Entrepreneurship Insights: Is Intrapreneurship a good stepping stone towards Entrepreneurship?
Why consider Intrapreneurship?
Many of us dream to be Entrepreneurs – however, when we consider the reward vs. risk question, most of us cannot easily wean off our predictable monthly pay checks. In today’s creative, innovative and often disruptive environment, neither age nor skills nor experience are the qualifiers for someone willing to take the plunge and launch a business – it is more about a smart idea that is implementable, scalable and sustainable, provides value to consumers, definitive returns to stakeholders, appealing to investors and the street smartness to see it through!
Wannabe entrepreneurs (the ones who are in employment) do however, want to test the waters before the commit especially if one is alone in this journey. If there are a group of founders, a couple of them stay back in a job to ‘fund’ the business until the business takes off. From our experience, we all know that moonlighting often does not work for long as a business is a full time occupation.
Intrapreneurship provides us a path to ‘learn the ropes’ of entrepreneurship while having the comfort cushion of still being in employment. Having said that, the risk and probability of failure remains the same as the moment one starts an ‘Intrapreneurship project/assignment’ as one is being ‘watched closely’ by others often with a touch of skepticism.
Are Intrapreneurs mavericks or outliers?
As per psychologists, we have the ability to think a thought a minute or between 35 to 48 thoughts per minute so the ability to pick the right idea and follow it through needs significant focus and effort. Often successful ideas are picked up by a well-funded ‘fast follower’ who executes it better than the ‘first mover. So the moot point is that while an Intrapreneur may be ‘slotted’ as a maverick or an outlier, it often needs a result oriented ‘action’ person to take the idea to fruition.
Often Intrapreneurs who are outliers work on contrarian ideas to disrupt whereas the mavericks work in the creative innovation space. So in a sense both roles can define the personality of an Intrapreneur based on the opportunity, market relevance and acceptance.
However, it all boils down to how strong your belief system is and how you are able to hold on to your idea and on board / enroll others into your cause. This is what truly sets apart the Intrapreneur. To get a project off the ground, it requires a growth mindset and a can do attitude as well as an ability to persevere and persist when faced with failure.
Is mentoring or coaching relevant to Intrapreneurship?
To get a sense of bearing / direction, many of us seek help from people who are already experienced despite having done our research and market studies. The choice is to either get a mentor or a coach.
A mentor is one who can demonstrate and train us before we become independent and confident while a coach will work on helping us discover insights through our own ideas. Depending on the nature of business / idea, an Intrapreneur can consider aligning with a Mentor or Coach.
The key aspect to remember is accountability and this means the execution and outcomes of the ideas are both owned by the Intrapreneur as the Mentor or Coach is only a knowledge facilitator or motivational guide who keeps the Intrapreneur focused, directed and action oriented.
Does an Intrapreneur need skills to raise resources?
Resources refer to people, knowledge, money, networks, references, research, computing resources, infrastructure and other such resources. Mobilizing these is often a challenge and is one of the core skills of an Intrapreneur. Today several organizations have in house incubators or programs to provide platforms for aspiring Intrapreneurs.
Resources are always scarce and come with trade-offs or ‘riders’ and Intrapreneurs need to be sensitive to this and use resources with a sense of balance, empathy and sensitivity. The Intrapreneur does need a lot of tenacity to raise resources and to stay engaged with various stakeholders both internal and external to the organization.
Is Intrapreneurship a good stepping stone for Entrepreneurship?
Intrapreneurship needs as much commitment and dedication except the comfort of the sponsor organization and people. As one steps into the role of an Intrapreneur, the accountability factor and decision making is key as the ‘project or program’ is the Intrapreneur’s baby.
While other stakeholders would also have a skin in the ‘game’, the Intrapreneur needs to step up and balance scope, schedule and resource conflicts and be very visible while being open to feedback. So yes, Intrapreneurship is a good stepping stone for Entrepreneurship or one can continue to do more such engagements until one is confident of launching a venture.
On a more personal note, wherein I had the opportunity to seek Intrapreneurship roles and be an Outlier on multiple occasions, to my role as an Advisor to several organizations where I have mentored and coached Intrapreneurs and Entrepreneurs and within my own organization, wherein I have and continue to encourage Intrapreneurship for new products and programs, I have derived immense benefit.
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