Examples of Intrapreneurship
Having already written about the differences between entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship. Plus defined intrapreneurship in another post, I wanted to write in more detail about examples of intrapreneurship. Intrapreneurs fall into the category of types of entrepreneurs. This essentially means they are willing to take a risk.
Although, before I go into some intrapreneurship examples, I would still like to explain, in a bit more detail, about the meaning of intrapreneurship.
Intrapreneurs were first defined by Gifford Pinchot as “Dreamers who do“
In this article, I will cover the following topics in turn:
- What is intrapreneurship?
- The focus is on companies that encourage intrapreneurship.
- No one gets successful overnight…the same is true for budding intrapreneurs.
- Intrapreneurship examples.
- Companies that embrace intrapreneurial employees reap the rewards.
- The positive cycle of encouraging intrapreneurship creates entrepreneurs who create yet more intrapreneurs.
- 3M intrapreneurship.
- 3M…the Post-it-Note was born out of a solution without a problem.
- Dreamworks intrapreneurship.
- Apple intrapreneurship.
- Intrapreneurship is about having the courage to go out and risk it all.
- With hindsight it’s easy to look back at things to say that the route taken was obvious…but back then in the 1980’s, it wasn’t.
- Other notable examples of intrapreneurship.
- Sony – Ken Kutaragi.
- Skunk works – Lockheed Martin.
- Google’s 20 percent time and Googles Intrapreneurship Institute.
What is intrapreneurship?
This is a relatively new term that larger corporations have begun to use more within the last decade or two. Whilst an entrepreneur (a term that’s been around for a long time) has the task of overseeing, running or managing an entire company, an intrapreneur is someone who is focused on all those tasks too, but to a limited sector or sub-sector of (usually) larger corporations.
Some examples of intrapreneurship go to the extent of creating their own independent company within a company
Sometimes, this can go as far as creating their very own company within a company. When looking at entrepreneurs, the bold, inspiring examples of leadership, risk taking and obvious success are everywhere. But, what about the intrapreneurs?
The focus is on companies that encourage intrapreneurship…
In recent times there have been a lot of works of intrapreneurship that stand out from the crowd. When looking for such examples, one should focus on the companies that encourage intrapreneurship.
It has been shown that intrapreneurship has an incredibly positive impact on the workings of a company. This is achieved through proper leadership, motivation and visionary projects.
Companies that encourage intrapreneurship will thrive
However, in the same way that not not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, the same is true for an intrapreneur.
Intrapreneurs should be on top of the latest markets and trends. They should be able to predict the direction in which it would be best for the business to head.
They should be prepared to work hard, and sometimes to have the confidence to stick their heads above the parapet.
Intrapreneurship is a two-way street between entrepreneurs vs intrapreneurs…where intrapreneurs build great businesses, which have been started by leading entrepreneurs
However, it’s not only the intrapreneur who needs to do his part for the company to flourish.
In order to get all possible benefits from intrapreneurship, companies that want to encourage it, should truly be ready to not only give budding young intrapreneurs a chance, but also a bit of lee-way with decisions, a supportive working environment, and lots of room to grow.
No one gets successful overnight…the same is true for budding intrapreneurs…
Generally nobody gets overnight success, and intrapreneurs are no exception to this rule. Most successful entrepreneurs know how to recognize potential new intrapreneurs. They should be on the lookout for them at all times. Just as companies help their intrapreneurs grow, so do good intrapreneurs help their companies to grow.
Maybe the easiest way to understand intrapreneurship is to look at some of the examples of intrapreneurship that exist in today’s world.
Whilst there are many intrapreneurs, and many products and services we use in our daily lives that were dreamed up by intrapreneurs, most people won’t really be able to tell who or what they are.
Ranging all the way from Facebook’s iconic “like button”, to one of Sony’s best selling product lines worldwide – the Play Station. Even Google, the indisputable giant of technology, tried it’s hand at intrapreneurship. This was at a time when it was nothing more than a search engine (a well built and thought-out search engine, but nothing more).
Companies that embrace intrapreneurial employees reap the rewards…
All of these examples of companies that encourage intrapreneurship went on to reap great benefits from the ideas of it’s intrapreneurs. It’s about staying on top, and about getting the best out of your people.
Gmail is the brainchild of one of these internal entrepreneurs (hence the name), and it has redefined the way people look at Google. This is no accident.
Companies that encourage intrapreneurship, provide the environment to nurture and encourage employees…they provide a forum for brainstorming and for creating ideas
Both Facebook, Google and many other corporations sponsor and actively encourage intrapreneurial employees. Usually in the form of hack-a-thons or massive brainstorming sessions. They actively push employees to develop their creative spirit, and promote the most promising ones to becoming intrapreneurs.
The positive cycle of encouraging intrapreneurship creates entrepreneurs who create yet more intrapreneurs…
This is a great cycle, where successful entrepreneurs push young people into becoming intrapreneurs, so they can learn the skills and get experience in a somewhat safe environment.
Many of those intrapreneurs then go on to become successful entrepreneurs on their own, and continue the cycle by promoting new, young, promising intrapreneurs.
Many entrepreneurs were once an intrapreneur within a large organisation…these new entrepreneurs are the most likely to provide the environment to spawn yet new intrapreneurs…and so the cycle continues
Nowadays, you can’t even imagine daily life without all the tidbits and services that Google provides, many of which were products of creative intrapreneurs, who had a vision.
Here are some examples of great intrapreneurship achievements that stand out of the crowd:
You might not have heard of this huge corporation, previously known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company…hence the name 3M. However, you have surely used one of their best selling products.
3M specialize in all types of products, including: adhesives, medical products, car care products, electronic materials and many more.
In their line of work, they hire all sorts of people, from salesmen, business and administration staff, to production workers and scientists.
Now, when you think of scientists, you don’t imagine them running around in suits. You can’t imagine them trying to always hop on to the latest trend, in order to bring the company they work for, big profits for the next quarter.
That was the case with Dr. Spencer Silver, who in 1968 created an adhesive that was not strong. This new adhesive was easily detachable, but also easily reusable.
For 6 years, they tried to market it, but to no avail. Despite being called the “solution without a problem”, it never really got anywhere.
However, this isn’t the story of Dr Spencer Silver. Another scientist, Arthur (Art) Fry came up with the idea of using this adhesive to create a bookmark note that he could re-use.
3M…the Post-it-Note was born out of a solution without a problem…
Armed with nothing but a great idea, and some scrap yellow paper, the ‘post-it note‘ was born.
3M’s Post-it-Note was a product of accidental greatness
A product of accidental greatness. Even the now iconic yellow colour, was chosen because it was the only one nearby.
So, for 3M, a new line of product was born, which brought them huge profits…and from such a simple item. Even though their patent on the product expired in 1997, 3M’s original post-it notes are still sold throughout the world.
However, Dr. Spencer Silver and Art Fry wouldn’t have been able to do this, if it wasn’t for 3M’s special policy of “permitted bootlegging”. This allowed Art Fry complete freedom, while he was thinking up how to use Silver’s solution without a problem.
In the end, it paid off – hugely. While both Dr Silver’s creation of the adhesive, and Art Fry’s idea to use it for a bookmark, none of it would have come to light if it wasn’t for 3M’s intrapreneurship friendly policies.
Even in times where large corporations are fighting for the new generation of intrapreneurs, with all types of promotions, opportunities and encouragement, Dreamworks manages to top them all.
For Dreamworks, it’s about staying on top, and is one of the intrapreneurship examples that truly stands out from the crowd.
With a revolutionary idea, and a bit of company budget invested, Dreamworks offers every type of free classe to all their employees.
From writing, drawing and animation to business tactics and idea-pitching. Dreamworks employees have all the tools and freedom to become the new wave of successful young intrapreneurs – a chance that many of them take.
However, it is not that easy. Becoming an intrapreneur at Dreamworks still takes a lot of work, skill, talent and knowledge.
They do, however, make it much easier. At certain times, any employee who has completed the courses, or already has the skills required, is not only allowed, but is openly encouraged to go to the executives and pitch his or her ideas to them.
The only prerequisite, is that the ideas need to be well-thought-out and presented within Dreamworks standards.
Fortunately for the employees, Dreamworks also has courses on this. When looking for any company that invests heavily into its own talent, it’s really hard to beat Dreamworks…Dreamworks is truly one of the top companies that encourage intrapreneurship.
Intrapreneurship at Apple…
3M may have started the trend, and Dreamworks might have take entrepreneurship to the next level, but if there is one company that will remain remembered for intrapreneurship promotion – it has to be Apple.
Apple’s late chairman Steve Jobs will also be remembered (among many other things) for popularising the term intrapreneurship.
When asked about his success, he famously said (regarding the Macintosh computer) – “The Macintosh team was what is commonly known as intrapreneurship…a group of people going, in essence, back to the garage, but in a large company.”
Intrapreneurship is about having the courage to go out and risk it all…
This, in essence, is what intrapreneurship is all about. Having the courage (and the opportunity and liberty), to go out and risk it all, for a brave new idea that you thought off.
It might seem scary at first, but for Apple, it meant the beginning of a powerful and lucrative product franchise, that has lasted for decades (and is still going strong today) – the Macintosh computer.
In 1980, the then young Steve Jobs handpicked a team of twenty engineers and literally went back to the garage.
The prospective and innovative group worked hard together, isolated from the rest of the company, on what will have soon become known as “Apple’s Macintosh Computer”.
With hindsight it’s easy to look back at things to say that the route taken was obvious…but back then in the 1980’s, it wasn’t…
Now it might seem obvious, when we’ve seen the extent of Steve Jobs’ creativity, that he wasn’t making a mistake. But back in the early eighties, Apple CEO John Scully and his investors became increasingly frustrated and annoyed at Steve’s brash new way of looking at things.
And this didn’t turn out to be a shouting match in the CEO’s office, or a string of biting letters. In the end, Apple’s then CEO, John Scully, convinced the board of directors to fire Steve Jobs.
Not able to see the vision in the original intrapreneur, after a lot of disagreements with both Scully and Apple’s board of directors, Jobs decided to leave the company. He decided to take on new ventures, bringing his intrapreneurship philosophy with him wherever he went.
However, Apple was struggling. Even with the Apple Macintosh Computer already out, it was hard to take the market from the Mighty-Microsoft and their PC.
All that, however, changed when in 1997, Steve Jobs came back to Apple, and re-established his old intrapreneuring ways. Not too long after that, Apple came out with the iPod, and the rest is history.
This may be one of the most important and truthful lessons of intrapreneurship – having a vision is not enough; you must be ready to work hard, and to put everything on the line.
When Jobs created the Macintosh, he almost lost the entire company he’d built himself. But he was not willing to give up. The results of that intrapreneur spirit, today, are more than evident.
Other notable examples of intrapreneurship…
Whilst the above three examples of intrapreneurship have their specific greatest features – 3M was the first, Dreamworks is doing the most, and Apple is the most successful, there are a lot of other noteworthy examples of intrapreneurship and the great benefits it has brought to us:
Sony – Ken Kutaragi…
A successful young engineer, Ken Kutaragi was one of the first people to recognise the great impact of video games on today’s world.
Seeing Nintendo’s success, he pushed for the idea of creating Sony’s very own gaming console. The executives did not share his vision, or his ambition.
To them, video games were a passing fad, something that would die out next autumn with the cold winds. Ken, however, refused to give up.
He even went so far that he worked in secret on the project, against the wishes of management. When he was found out, he nearly lost his job.
However, he did not give up. He worked hard against adversity, and soon enough, he managed to create Sony’s Play Station.
The success and sales this brought Sony is already well known. This is all because of the efforts of one engineer who had a vision he was willing to fight for…true intrapreneurial spirit.
Skunk works – Lockheed Martin…
While most of the companies listed here fall under the more modern and new companies, intrapreneurship has brought a lot of success to old corporations as well.
Skunk Works is basically a company within a company. It was the brainchild of Ben Rich and Kelly Johnson. The most innovative piece of aeroplane designing sub-sector in the world.
Most of the futuristic war and surveillance planes ever built, were designed at Skunk Works, including the marvel of design and technology, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.
Google’s 20 percent time and Googles Intrapreneurship Institute…
What is Google’s 20 percent time? In their own words, simply:
“We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google”
Even now, when they are one of the world’s largest corporations, they still heavily encourage the intrapreneurship spirit within.
This has brought them great innovations in the past, from the iconic Gmail to many others. Google even went a step above and beyond, and formed their very own “Google’s Intrapreneurship Institute.” This put a firm hold on their belief, to encourage this practice, which has brought them a lot, and will undoubtedly bring them even more success in the future.
I have many other examples of the types of entrepreneurs that you may wish to read about too.
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