All the buzz about Intrapreneurship has put a spot light on identifying and developing intrapreneurs.

Workshops, incubators and accelerators are being used to engage employees in entrepreneurial pursuits.  There is a proliferation of conferences and educational programs focused on developing intrapreneurs.  Organizations are adding entrepreneurship to their talent development programs.  Recruiters are helping their clients find entrepreneurial leaders. These are all positive signs.  But what about you….

What are you doing to build and develop your own entrepreneurial capabilities?

Here are a few ways that intrapreneurs are building the entrepreneurial competencies they will need to compete in a world that sees intrapreneurs as a key determinant of future growth.

Know Themselves at the Core

Intrapreneurs are consistently developing their entrepreneurial capabilities.  They chose assignments that enhance and further develop capabilities that enable them to work effectively as an entrepreneur inside an established organization.  They know that self-awareness is a key attribute of successful leaders, especially entrepreneurial leaders.  They are willing to take an in depth look at their own competencies and find ways to leverage their strengths and work on areas that need development.  They are willing to hold a mirror up to themselves.

Develop a Creative Instinct

The ability to be creative is something that intrapreneurs do naturally.  They are willing to question and challenge everything around them.  Just because an organization has done things one way for ever doesn’t mean it makes sense today.  Intrapreneurs are always asking why or why not.  They take a holistic view of a situation to insure that they see things from every angle.  Just think about the rise of Uber, Airbnb, driverless cars and so on.  It wasn’t that the old way wasn’t working.  It was that there was a new, better, more efficient, or more cost effective way.  Being creative is a state of mind.

Explore Untapped Opportunities

Intrapreneurs look at every problem as an opportunity.  They not only want to solve it, they want to improve it as well.  They know that problems are often a sign that things are out of alignment.  The context may have changed; a new strategy, a new way of doing things, the introduction of new technology, a competitive threat, change in leadership or unmet need.  All of these factors create problems and open new opportunities.  Perhaps you’ve seen the commercial for UntuckIt where an entrepreneur decided to create a new men’s shirt that can be worn untucked and look good at the same time just because he couldn’t find one.  Intrapreneurs not only see problems they find solutions.

Embrace Complexity

Today we are faced with more complexity and uncertainty than ever before.  So it is natural to want to simplify things quickly to make it easier to deal with this complexity.  But intrapreneurs don’t think that way.  They want to linger in complexity longer. They want to look at all the options in front of them even if it is messy and overwhelming. They know that if you simplify things too quickly you may eliminate a path that may wind up being the best way forward.  Intrapreneurs are willing to evaluate things more diligently before narrowing things to a few simple options.  They want to be sure they select the right path forward.

Expand Their Potential

Most intrapreneurs know they can do more, be more and contribute more to their organizations.  Yet many of them find themselves stuck in roles that neither challenge nor engage them at work.  They know they have more potential that is not being utilized. So they develop that potential by raising their hand to do work that others may find too risky, too difficult, or more likely to fail at.  Intrapreneurs want to learn and grow and by working outside their comfort zone they are able to expand their own potential.  In doing this intrapreneurs increase their value to themselves and the organization.

Nurture Their Inner Compass

Advances in analytics have helped organizations refine their focus, drive decisions and predict markets.  But data alone does not always accurately define the playing field or identify undefined or unmet needs. Intrapreneurs rely on their knowledge and experience to guide them.  They spend years exploring paths that are dead ends, experimenting with ideas, and making mistakes.  Collectively these experiences build and enhance their intuition.  It is a capability and ability they develop over time.  Intrapreneurs know when to use data and when to rely on intuition.  They develop their own internal GPS.

Test Their Assumptions

Although there are plenty of ideas floating around organizations many are not worthy of pursuit.  An idea cannot stand alone.  It is the context that matters and sheds light on its viability. That’s why intrapreneurs versed in the ‘business model canvas’ will spend the time flushing out the context and test their assumptions by using this template as roadmap.  Not only do they see the strengths and weaknesses of an idea through this process, they are able to get feedback and insight by sharing it with others. Intrapreneurs will explore an idea until it no longer makes sense.

Leverage Limited Resources

A recent study by PwC stated that most CEOs are planning on increasing their investments in new growth businesses which is good news.  The annual budgeting process has been an effective way to secure funding and resources for ongoing operations but less so when it comes to new businesses. There never seems to be enough resources to go around.  Intrapreneurs know they will need more than they are allocated but they are willing to work with what they have not what they think they need.  They will beg, borrow and coop resources.  Intrapreneurs will do whatever it takes with whatever they have to get things done.

Manage Risk

Despite what most people think Intrapreneurs are not risk takers.  They take calculated risks.  They weigh the upside and downside of a situation before making a decision.  They know in advance what to expect.  Some intrapreneurs look at affordable loss to evaluate risk.  With affordable loss you determine what are you are willing to lose in order to take a particular course of action.  No matter which of these approaches they take to manage risk it is clear that Intrapreneurs understand the value of managing risk.  The more effective they become at managing risk the more responsibility they get and the more challenging projects they are given.  No one feels totally comfortable taking risks but there are ways to better manage risk.  Intrapreneurs have found effective ways to take, manage and control risk.

Execute with Precision

Most new projects never wind up where they originally planned to be because as the project evolves so does the information you learn in the process.  The target continues to shift as you gain new insights. There are course corrections, twists and turns in your thinking, roadblocks that get in the way.  That’s why intrapreneurs focus on the process and not the end goal.  They test and experiment along the way.  Each experiment brings them closer to refining the end goal.  One that is more closely aligned with the real need in the market.  Intrapreneurs use experimentation to help them execute with precision.

Create Value

The goal of intrapreneurial projects is to create value in terms of revenue, growth or social impact.  But what is often overlooked is to understand if the project delivered the business benefits intended – to both customers and the organization. This is because most organizations do not define the business benefits, they as an organization, hope to achieve from these projects. Things like the value of leveraging a new technology, implementing a new development process, creating a more entrepreneurial work environment, developing entrepreneurial leaders etc. Intrapreneurs know that intrapreneurial projects provide as much benefit to the organization as they do to their customers.

Accelerate Learning

Intrapreneurs have a thirst for knowledge and are eager to try new things. They know that intrapreneurship is not an intellectual exercise. It comes from experience – the kind of experiences that challenge what they know and don’t know.  It is these experiences that ultimately build the competencies and capabilities that intrapreneurs need.  No class room can make them entrepreneurs.  They need to get out there and do it.  Intrapreneurs accelerate learning by building a portfolio of experiences that demonstrate that they know what to do, how to do it and how to succeed.

We’ve only scratched the surface of all the ways that intrapreneurs develop their entrepreneurial muscle.  Perhaps you know of more ways that have worked for you.

So send us your thoughts.


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