What is Intrapreneurship?

This article is an academic introduction into the -preneur series of blogs. I'd love to share with you more about where real changes come from, and who real change makers are. So stay tune! 

 

Where does the term intrapreneurship come from?

 

The word “intrapreneurship” sounds like a new term, but it in fact has some history to it. The term was first discussed in a 1978 piece by Gifford and Elizabeth Pinchot titled “Intra-Corporate Entrepreneurship (Some Thoughts Stirred Up by Attending Robert Schwartz’s School for Entrepreneurs)”. Norman Macrae’s 1982 Economist article, “We’re all Intrapreneurial Now” further explores intrapreneurship and gives naming credit to the Pinchots. However, the word seems to have gone into relative hibernation until the dot.com bubble burst and Silicon Valley innovators started to look beyond the newest internet start-up for growth in the technology sector.

 

 

Intrapreneurship vs. entrepreneurship, per Guy Kawasaki

 

For a modern understanding of intrapreneurship, we can look at one of its most vocal proponents: author, motivational speaker, and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki. Kawasaki was an early employee at Apple and a “chief evangelist” at the company for years.  With his 2004 book, Art of the Start, he began making direct references to intrapreneurs and has recently become a more vocal advocate. For example, he wrote this  July 2013 blog post on LinkedIn on “The Art of Intrapreneurship”. Here’s an excerpt:

 

There are lots of guys and gals inside established companies who are as innovative and revolutionary as their bootstrapping, soy-sauce-and-rice-subsisting, external entrepreneur counterparts. This is for these brave souls who face a different kind of reality and must practice the art of entrepreneurship inside a company—or “intrapreneurship.'

 

From the outside looking in, entrepreneurs think intrapreneurs have it made: ample capital, infrastructure (desks, chairs, Internet access, assistants, lines of credit, etc), salespeople, support people, and an umbrella brand. Guess again. Intrapreneurs don’t have it better; they simply have it different. Indeed, the reality is that they probably have it worse because they are fighting against ingrained, inbred, and inept management.” – Guy Kawasaki

 

Bottom line: Intrapreneurship is difficult, challenging, and nuanced.

 

 

Defining intrapreneurship: the starting point to inspiring institutional innovation 

 

Understanding exactly what intrapreneurship is can be a starting point in igniting growth and innovation within institutions. Harnessing the intrapreneurial approach can empower workers of any generation to advance their careers while improving their organizations. Intrapreneurship is especially helpful for junior-level employees and mid-level managers wanting to overcome the obstacles associated with getting consensus and support for innovative new ideas in the workplace.

 

Bottom line: Getting employees to understand the concept of intrapreneurship is the first step to empowering a new cadre of innovators within institutions; nurturing intrapreneurship just may be the key to powering the global economy forward.

 

COMMENT
Date: 30 Jul 2015
Author: Joe Agoada

Joseph Agoada is the Resource Mobilization Coordinator for the UNICEF New York HQ Social and Civic Media Section in the Division of Communication. He has held this post since August of 2011 when he also founded and launched UNICEF-GIS. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and currently resides in Washington, D.C.


View full bio >>