Beats by Dr. Dre, Gmail, the Facebook “like” button, Java, Sony PlayStation. These products, icons and services, and many more, are now part of our lives – and some of us could not imagine living without them. But very few know these names were the result of innovative, smart intrapreneurship, way before the word was even invented or became mainstream jargon.
Intrapreneurs are employees who work within companies but still retain some level of entrepreneurship. These professionals benefit companies, themselves and the public in several ways.
Here are 10 competitive advantages this breed of “inside entrepreneurs” ascribes to their sponsoring companies.
#1. Fostering Innovation
Intrapreneurs help a company win the innovation game, fostering research and development and working on the next big product or service that traditional R&D might overlook.
In a global economy in which technology has asserted its pre-eminence, companies that are able to innovate and bring their innovation to market effectively and quickly are poised to expand their market share and make money in the medium term.
#2. Breeding Talent
A company with an intrapreneurial approach is better off because Intrapreneurs are not only talented, but their work and dedication also bring the best in colleagues.
In other words, they make other people talented because of their commitment to a project, product or service. Consider the immense impact that Paul Buchheit, Gmail’s creator, had on his team at Google, and how he was able to form a cohesive team to develop and deploy the email service in 2004, after working on it the previous three years.
#3. Saving on R&D Money
With intrapreneurship, a business saves money on traditional research and development. Gone are the days when the company would need to follow the typical review and approval process, as well as spend millions of dollars on hiring, training and developing R&D staff.
Now, with the savvy and insight of one or two employees eager to work extra hours, the organization can still beef up its product pipeline.
#4. Gaining Competitive Intelligence
Insiders who have an entrepreneurial approach put their insight to the benefit of the sponsoring organization. Normally, companies spend tons of cash to spy on each other, often through third parties in a process called ‘competitive intelligence.’
Through intrapreneurship, organizations gain valuable intelligence at no cost, especially if the employee is a high-level professional who was just hired from a rival.
Granted, many companies hedge their operational risks by making top-rate staff sign confidentiality and non-compete agreements. But the bottom line is that some shred of operational information still gets leaked when employees jump ship onto a competitor’s platform.
#5. Fostering Market Research
Intrapreneurship fosters market research because Intrapreneurs do all the research – or at least most of it – before presenting the idea to corporate management.
Here, again, the main benefit is that the sponsoring organization spends no cash, or little cash, on market research yet it gets all the advantages.
Take the example of Shutterstock, which holds every year a 24-hour hack-a-thon, a type of brainstorming marathon aimed at producing brilliant, innovative ideas. Before each hack-a-thon, employees spend countless hours researching the market, testing ideas, and fixing potential glitches.
#6. Increasing Revenues
Obviously, a clear benefit of intrapreneurship is an increase in revenue. Intrapreneurs also make money in terms of bonus and royalties, but the bulk of sales cash goes into the sponsoring company’s coffers.
That makes sense, in a way, because the business served as some sort of venture capitalist initially, and thus is entitled to a good portion of the cash pie.
#7. Boosting Employee Morale
Employee morale goes up when personnel know there is a corporate culture in which entrepreneurship is valued and rewarded.
In addition, staff members are keen on completing their usual workload quickly so they can spend more time on where their passion really lies – thus boosting productivity.
This phenomenon typically occurs in technology companies, but can also be seen in other businesses as diverse as Lockheed Martin (Skunk Works project) and W. L. Gore (Gore-Tex fabric).
#8. Expanding Product Pipeline
Businesses reap operational benefits from intrapreneurship, especially in terms of expanding their product pipelines.
Industries such as technology and pharmaceuticals rely heavily on well-stuffed product pipelines to survive and ensure future profitability, because most patents expire after 20 years, significantly reducing corporate revenues afterwards.
Companies in which intrapreneurs are vibrant and well nurtured can gradually replace expiring patents with new ones created by inside entrepreneurs.
#9. Attracting External Talent
An organization with an intrapreneurial mindset attracts like-minded professionals. Legendary intrapreneurs, like Steve Jobs, relish an occupational context where unbridled creativity is fostered and recognized.
Therefore, they are more likely to choose an intrapreneurial company over a regular organization, even if the latter offers, say, better benefits and a generous compensation package. For some intrapreneurs, money is not necessarily the biggest hook.
#10. Benefiting Society
Intrapreneurs benefit the entire society with their innovative products and services. In return, they receive accolades from the media and the public, but the sponsoring organization is the ultimate beneficiary of this public-relations bonanza.
Nobody thinks of Paul Buchheit when referring to Gmail or Ken Kutaragi when alluding to Sony PlayStation, right? Everyone thinks of Google and Sony, respectively.
To Wrap It Up
Intrapreneurs provide many benefits to their sponsoring organizations and society in general.
Even though the intrapreneurial trend is more prominent nowadays in the IT sector, other industries are catching on and seizing the myriad financial and operational opportunities that in-house talent can bring.
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