The intrapreneur is an employee which is usually assigned to innovative projects that can impact the company’s future success. As such, the intrapreneur is an employee that acts like an entrepreneur within the organisation. While the intrapreneur has access to the resources of the organisation she does not bear the risks connected to it.
How does Intrapreneurship work?
Intrapreneurs get assigned to special projects, that are extremely innovative. That is also why they are usually given the freedom to pursue them, which means the intrapreneur is extremely independent within the organisation.
Therefore, intrapreneurs can access resources from the organisation, thus organizing and working with those resources on innovative projects. At the same time the financial risks associated with the project stays with the organisation.
Intrapreneur vs. Entrepreneur
The primary difference is in risk-taking and ownership. Where the Intrapreneur does not own the company and does not take the financial risks associated with the project. The entrepreneur does.
That makes the entrepreneur more conservative, and risk avoidant. And the intrapreneur more risk-prone and in theory willing to take bolder steps that can make processes within an organisations obsolete. Thus, looking at innovations that can impact the whole organisation.
Good, in theory, what in practice?
While the concept of intrapreneurship is compelling and perhaps many companies have leveraged on it to keep innovating. At the same time the question stays open on whether the intrapreneur without skin in the game can really give a good contribution to the organisation.
Intrapreneurship example: Google’s 20% Project
Google is one of the companies that took advantage of intrapreneurs to build wildly successful products. As Brin and Page highlighted back in the 2004:
“We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google…This empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner.”
From this 20% project allocation, where employees could pursue the projects they felt compelled about, products like Google News, Gmail and AdSense were built.