While much has been written about the need for internal entrepreneurs (“intrapreneurs”) relatively little has been said or mentioned about the practical problems facing companies that wish to foster a cult of Intrapreneurialism within a corporation, particularly in today’s lackluster economy – for example, staffing issues.
What are Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs?
The typical entrepreneur working outside of the mainstream of the corporate world, tends to be “different” and seemingly unwilling (perhaps even hating!) to work within a conventional corporate infrastructure to achieve his personal or business goals.
Many were frustrated at the confines of the corporate environment, and just never fit in with the rest of their colleagues or with the managerial atmosphere. For whatever reason, they ultimately break themselves out of the corporate mold and form their own companies.
In many cases, those who left the comfort and safety of the corporate cocoon became incredibly successful – or somewhat successful – and never look back. While this is admirable, it still is a colossal waste of talent, future profitability and growth for the companies that have lost those employees. This is especially true when the loss of those heretofore undiscovered crucial skills occur in companies and in the economy that so desperately needs revitalization.
The Square Peg Fit of the Intrapreneur
When a talented, creative employee leaves the large corporate world, it is usually because of personality or performance issues. They may not function or fit well within that environment. If the talented employee is lucky, he or she may find employment at another company willing to accept a talented “oddball.” However, many just leave the world of conventional corporations altogether and form their own start up. It’s certainly conceivable that, with some adjustment, those companies could retain these valuable employees – if the company is willing to be creative and flexible enough to accommodate a square-peg-employee.
New ideas typically come from new ways and new modes of thinking. The market changes, technology changes, customers change and so do the products. A case in point: corporations that produced modems permitting data communication over standard voice grade telephone lines during the 1960s through the 1980s, were technologically bypassed with the hyper-speeds offered by cable and DSL. A voice grade modem became nothing more than a minor chip in a much larger system.
There was no longer a market for standalone (and once very profitable!) modems. Any modem manufacturer with an intrapreneurial product/market development process in place, staffed with the right people in the right places, would have ridden the high-speed wave to new markets and growth instead of sliding into corporate oblivion.