INNOVATE

4 Steps to Becoming a Successful Intrapreneur

The actions you need to take to pursue big new ideas that can propel your company forward.
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Just because you are responsible for a company's fortunes doesn't mean you have to take off your entrepreneurial breeches. Although you shouldn't risk your employees' jobs on a lark, you should still pursue those big ideas to create more revenue, grow your market share, and attract more customers.

You know the concept of the "intrapreneur," an entrepreneur within the confines of a company. Intrapreneurs are important to continued innovation. When you and your employees have the right idea, don't let it pass you by because you don't think you can be as nimble as a startup working out of a garage.

Len Schlesinger, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and Charlie Kiefer, the founder of business advisory firm Innovation Associates, write in the Harvard Business Review about four ways to act like an entrepreneur when you're leading a company. Check out their tips below.

1. Harness a desire

Schlesinger and Kiefer say it all starts with desire. "If you are going to start some sort of improvement effort you must want to do it. Without personal motivation to take any step into the unknown, no matter how small, there is no possibility for success," they write in HBR. "Curiosity is sufficient but if it's 'just a good idea' that you don't personally care about, stop wasting your time and [that of] those around you by considering it any further."

2. Know what you're willing to invest

After you are driven with a desire to build something, you have to ask yourself, "What am I willing to invest to take the first step?" Schlesinger and Kiefer say entrepreneurs typically ask the opposite: "What can I afford to lose?" Entrepreneurship is risky, but intrapreneurship flips the "acceptable loss" mindset into an "expected return" view because you are responsible for a company that is already up and running. 

3. Build a team

When it's time to build a team, think about who would be best suited to help you. Recruit employees with skills you don't possess. "External entrepreneurs are constantly making deals for free or low-cost assets and resources. Entrepreneurs inside do likewise but they are also acutely looking for employee partners and supportive bosses (or at least passive ones) as they build a marketplace and political support for their evolving idea," Schlesinger and Kiefer write.

4. Just do it already

After the planning, organization, and mapping stages are done, it's time to do what you have set out to do. "Remain open to what happens and its implications for your next step and then immediately build your next step on what you learned and the result you just achieved. This Act-Learn-Build cycle is the proven and safe recipe for entrepreneurial success," Schlesinger and Kiefer write. "Form the habit of acting your way into the future with low-cost, low-risk steps using the means you and your network have readily at hand." The two warn against "overplanning and overthinking," which are not as effective as a quick planning and resource-gathering session followed by direct action. 

IMAGE: Steve Snodgrass/FLICKR
Last updated: Jul 15, 2014

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported in the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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