Intrapreneurship is not an intellectual exercise it is an experiential one. It’s not just about thinking like an intrapreneur, it’s about acting like one.
Entrepreneurs must not only ‘think and reason’ about opportunities they must ‘act on them’. Opportunities are often created by the entrepreneurial process itself – it is the interaction across stakeholders where value is created. It is a co-creation process. Creating new markets, new businesses, new products and services.
Having an intrapreneurial mindset and thinking like an intrapreneur is one side of the equation. The other is being decisive and then putting your thoughts into action. You cannot be an intrapreneur until you have mastered both.
We call these Intrapreneurial Attributes. These attributes reflect how Intrapreneurs see and respond to the external world. It is your outward expression of your inner intrapreneur, Thoughts (mindset, thinking methods) and action (decision making, taking action.)
- Mindset – How you perceive the world.
- Thinking Style – How you process information.
- Decision Making – How you approach decision making.
- Taking Action – How you put your thoughts into action.
It was Peter Drucker that said, “You must not only think but act like one entrepreneur.” According to Drucker, “Intrapreneurship is something that can be taught and learned.” It’s about learning to be an intrapreneur. Developing the skills and competencies needed to be an intrapreneur. It’s a journey of self-discovery. It’s a deliberate choice.
We have found that many people have an intrapreneurial mindset and thinking but fall short when it comes to decision making and taking action. This is often a reflection of the processes and practices within an organization as well as the reluctance of the individual to step outside the bounds of what is acceptable behavior. This prevents individuals from taking the necessary steps to turn their ideas into products and services.
So, what does all this really mean and how do you know if you measure up. Based on research and numerous studies we’ve compiled a list of attributes that support each of these.
- Mindset: Intrapreneurs make significant leaps in thinking that are not always linear, or fact based. They connect seemingly unrelated dots, leverage what they have, rapidly test and refine their ideas, embrace complexity, learn as they go, abandon an activity when it no longer makes sense and fail quickly and recoup quickly.
- Thinking Methods: Intrapreneurs challenge what they have always known to be true. They are integrative thinkers, analytical and intuitive, see patterns and relationships that form new concepts, they can analyze and synthesize large amounts of data, evaluate ideas by experimenting, and resist relying on past experience to guide them.
- Decision Making: Intrapreneurs do not wait until everything is perfect before they are willing to make decisions. They resist diving into the data to early, make decisions without sufficient data, exercise good judgment and risk taking, willing to shift gears or shut a project down when presented with new data, and they seek to understand complexity, not simplify things too quickly.
- Take Action: Intrapreneurs are inherently creative and action oriented. They find iterative planning more useful, embrace surprises to refine their thinking and action, look at all the options and leverage those that push them further, take calculated risks, deal with uncertainty by acting and are totally focused on execution, getting it done right.
A study was done at the University of North Carolina, looking at how successful serial entrepreneurs think and act. The study showed that entrepreneurs define the future by their actions. According to Professor Sara Sarasvathy, University of Virginia, Entrepreneurial Thought and Action is about the following things:
- Action vs Analysis – entrepreneurs have a bias toward action.
- Make vs Find – they define the future through their actions
- Means vs Ends – it is about the process not the ends
We’ve found that the same is true with Intrapreneurs, so we’ve incorporated questions into our Intrapreneur Scorecard that get at the essence of what it means to think and act like an intrapreneur.
More recently we have seen a shift in how intrapreneurs think and act. A majority continue to have an entrepreneurial mindset and thinking but are now more decisive and action oriented. We attribute this to the growing abundance of educational programs on Intrapreneurship and the commitment by many organizations to develop intrapreneurship as a core competency.
Even though Intrapreneurship is becoming a strategic priority for many organizations. According to a recent PWC report on the future of work, “Only 56% of respondents say they have avenues present for employees to offer innovative ideas and support them in turning ideas into action.”
The article To Drive Innovation, Focus on People, Not Technology states that the missing ingredient in most organizations is a: “Focus on the Innovators, not the innovation. In other words, businesses must invest more in their people.” In the article A Road Map to Success as an Intrapreneur, Tony Holbrook states that; “Not nearly as much attention is given to the traits necessary to be a successful intrapreneur”.
Many organizations are realizing that talent is the limiting factor in intrapreneurship. That identifying and developing intrapreneurs requires understanding first who intrapreneurs are, how they are different and what skills and capabilities they need to succeed. Then providing talent development through experiential learning. Experiences that are not grounded in the past but represent the new digital technology and entrepreneurial skills needed for the future.
Until organizations step up to this challenge, you must invest in yourself, develop your own skills and capabilities.
Unlocking your inner intrapreneur is a state of mind, a shift in thinking, being curious, embracing complexity, dealing with ambiguity, facing the unknown, seeing patterns, synthesizing data, experimenting, testing your ideas, prototyping, taking risks, being willing to accept responsibility for your decisions, involving customers in the experience and a willingness to fail. These are all intrapreneurial attributes you will need to be successful in the role of Intrapreneur.
It’s not enough to think like it intrapreneur, you must act like one.