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Consultant Stork Vienna Austria


In recent times a new brand of corporate entrepreneurs has come to the forefront in large organisations. They are called ‘intrapreneurs’. A number of talented persons from the corporate world found that their managements are not receptive to new ideas. So they leave their parent organisation and start ventures of their own. Many such intrapreneurs become exceedingly successful in their new fields and cause a threat to the companies they left a few years ago.

The emergence of intrepreneurs is the result of corporate brain-drain which is a world wide phenomenon. The companies should learn to make use of their entrepreneurial talents within the organisation if stagnation and decline were to be avoided. What drives talent within the organisation is not monetary gain but a deep desire of personal achievement. Companies should provide such people with adequate financial resourcesw and freedom so that their ideas can be developed. The computer giant IBM was a pioneer in the propagation of this concept.

An intrapreneur is an individual, often a family member of the founder, who performs all the duties of an intrapreneur, but within tan established organisation. While he has risen to a top position, he did not contribute to its foundation. Intrapreneurs enter a functioning corporation. They are highly educated and this allows them to start as business specialists in their chosen field. Intrapreneurs are often better at medium and long-term planning. They aim to keep control and successfully pass the company on to succeeding generation. They are more concerned about bow well the company can be run and managed rather than in self aggrandizement. Inrapreneurs are less authoritarian and more adaptable. They are good organisation persons.

All these point to the fac that the intrapreneur is an innovative person who has ideas contrary to ‘conventional wisdom’. It is quite common that these individuals are not popular with their colleagues and even their bosses often do not give them the appreciation they deserve. It is, therefore, not surprising that intrapreneurs leave large companies and start their own business. When Steve Woznaiak could not get his dream of building a small computer fulfilled at Hewlett Packard, he left that prestigious firm. He then teamed up with Steve Jobs to form Apple computers.

Corporate entrepreneurship is referred to as intrapreneurship. It is concerned with innovations that lead to new corporate divisions or subsidiary ventures in established, large firms. The concept of entrepreneurship does not exclude managers in large organisations from being entrepreneurs if they combine resources in unusual ways to create innovative new products or services. However, because entrepreneurs take personal investment risks, and corporate managers very rarely do, there are grounds for arguing that corporate entrepreneurship is a play on words. Corporate managers may commit time and energy, and perhaps also risk their careers, but there is little evidence of corporate managers risking personal investment capital to champion a corporate innovation.

Leaders recognise that entrepreneurial behaviour within their companies can produce growth and profits. In fact, such behaviour is essential for long-term survival. Thus corporate entrepreneurship, once considered a contradiction in terms, has become widely accepted in successful companies. Fundamental to organising is dividing up the work. Managers may think that they have organised things successfully when they have brought different interests together, minimised conflict, increased stability and reduced uncertainty. Large organisations usually are formally structured for efficiency. The managers run operations in such a way that the same activities will continue indefinitely into the future. Obviously this approach often is at odds with innovation and change. Change is usually met with resistance. What then can be done to encourage entrepreneurship when a company needs to be revitalised? The answer lies in changing, perhaps even inciting a revolution in an organisation’s practices. One way to do so is for the company to support intrapreneurs.

The term ‘intrapreneur’ was coined to describe someone in an organisation who turns ideas into profitable realities. Not every employee can become a successful entrepreneur. It requires well-developed strategic action, teamwork and communication competencies. The person who is going to establish a new intrapreneurial venture must have a dream. Yet this dream, almost of necessity, is going to be at odds with what the rest of the organisation is doing. So to establish the new venture, the individual will have to sell that dream to others while simultaneously challenging the organisation’s beliefs and assumptions. The intrapreneur needs to build a team to work on the venture, crossing departmental lines, structures, and reporting systems. Being diplomatic and avoiding win-lose conflicts is essential. An island of intrapreneurial activity in an organisation is called “skunkworks”. Large organisations do not support skunkworks. If the effort succeeds the intrapreneur becomes a nucleus, if it fails, then the department may be closed down.

There are many successful examples of intrapreneurship through industrial history. Morse’s telegraph revolutionised communications technology. Henry Ford pioneered the mass assembly of automobiles. Rockefeller created oil empires and fortunes that are yet legendary. Alexander Graham Bell launched the telecommunications industry with the telephone and Thomas A. Edison created the light bulb. These innovative ideas may have existed even prior to that, but these intrapreneurs commercialised it and were responsible for innovations that significantly improved human productivity. Like these, there are hundreds of examples that have had extraordinary implications for society. Intrapreneurs are the inspired individuals who went out on very thin limbs to create new ventures that solved problems or created new opportunities.

In modern times, services offered by intrapreneurs represent nearly half of the new businesses. These are often found in the service industry. The information technology industry is an example. Travel is another area where we see intrapreneurship in leaps and bounds.

On the Indian scene we were lucky to have stalwarts like JRD Tata, Walchand Hirachand, S. L Kirloskar and many others who created empires and rendered service to India. Of late we have had the late Dhirubhai Ambani, Aziz Premji and Narayan Murthy who continue to inspire other Indians.