Entrepreneurship vs Intrapreneurship and how they can work together

A disorganised person's guide to getting sh*t done!
Mentorship: "I need to be constantly challenged and learning new things"


While entrepreneurs have been around for a long while, the term ‘entrepreneur’ has only recently been coined and consequently become mainstream, often considered a ‘buzz word’ or fashionably overused. The word intrapreneurship is a by-product of entrepreneurship and stands as a move towards fostering and cultivating the innovation and ideation of current employees within the existing infrastructure of a business.

Recognising intrapreneurship in your business is a great strategy for talent retention. The current state of intrapreneurship in Australia is very embryonic, meaning that it exists but remains underdeveloped and un-nurtured. If intrapreneurship is encouraged and grown effectively with the appropriate tools and resources – then businesses will have the capacity to be more agile, competitive and forward thinking within their individual markets.

Jo Burston recently spoke to female thought leaders at a Talent International Breakfast Seminar where she drew parallels between intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship – indicating that, “Developing an environment for these intrapreneurs is essential to retaining talent within a business and that requires a business to create a specific space, reward risk, identify funding opportunities and grant independence to create a sustainable intrapreneurial environment”.

Clearly a hot topic across the corporate landscape the seminar saw attendees from Southern Cross Media, M&C Saatchi, Clemenger, Seven Mate, DDB and Ebay, all keen to better understand the value creation of institutionalising intrapreneurship within their own companies – or perhaps even entertaining their own entrepreneurial urges.

On the difference between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, Jo told the room it came down to risk appetite. “Intrapreneurs sit in businesses and are different to entrepreneurs. They are innovative, act like entrepreneurs, however do not carry the inherent risks of being an entrepreneur. They sometimes stay in large organisations, and are very ideas orientated and think innovatively about the future, but they are not really interested or good at creating the infrastructure that sits around them in a large corporate or the business structure that supports them, what they are good at doing is innovating within that space.”

“Innovation by definition does not have a time , energy our outcome measurement, so therefore within a space it is easier for an intrapreneur to innovate when the costs, time and energy are less measurable than if they were outside on their own coin! The main difference is appetite for risk and exposure to safety nets.”

Polling the room, Jo asks whether it would be “easier to spend $500k on an innovative, test and learn, outcome and not lose your job or $500K on building the place to innovate, build your own idea and if it doesn’t work, you have no job and a debt?”

This risk profile is the major difference here. “Entrepreneurs make change, they force change, they always have. They find a way to do things differently to get a larger scale, more efficiently, effectively with value driven outcome.  There is hardly an industry in the last 5 years that has not been dismantled and disrupted by innovation and entrepreneurs pushing the boundary to force the thinking of the customer in a different direction.”

A great entrepreneurial thinking company will attract great intrapreneurs – think the likes of Google, Facebook or Virgin, all contain the common thread of encouraging entrepreneurial behaviour and as a result ‘intrapreneurial superheroes’ are drawn to those companies and those companies then see tangible benefit from that recruitment.

Jo gave the example of NAB – National Australia Bank and the development of their Village Customer Innovation Centre in Melbourne, which runs as a hosted space custom built for the “agile next-generation worker, the 500sqm Village provides a destination for users and NAB customers to meet, collaborate, share ideas and connect in a relaxed and informal space”.

These types of programs will either “get the blood flowing for aspiring entrepreneurs that work inside these organisations” or “promote intrapreneurship internally”, both becoming integral to companies responsiveness to changing market trends and consumer needs and wants. Agility is key and that’s something entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial minded businesses do better than heritage companies, with faster more measurable results.

Commbank was also given a head dip from Jo for their recent launch of the Innovation Lab in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, which acts as an “idea incubator and accelerator focused on developing cutting-edge products, services and solutions in collaboration with customers, partners, startups and industry expert”, as stated on the Commbank site.

When the talk turns to Q&A we start to see curious minds kindling on the periphery of entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship, some ask for their companies, some ask for themselves – indicating the startup mentality has well and truly traversed into more hierarchical corporations.

When one attendee asks, “What’s the next step for either a company or the individual, once they’ve decided on their idea, perhaps they’re looking for funding or just what the next move is?”

In a broader sense, Jo laments that Australia fosters the ideal conditions for entrepreneurs to thrive and if organisations can find a way to become more entrepreneurial minded, then it will positively affect the country, both economically and socially.

More personally Jo says, “It’s going to be hard and it’s not going to be for every business. It’s not a two year gig. If you want to get in, get in deep. Go 100 percent. Be obsessed and become the most passionate person on the planet about your vision and purpose. Manage up, always manage up. Be seen, heard and be confident without arrogance. Ask for time, ask to be heard and then clearly articulate your vision and innovation. Back yourself and others will follow.”

To corporates her advice is to not only focus on process and outcome anymore. “I know and have intrapreneurs in Rare Birds – They are micro innovators, they are not afraid to talk about ideation and thought leadership, but they operate better within the infrastructure of an entrepreneurial environment that is aligned to both their values and skill sets now.”

She encourages the room to help their companies adopt an entrepreneurial way of thinking. “Entrepreneurs operate with passion, gut, instinct as well as smarts and process. So intrapreneurs should be able to as well. Create a sense of empowerment and inclusiveness which ultimately conjures creativity and determination, which is then rewarded and shared financially. Be clear about what they can and cannot do, set the boundaries on time, resources and infrastructure use.”

Finally Jo re-iterates, “companies are giving intrapreneurs the voice and space to think. It is definitely a war for talent out there. I know, I see them coming every day to Rare Birds with their new ideas, applying for funding, applying for mentoring, looking for a community, a tribe to support their ideas, startups and entrepreneurial growth. Corporates have to think with heart and then think smart if they want to keep the IP inside the business and their businesses agile to a change that is coming, change that’s inevitable”.

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A disorganised person's guide to getting sh*t done!
Mentorship: "I need to be constantly challenged and learning new things"

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