Eric Ries (the author of ‘The Lean Start Up’) has written that people can apply entrepreneurial principles within the corporate world. “It’s not ‘intrepreneurship,’ it’s not ‘like entrepreneurship,”’ Ries says. “Corporate entrepreneurship is regular entrepreneurship.”
In a recent Birmingham meetup we had a great conversation around this.. One of the things that came out of the discussion was that people in the corporate world actually face a set of challenges that largely come from over-resourcing. If you think about it, there is a pattern, a path that many have already walked. However, the intrapreneur needs to reject this path. Why? Well, because if they walk it, they just fall into the same trap as everyone else in their organisation. They are unlikely to change the outcome by doing what everyone else has done before. If a project manager, a product manager, a DBA, a front-end developer, a back-end developer, a tester, a designer, a UX specialist etc. etc. all get hired straight off, this is fishy to me. Someone is hiring the Rolls Royce Team for a Fiat Punto job. However, if the smallest possible team is hired and later skills are begged, borrowed or stolen then this is the equivalent to acting more like an entrepreneur would. Sorry… I will amend that. This is tantamount to acting like an entrepreneur should.
However, entrepreneurs are only human. Just like everyone else. People like people. Entrepreneurs don’t set up businesses to sit around by themselves. They want a team around them. In fact having met and talked to well over 100 of my fellow business owners over the years.. I’d even go so far as saying they NEED them. So even entrepreneurs, with their tight budgets, cash flow constraints etc. etc. are prone to a little ‘pushing the boat out’ when it comes to hiring people.
But what about Intrapreneurs? Well, I have to confess here that I haven’t ever been an intrapreneur but I have worked alongside many people tasked with the job of making something work. Generally, something other people have failed at. Although they all had the best of intentions I can think of more than a one or two who decided to hire based on the standard template. And who would blame them? Entrepreneurs are constrained by the fact they HAVE NO MONEY. Much of the time it hits their own pocket! Yet they still OVER HIRE!! I have done this. Many times. It does not end well.
So who can blame the intrapreneurs for acting in the exact same way? The only difference being that they have more money to waste.
Hence, the actions of an intrapreneur must be more measured, more calculated. Their resistance to following the status quo must be second to none. They must have the grit to be able to deliver on a shoestring with all the risks involved.
They are putting themselves in the line of fire by acting in the best interests of the organisation. WOW.
To me, it kind of feels like an intrapreneur needs to be way more disciplined, way more entrepreneurial, than the entrepreneur ever was.
Stephanie Chamberlain runs Magic Milestones Limited, which is a Delivery Management Consultancy. She is a serial entrepreneur, published author on Agile Methods and a visiting industrial fellow at Aston Business School.