Entrepreneurism within a large company structure is referred to as “intrapreneurship” in many businesses and is critical in creating a culture of innovation. When organizations talk about internalizing culture and instituting practices to drive strategic growth, innovation is one of the hardest areas to measure and manage. The role of the intrapreneur has long been established within large organizations, but was not always clearly articulated in the job descriptions of those individuals. They now exist in many forms across industry and are critical to finding, developing and testing new ideas to keep innovation as a part of the company culture.
Intrapreneurs embrace the common idioms of “fail early, fail often” or “failing up” because they embrace change and want to continue to test boundaries and capabilities. This can as small as A/B testing with Google Analytics to large scale organizational innovation campaigns like GE’s Imagination Breakthroughs which come with multi-billion dollar implications for the company’s bottom line.
You don’t have to be in a startup to be an entrepreneur, every new project or initiative is the chance for a company to embrace intrapreneurship and encourage taking risks in hopes of realizing outsized returns. Being an intrapreneur is a mindset that encourages openness to new ideas, an established company infrastructure, and hopefully budget to test out the best concepts. This doesn’t mean throwing caution to the wind and trying out every idea, but a focused and methodical approach to testing new concepts for viability. Without having to take on the full risk of joining a startup, ambitious employees can create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and move to test and iterate on a minor scale until a valid prototype service or product is ready. This type of methodical testing can give companies a sustainable competitive edge in creating new revenue generating services and products.
With intrapreneurship embedded in a company culture, new ideas will not be shunned and pushed away, but embraced and executed. To make sure culture is being internalized, and growth opportunities are being funded, a company must embrace their inner entrepreneur. This might be one of the most important strategic growth options available to a large company, and it requires minimal funding but maximum organizational encouragement.
Bartlett, Christopher A. "GE's Growth Strategy: The Immelt Initiative." Harvard Business School Case 306-087, February 2006. (Revised November 2006.)