The evolution of intrapreneurship has progressed from its inception but the adoption of intrapreneurship is still far from complete. It reminds me of Geoffrey Moore’s book ‘Crossing the Chasm’. Although Moore talks about the traditional Technology Adoption Life Cycle, it is safe to say that ideas or concepts like Intrapreneurship go through their own adoption cycle.
Much like the adoption curve for new technology highlighted in Moore’s book, ‘innovators and early adopters’ are engaged in some form of intrapreneurship. We see pockets of intrapreneurship sprinkled throughout these organizations but it is far from being integrated into the fabric of the organization.
There is also a gulf between those organizations that are engaged in intrapreneurship and those that are still sitting on the side line. A huge chasm exists between the ‘early adopters and the early majority’. Moore describes the early majority as ‘the pragmatists’ who wait until things have been established before they buy into a product or concept like Intrapreneurship. This reluctance to adopt intrapreneurship is happening in some of the world’s largest organizations. It is especially true when it comes to social intrapreneurship.
Unlike a technology that is gradually adopted by more and more companies Intrapreneurship is a behavioral and cultural movement. It has its roots in the hearts and minds of employees. It is an attitude, a competence, a way of thinking and acting that is not something you can buy. It is something you need to cultivate and develop.
It is employees that are the force behind intrapreneurship. They are the ones that are creating, building and delivering new value and growth in their organizations. Often it is small pockets of employees that band together for a common goal based on a core set of beliefs that anything is possible. They ignore and work around organizational obstacles that get in their way. They push forward despite setbacks that would discourage or dissuade others from moving forward.
Intrapreneurs are the force that will help drive Intrapreneurship across the chasm. They are the individuals who are currently working in those organizations that Moore calls ‘early adopters’. It is there that they are learning and developing their entrepreneurial skills. They are proactively developing the competencies that are and will be needed to thrive and succeed in a new world economy. An economy that is dominated by individuals and organizations that are entrepreneurial. Organizations that cannot only generate social and economic value but can effectively manage the core business as they transition to a more entrepreneurial orientation.
That is what intrapreneurship is all about. Building an entrepreneurial set of capabilities that will enable organizations to generate social and economic value for their clients and aggressively pursue an entrepreneurial mindset and actions. Unfortunately, intrapreneurship is not something that is easily measured in the short term, it takes time, patience and practice for it to be perfected. Only in hindsight will organizations see the value of their investments in Intrapreneurship. Those organizations that don’t pursue it now will fall further behind.
Given my work with intrapreneurs and social innovators it is clear that they prefer to build not manage, so once they have completed their work they will look for new opportunities. Most of those opportunities will be in the ‘early majority’ companies – across the chasm. This is fertile ground for intrapreneurs to further refine their skills and deliver greater value to these organizations.
Intrapreneurs are not content unless they are doing something new, in a new way, for a new purpose that makes a difference. The biggest impact intrapreneurs will have on business will be showing organizations what it takes to develop intrapreneurship in their organizations. That will be their mission, it is what motivates them and what drives them. It is what will transform the current way we do business.
Intrapreneurship is a movement that has momentum because it is driven by workers. Workers intent on making a difference for themselves, their organizations and society. There is no turning back. There are too many workers. Too many factors that are aligned for intrapreneurship to be the catalyst for change. Too much pressure to revitalize our largest organizations, energize workers, solve social problems and build a better future for the next generation.
Intrapreneurs will be the ones that build that bridge across the chasm.
But will they find it more challenging, more difficult to convince the ‘early majority’ across the chasm that Intrapreneurship is the way to go. This group is more skeptical, wants references, relationships, they want to know that you are experienced, established and can deliver what you promise. Will intrapreneurs have enough experience to show that they are capable? Enough of a proven track record of success to convince them that they can be trusted? Will they have enough proof that their way is the best way?
Yes, this is the new frontier for intrapreneurs. It is the next step in their own evolution. It is the next big challenge, the next big opportunity for them. Intrapreneurs are not content to wait for an opportunity, they actively seek them out. Why do you think so many Intrapreneurs are willing to leave their job and start a business or are electing to be self-employed? They would tell you that there are not enough challenges or opportunities for them where they are. Better to take the risk and find a new challenge, then to languish where they are.
Crossing the chasm is the next big challenge for Intrapreneurs. It is the also the next step in the evolution and adoption of Intrapreneurship into a new group of organizations.