According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 50% of start-up businesses fail within five years. Although this statistic may seem staggering, rarely is it a significant concern to anyone seeking to start a new business venture. Research has proven that the primary reason for the majority of startup failures simply comes from lack of planning, resources, and fundamental business and marketing knowledge. Remarkably, the failures are rarely a consequence of lack of heart, desire, creativity, or raw willpower! Most entrepreneurs will risk anything and everything for their heart’s lifelong dream, only to test the delicate dynamics between success and failure. That’s why we are considered entrepreneurs – correct?
This world needs those “entrepreneurs” who will risk it all, take no prisoners, and think of failure as purely a step to success. Those that will step out into the “wilderness” of business to seek conquering results – or at least the potential of staking a claim. What would this world consist of without the likes of modern day entrepreneurs such as Gates, Dell, Ellison, Jobs, Winfrey, and how can we forget Zuckerberg. Nonetheless, there are many individuals who possess that eccentric entrepreneurial mind but simply never bet their entire life’s energy and savings on the proverbial red or black roulette spin. However, their entrepreneurial spirit exists similar to those noteworthy individuals mentioned. What happens to them in the course of a lifetime? How do they impact society or organizations? One thing is for certain – these individuals are not sitting quietly, minding their own business in some corner office behind a desk, only to be seen when a periodic meeting exists or their shift is over. Alternatively, they have a relentless feeling of uneasiness, constantly evaluating the status quo and questioning stability.
To find these individuals, we need to look inside the many organizations in existence. Inside those organizations are what we consider “intrepreneurs”. In 1992, The American Heritage Dictionary acknowledged the popular use of a new word, intrapreneur, to mean “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”. Often times these individuals are introverts who quietly detail plans and initiatives that cause significant organizational change. Their strong desire to create overshadows the human necessity of some to make a name for themselves, or receive that proverbial pat on the back. These characteristics separate a day-to-day, time-clock punching worker in your organizations from someone who is constantly thinking and strategizing on new ideas, unique processes, unconventional concepts, and distinctive theories.
Intrapreneurs are considered to have four unique characteristics.
- Intrapreneurs do not fundamentally seek monetary benefits for themselves. What they do, they do out of pure desire and passion. They understand that their actions could potentially make them indispensable within the organization – basically, the money will follow. Passion comes first – money follows! However, even the risk of not obtaining any monetary rewards is a risk worth confronting.
- Intrapreneurs are fearless when it comes to failure. They think of failure as a means of success, not a detriment to success. Their mind continually seeks challenges, regardless of the risk of failure. Ideas germinate in their mind over time and continue to cultivate until they somehow figure out how to transform thoughts into actionable plans and initiatives. If failure presents itself, intrapreneurs will create alternative solutions, time and time again. This relentless and fearless pursuit against failure only produces new and improved ideas.
- Intrapreneurs are not afraid of change. In fact, they desire it. They have an inner confidence and the courage to step out of the “box” and accept the successes and failures achieved – simply because, in their mind, change is a constant necessity. Change becomes a norm for intrapreneurs, and is seen as a welcomed challenge. Complacency is not a word that intrapreneurs recognize, nor are willing to accept.
- Intrapreneurs possess characteristics of confidence and humility. They are authentic in their behavior and are characterized as those who are confident and secure in their decision making, however, they also have the humility to respect others. Intrapreneurs are not considered the corporate “maverick” that presents ideas unprepared and without any foresight. Their confident and selfless behavior affords them characteristics of authenticity and integrity that brings about genuine respect from others.
Therefore, if intrapreneurs are so desirable within organizations, how are they obtained and retained? For starters, organizations that thrive on change and possess leadership that propagates a transformational culture become magnets for intrapreneurs. Consequently, as intrapreneurs are employed within an organization, more will follow. Somehow, they find each other – very similar to the Google mentality! Nevertheless, having an organization full of intrapreneurs is not for the faint of heart. Leaders need to be mentally prepared and also have the same persistent desire for change, innovation, and creativity. This common change philosophy between leader and follower (intrapreneur) will only result in an organizational culture where unconventional ideas quickly become reality.
Those leaders who still maintain the traditional authoritarian style leadership philosophy will not have the capacity, or fortitude, to effectively motivate intrapreneurs. Retaining intrapreneurs will be the result of the leader’s ability to cultivate a transformational culture, where many traditional leadership philosophies are disproven and even dismissed. The results of successfully motivating and retaining intrapreneurs will be increased organizational effectiveness, competiveness, and innovation – something every organization desires.