An Ode to Intrapreneurship
Corporate inefficiency is one of those things that amuse and bug me in equal parts.
I made my first intrapreneurship pitch in a teaching job in China. The training school was part of a large and well-respected chain. We had a curriculum prepared and vetted by experts. The materials were solid, and the approach was sound. I watched as students came in with a basic understanding of English and could track their steady progress.
For certain groups of students, however, I felt the curriculum was too rigid.
Most came in wanting a general overall increase in English ability for school or business, and the curriculum worked well.
However, our school was in the same district as a flight attendant training school — one with a requirement that flight attendants have basic proficiency in English; specifically around air travel.
There were very few other training schools of any reputation in the area, so we had several students a semester who would come to our school to improve.
They would also leave quickly because the school didn’t give them what they needed — specific English used in air travel.
I pitched that I could reframe of some of our materials to better support the flight school students. It would be an easy change, taking a few days of design work.
My boss was respectful but firm that we needed to follow the curriculum prescribed by the corporation.
I understood his perspective.
I also understood the opportunity.
So when those students reached out to me for personal training, I took it. $50 an hour goes a long way in a mid-tier city in China. Those students earned their wings with top marks in English and I greatly expanded my instructional design skills. A win for them, win for me — no-win for the school.
At a different school in China, I pitched the same type of opportunity — I saw that many students were aiming at getting into American business schools. Coincidently, I was also working towards my entrance to business school. I proposed teaching an extra-curricular GMAT course.
The school was able to charge an exorbitant fee, of which I claimed $100 an hour while getting an external sense of accountability to study the GMAT which contributed to me winning a nearly full-ride scholarship. My students raised their GMAT scores at a higher than average pace, and my classes, though pricey, were far cheaper and more accessible than a private tutor. The school gained massive credibility.
Win-Win-Win Everyone wins.
There are always problems to find and solve. Becoming the person who can solve those problems is a double-edged sword. You either provide immediate value and impact, or those problems will start to grate at you. You can’t not notice the issues. They become like an itchy label on the back of your t-shirt.
Intrepreunship is a way to solve some of these issues when an organization is willing to utilize it.
“Intrapreneurship fosters proactivity and positions corporations as industry leaders with creative leeway for its workforce. While many employees tend to do their work by the book, corporations with entrepreneurially-minded employees see the benefits — ranging from innovative offerings, increased skills and capabilities, and competitive advantages to cost savings, motivational boosts, and accelerated product and service launches.”
Deloitte identified six benefits to Intrapreneurship:
1. Increasing revenue
2. Building and attracting top talent
3. Gaining a competitive market advantage
4. Boosting employee engagement
5. Growing efficiency
6. Quick turn-around
Combine these six areas into one statement, and you have:
Letting your super-engaged employees with a passion project off their leash, giving them limited resources, and watching them prove themselves for your organizational gain.
There is a solid business case for the business willing to foster intrapreneurship, but what are the benefits to the employee?
Personally, I preferred intrapreneurial projects over entrepreneurship for several reasons:
- Security and stability of a steady paycheck;
- One big client is more straightforward than many small ones;
- Having company support increases makes work more manageable due to financial, technological, and advisory resources;
- And, for many, having accountability and structure is necessary.
There are cons, of course:
- Less freedom and autonomy as you need to work within a system;
- Potential for less compensation than in entrepreneurship;
- And while organizations tend to be far more stable, having one client and source of income is in some ways riskier than having many potential sources;
- Lack of ownership over your ideas and work as the organization will own them.
If intrapreneurship is interesting to you, check out these rules:
Check out these links to spark your journey: