Recently, the focus has been mostly on entrepreneurs. Everyone is figuring out how to jump on this bandwagon and start a business of their own.

However, there is another title that hasn’t got as much attention — that of an “intraprenuer”— defined as an employee who is given the financial support and the freedom to create new services, products, systems and processes, and who does not need to follow the company’s usual rules or policies.
Intrapreneurs are business owner’s dream. They are able to identify key markets, create new niches and are constantly helping the organization innovate.

They are, however, not easy to deal with. They may come with large egos, be very territorial, paternal/maternal towards their people and are extremely unwilling to confirm.

As far as I know, most organizations today are not designed to encourage intrapreneurship. A typical Indonesian company would have the regular hierarchy of directors, managers, supervisors and staff, with each tier responsible for the one below it.

Innovation is stymied by politics and one upmanship as there is a fear of losing one’s importance. Survival means conforming blindly and not questioning.

Business owners are also reluctant to rock the boat as they feel there is stability in keeping the status quo. It is therefore no coincidence that 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs who started out as employees would cite frustration and lack of an upside as to why they left the corporate world and ventured into their own business.

So what can companies do to keep these “intrapreneurs”?

As mentioned, intrapreneurs are completely different breed. They show the capacity to learn, evolve and grow on their own. They enjoy making decisions and feeling empowered. A typical corporate structure would stifle them.

What the business owner needs to be able to do is to rethink the organizational structure around this individual. I advocate a team approach. Build a team around this person, give him or her clear parameters, and let this person manage a budget to start with a goal in mind.

There can be frequent conversations with this person as he or she “learns” but eventually, they should be able to make their own decisions. Usually, I find that a strong sense of responsibility is what keeps an intrapreneur in check and being directly accountable for their own performance is a huge motivator.

The other matter is that intrapreneurs need transparency in order to operate. Because they take their decision making seriously, the more information they have, the better they will be in “thinking like the owner”.

I was pleasantly surprised that one of my “intrapreneur” managers deferred a reward on behalf of his team because he felt that they did not deserve it after being shown the sales figures and profitability. To me, that shows a great deal of maturity that comes with responsibility.

Finally, intrapreneurs need to be loved. Most of them thrive on feeling a sense of accomplishment and they should be acknowledged for it. Just like a kid that is praised in school for good work would be motivated to keep producing good work, an intrapreneur gets his or her joy in making a difference and being acknowledged for it.

The corporate culture in Indonesia does not encourage intrapreneurship-hence the ironic widespread interest in entrepreneurship. This is an indication of how many people are seeking a way out of their current situation.

However, if companies want to start improving and evolving faster, then they need to start embracing this paradigm shift. It may come as a culture shock to slowly relinquish certain elements of decision making to employees and to empower them, but the flip side is if they don’t, then even existence will become a threat.

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