Lately I’ve been speaking to friends who are considering to leave their jobs to start a business and some who are struggling as entrepreneurs and thinking of going back to work for a company. This got me thinking that not everyone is wired to be an entrepreneur. Not all of us can start a business independently and succeed at that. Having said that no one is immune to economic realities that requires us to be entrepreneurial whether we work for ourselves or for a company.
Even if you’re working within a company, you can apply the entrepreneurial approach and be an intrapreneur. The distinguishing factor between an entrepreneur and intrapreneur is that an intrapreneur works within a company and applies entrepreneurial principles and approach. I know of many companies and products that were started by intrapreneurs within companies. These are just some of the individuals that have started products and companies within companies:
Sir Jonathan “Jony” Ive – is the Chief of Design at Apple and recently a chief of all things related to human interface and software. He became the Senior Vice President of Industrial Design in 1997 after the return of Jobs and subsequently headed the industrial design team responsible for most of the company’s significant hardware products. Ive’s first design assignment was the iMac; it helped pave the way for many other designs such as the iPod and eventually the iPhone and the iPad.
Ive runs his own laboratory at Apple, in which he oversees the work of his appointed design team, and he is the only Apple designer with a private office. Only his core team—which consists of a team of around 15 people from Britain, America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand who have worked together for around two decades—and top Apple executives are allowed into the laboratory, as it contains all of the concepts, including prototypes, that the design team is working on. According to the Jobs biography, Ive’s design studio contains foam-cutting and printing machines, while the windows are tinted. Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson: “He has more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me”.
Jony Ive is a classic example of an intrapreneur. He runs his own show within a company. He developed a product that changed the way we listen to music and work.
Some may say that intrapreneurs are mostly and only found in technology sector – well think again.People in the media and academic environment and many other sectors can become intrapreneurs. A journalist Malcom Gladwell has proved that it’s possible for media professionals to become intrapreneurs.
Malcom Gladwell – is a journalist and writer for the New Yorker. He has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. He has written five books, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000), Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), Outliers: The Story of Success (2008),What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009), a collection of his journalism, and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (2013). All five books were on The New York Times Best Seller list.
Malcom is still working for the New Yorker and yet he has created a brand for himself and his books. He is not an entrepreneur who runs a business outside of a company. He works within a company and applying the entrepreneurial approach to his work.
Lastly, one can be an intrapreneur even if you are in academia.
Michael Porter – took classes in industrial organization economics, which attempts to model the effect of competitive forces on industries and their profitability. This study inspired the Porter five forces analysis framework for analyzing industries.
In addition to his research, writing, and teaching, Porter serves as an advisor to business, government, and the social sector. He has served as strategy advisor to numerous leading U.S. and international companies, including Caterpillar, Procter & Gamble,Scotts Miracle-Gro, Royal Dutch Shell, and Taiwan Semiconductor. Professor Porter serves on two public boards of directors, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Parametric Technology Corporation. Professor Porter also plays an active role in U.S. economic policy with the Executive Branch and Congress, and has led national economic strategy programs in numerous countries. Michael Porter has founded three major non-profit organizations: Initiative for a Competitive Inner City – ICIC in 1994, which addresses economic development in distressed urban communities; the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which creates rigorous tools for measuring foundation effectiveness; and FSG-Social Impact Advisors, a leading non-profit strategy firm serving NGOs, corporations, and foundations in the area of creating social value. He also currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Princeton University. Porter has started all these initiatives whilst working within an academic institution.
All the individuals mentioned above are working for companies or started companies within companies. In my books they are true examples of intrapreneurs. They are a proof that one can have an entrepreneurial approach to work.
Before you jump ship off a company try to #START something new (a division, product or even a subsidiary company). Becoming an intrapreneur is one way of adding value to your company and perhaps starting a journey to become an entrepreneur.