Intrapreneurial characteristics — who is the intrapreneur?
Studies have shown that managers and entrepreneurs vary considerably across a range of behavioural patterns. As Bouchard (2002) notes, their strategic orientation, the nature of their commitment, the way they access and consume resources and how they organise can be described as radically divergent. Indeed, what a corporate manager can accomplish well constitutes a major challenge for the entrepreneur, and vice versa. For example, corporate managers and their organisations are good at improving proven recipes while entrepreneurs are good at seizing opportunities and creating value through innovation and responsiveness. Given this, there have been doubts expressed as to whether large companies, through management education and action learning projects, can turn managers into corporate entrepreneurs (Thornberry, 2003).
However, various studies suggest that this may be possible if the best of both types of individual are brought together into one set of competences. Vandermerwe and Birley (1997) have suggested that intrapreneurial organisations often need a new type of person who can bridge the two worlds between the entrepreneurial and the corporate world. Indeed, the set of skills that define the intrapreneur are quite different from the skills needed by either the traditional corporate manager or the entrepreneur (see Table 14.1). For example, unlike entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs will need team-building skills and a
Table 14.1 Managers, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs
Table 14.1 (coat’d)
Source: Adapted from Pinchot (1986)
firm understanding of both business and market realities, while also possessing the leadership and rapid decision-making qualities of successful owner-managers. Therefore, in developing intrapreneurs, the task for organisational managers is to identify those individuals that possess the managerial skills to manage a project within the boundaries of a large organisation and the entrepreneurial skills to be able to take the project forward (Jansen and van Wees, 1994).
The managerial skills required by an intrapreneur are as follows.
At the beginning, it will only be the intrapreneur who will have a sufficient grasp of the concepts or ideas that they want to put forward within the organisation. Whilst intrapreneurs frequently have a background in one particular business discipline, such as development or marketing, they must be able to adopt a multidisciplinary approach when they become involved with the development of their own ideas into a viable business. This may often mean crossing boundaries between functions in the organisation.
The intrapreneur needs to understand the environment and its many aspects to establish a successful intrapreneurial venture. An individual must understand how their creativity can affect both the internal and external environments of the corporation.
Open discussion must be encouraged to develop a good team for creating something new. A successful new intrapreneurial venture can only be formed when the team involved feels the freedom to disagree and critique an idea to reach the best solution. The degree of openness obtained depends on the degree of openness of the intrapreneur.
The intrapreneur must challenge the beliefs and assumptions of the corporation and through this create something new in a largely bureaucratic organisation.
Openness will lead to the establishment of a strong coalition of supporters and encour - agers - the intrapreneur must encourage and affirm each team member, particularly during the problem times. This encouragement is very important, as the usual motivators of career paths and job security are not operational in establishing a new intrapre - neurial venture.
Some of the entrepreneurial skills required by the intrapreneur include the following. Vision and flexibility
The intrapreneur must be a visionary leader, a person who ‘dreams great dreams’. To establish a successful new venture, the intrapreneurial leader must have a dream and overcome all obstacles by selling this dream to others within the organisation, especially those in influential positions. However, whilst intrapreneurs are visionary, their dream is usually grounded in business experience, mainly because they realise that their dreams can only become reality if they themselves take action to turn an idea into a viable business proposition.
Intrapreneurs tend to start doing immediately, rather than spending time planning the development of their idea in detail. Often, they do not wait for permission to begin their ideas. Instead, they will go ahead with the development of their ideas, often in their own time. Unlike managers, who often delegate responsibilities to subordinates, intrapreneurs will often be involved in a number of tasks associated with the intrapreneurial project, predominantly because of their affinity towards turning their vision directly into reality through their own efforts.
Traditional product development systems cannot compete with intrapreneurship for one simple reason - they are too bureaucratic to enable or encourage dedication. Traditional managers will divide marketing and technology, vision and action, and a host of other responsibilities into separate jobs, which will deny intrapreneurs the commitment, responsibility and excitement that inspires total dedication. In some cases this dedication can be extreme, often to the extent of putting the priorities of the project before the people involved - intrapreneurs will prefer to get the job done on time rather than meeting people’s needs.
The intrapreneur must persist through the frustration and obstacles that will inevitably occur during the creation of a new venture. Only through persistence will a new venture be created and successful commercialisation take place. More importantly, intrapreneurs (like entrepreneurs) tend to see failure as a learning experience - a temporary setback from which the idea can be improved.
The intrapreneur often sets personal goals for the project, rather than those corporate goals linked to short-term needs such as reporting procedures, etc. These goals are often related to high personal standards, as intrapreneurs gain little satisfaction from adhering to standards imposed by others.