Blog: The Intrapreneur: Why SMEs need these innovators

Intrapreneurship is still in its infancy stage in Australia. This is despite the fact that the likes of Google, Virgin, 3M, and DreamWorks, have proactively invested in entrepreneurial employees from day one, writes Federico Re.

Intrapreneurship is still in its infancy stage in Australia. This is despite the fact that the likes Google, Virgin, 3M, and DreamWorks have proactively invested in entrepreneurial employees from day one, writes Federico Re.

In 2014, I wrote an article titled The Myth of the Intrapreneur

I was inspired to write this editorial piece after reading one of Michael E Gerber’s famous E-myth books. This book provided excellent literature about the behaviour, mindset, and unique qualities of ‘entrepreneurs’, but made no specific reference to the terms ‘intrapreneur’ and ‘intrapreneurship’, and how this was relevant to SMEs.

After reading his book, I was compelled to start my own long-term legacy of educating business owners in Australia about ‘intrapreneurial leadership’. Ultimately, it was about instructing these business owners to embrace intrapreneurs within their business and foster innovation.  

To support my long-term mission, I recently sought the help of Aussie entrepreneur Matt Browne (CEO of DoneSafe) on my online radio show. I was keen to get Matt’s insight on this subject as a result of his experience with intrapreneurs within his commercial practice.

De-mystifying intrapreneurship

Intrapreneurship is still in its infancy stage in Australia. This is despite the fact that the likes of Google, Virgin, 3M, and DreamWorks have proactively invested in entrepreneurial employees from day one. For them, it's about advancing their innovation, and developing a strong competitive in their marketplace.

In Australia, intrapreneurs are perceived as being the 'black sheep' of the workforce, and are perhaps not desirable for most SMEs.

Maverick personalities

While intrapreneurs can be challenging to manage, it's worth noting why. Matt defines the ‘intrapreneur’ as someone with a ‘maverick’ type personality. Someone who is restless, challenges the status quo, is disruptive, and is looking for opportunities to nurture their ideas for specific commercial outcomes within the organisation they work for.

For me, an intrapreneur is a person with a burning desire to innovate and create something new for the welfare of the organisation they work for. Intrapreneurs are driven by their entrepreneurial traits; however, they generally prefer to work within the safe confines of the company rather than working for themselves. 

Desire for innovation

Intrapreneurs need the freedom to operate within the organisation without the red tape and micro-management. They also need to be given the opportunity to test their ideas freely, regardless of whether they succeed or fail in the real world.

Innovation or pioneering of new ideas can yield success or failure. From my point of view and experience, the best inventions and discoveries of the past have occurred from numerous failed attempts. Essentially, the final long-term outcome is worth striving for.

Let’s also not forget that businesses that do not innovate and push the boundaries of technology and disrupt their industry are more likely to perish long term, from smaller, entrepreneurially spirited start-ups. 

It’s like the story of David and Goliath: sometimes, the underdog wins.

Incentivising these pioneers

Intrapreneurs that pioneer and respect the operational confines of the organisation are worth nurturing.

Matt believes that intrapreneurs most often seek reward as well praise and recognition for their unique ideas and entrepreneurial efforts at large.

Rewards can include financial bonuses for a commercial successful outcome; freedom to operate and network outside the organisation; as well as time off to pursue and nurture their own business goals and aspirations.

New-age terminology

The term ‘intrapreneur’ may be relatively new in the dictionary, but what remains to be true is that entrepreneurial employees have really always existed in the workplace.

While these 'mavericks’ may be somewhat more challenging to manage, they need to be prioritised over conventional employees, especially if disrupting the industry is a key constituent of the company’s long-term strategy.
 
For nearly two decades, Federico has built his reputation as an entrepreneurship coach, mentor, motivational speaker, and business writer across the SME business and entrepreneurial sectors. He is the founder of coaching practice Creative Entrepreneur, is co-author of Millionaire Coach and founder and co-host of an online radio show InspireTalk.

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