dovetails perfectly with the changes in attitudes and behaviors they must embrace if they are going to make it to the highest levels of their organizations.

Intraprenuership: A Quick Overview
There’s nothing new about intrapreneurship. It’s been around for 40+ years with some great accomplishments behind it. For example, intrapreneurs are credited with the creation of new airplane designs for Lockheed Martin…Post-It Notes for 3M…and Gmail and Google News for Google.

Before we go any further, let’s define what we mean by an intrapreneur.  According to Wikipedia: It’s “a person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation” (Wikipedia).

Two Sides to Intrapreneurial Success
As obvious as it sounds, if an intrapreneur is to be successful, the corporate climate in which she is operating must be conducive to the concept. Many intrapreneurs fail, not because they or their ideas are not up to speed, but because their current corporate environment is not suited for intrapreneurship.

So here’s a quick checklist of the corporate characteristics most conducive to intrapreneurs:

  • Continually seek out new ideas and input from employees at all levels
  • Foster inter-departmental collaboration
  • Monitor customer attitudes and opinions about products and services
  • Create an environment where employees are free to speak up
  • Set aside an in-house venture capital fund
  • Reward “genius” ideas monetarily
  • Hold classes and seminars to encourage and spark employee creativity
  • Encourage employees to have fun in an environment where creativity and innovation abound

On the other side of the coin, not everyone is suited to becoming an intrapreneur. These are the key characteristics most often found in those who succeed at it:

  • Sees opportunities others don’t
  • Has a high comfort level with risk
  • Creative and innovative
  • Passionate about change
  • Establishes a network that expands her thinking and her perspectives
  • Effective team player
  • Talent for selling ideas to others
  • Organizationally savvy

When the right organizational climate and the right intrapreneurial talent align, the potential for innovative products and services is almost limitless. As women (especially millennials) continue to find their voice and move up the corporate ladder, we are likely to see more of them weighing in as heavy-duty intrapreneurs. I can’t wait!

Dr. Rosina L. Racioppi
President & CEO
WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.