The Intrapreneur's Dilemma

Companies are heavy: thick with layers of management, columns of workers, and sticky procedures. Altering the direction or just making an impact within a company takes tremendous energy and resources. It is the nature of a mature organization to support its core mission and business model, not destroy it. Startups are light: thin and airy in terms of structure and organization. Changing direction is easy and is in a startup’s nature as it seeks to find a business model and market. Launching a startup inside a company (intrapreneurship) is thus extremely challenging. Intrapreneurs live inside the belly of their corporate parent but must not feel captive (which is easy) but rather opportunistic as they are not alone and are surrounded with resources, channels, and cover. Yes this comes at a price but everything is a trade-off — just ask a startup founder what their salary is.

An intrapreneur for this essay means someone or some small group that initiates change or experimentation on their own — with no mandate or dedicated resources from their company. While many companies have platforms such as “skunk works”, R&D labs, innovation centers, and so on — true intrapreneurship is the pursuit of change from within without a predefined ecosystem to explore such change. The formal innovation initiatives have their place and provide tremendous value but the pure form of intrapreneurship is the focus here and is what David speaks of in the title quote.

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Joshua KubickiComment