Article (December-2017)


Seven Seas (Cs) of Intrapreneurship

Hemang Desai

Designation : -   Business Success Coach & HR Advisor

Organization : -  Gadhi Nagar (Guj.)


My colleague, Bhavin Kishnani, came to me with a request to guide him get into a course which teaches him how to become a successful entrepreneur. He was clueless about what business he wants to do, when he wants to do and how he wants to do. To add to the difficulty, he even had little inclination to leave his current job or for that matter taking any immediate financial debts. I, not wanting to let go this opportunity of proving myself wiser, rebuffed his idea to be an entrepreneur immediately. As thoughts settled down in my mind, the faint memory of having heard the word intrapreneur came to the fore. Intrapreneurs, as the name suggests, are the persons who are essentially entrepreneurs but are employed by and also working within the constraints of, with support of the complex organisational roles, responsibilities, relationships and order. The concept of intrapreneurship is said to be most successful if it serves both themselves and the organisation that employs them. In short, intrapreneurs and the entrepreneurs coexist in delicate balance of organisational interest and personal achievements.
In today's business world, harnessing the immense potential, each of the employees possess, is absolutely mandatory for the organisational success, where the source of power is knowledge. Speed, Scalability and Sustainability, are some of the other critical ingredients, an organization needs to grow, apart from those efficient strategists and a committed team of executors. To grow in multiples, the organisation needs entrepreneurial leadership at critical levels. These leaders, designated or otherwise, must be able to perceive growth opportunities on time and are capable to innovate, keeping the current enterprise and its available resources as a base. At the same time such organizations also need resourceful business associates having accountability and concern for the stakeholders. This calls for 'speeding up innovation within the organization by making better use of entrepreneurial talent' or simply of 'intrapreneurship'. People who do entrapreneurial job within the organisations are called 'intrapreneurs' and the process through which they do it, is referred to as intrapreneurship. Many examples support that presence of intrapreneurs in an organisation may lead to faster growth whereas their absence may lead to stagnation or retarded growth. While it is possible to develop intrapreneurial attributes gradually without any conscious efforts, it requires conscious advance planning informed by a long - term vision. This is keeping in view the need to quicken the pace of development and meeting the challenges posed by the changing environment. Such intrapreneurial qualities need to be developed not only in key functionaries but also in business associates who have critical stakes in the growth of the organization. 
The word "Intrapreneur" was coined in 1976 by Gifford and his wife, Elizabeth Pinchot based on their concept of an intra-corporate entrepreneur. According to Gifford, "Intrapreneurs are "dreamers who do", those who take hands-on responsibility for creating innovation of any kind within an organization". To make it simpler, Intrapreneurs have entrepreneurial skills blended with managerial skills but operate within the confines of an organization. With the Intrapreneurship on the anvil, three major challenges of the modern day Strategic talent management are being addressed : 
a) The first is to grant the organisational talent, the independence they desire, without making them unresponsive to the needs of the organisation. 
b) The second is to make the organisation more capable of responding rapidly and sensitively to our rapidly changing environment and the pressure generated by this change.
c) Thirdly to engage employees with entrepreneurial zeal and who are aspiring to drive a business on their own.
The newly identified intrapreneur has to exhibit/to learn/to develop on the Seven Cs, each of which can be metaphoric with a sea, not only from a poetic or a rhyming perspectives but also in terms of complexities involved to cross - over and acquire each of them as a skill. There is no order or chronology or degree of significance. However, each of these Seven Cs contributes towards making an apt intrapreneurial approach or attitude:
1. Creativity: Creativity is - all about an ability to unearth innovative solutions to complex work problems - is the ultimate key to business success. Intrapreuners have to essentially drive home solutions which are sustainable, scalable and affordable in a given situation with given resources. They need to develop creativity - a boundless imagination that is constantly innovating and seeing the world through a different lens. Creative problem - solvers are often able to connect two distinct areas of expertise and can translate potential solutions from one field to an unrelated area. Intrapreneurial creativity can be radical or incremental. The ability to visualise the steps from idea to conceptualisation to actualisation is one of the learnable aspect of intrapreneurial creativity. The ability to visualise how the whole business could progress and then to act with courage and decisiveness to make the reality to happen.
2. Choices: There are two primary choices in any leader's life. Either to accept the conditions as they are OR own the responsibility to change those. Most successful leaders agree on one common ingredient for their success. It is the choices they had and then their ability to pick up the right choice, at various critical times, made them what they have been. Most of them have taken decisions, which no one has taken before, assuming varied risk and owning responsibilities, without getting cluttered by any bias. As it is said, life is the sum total of all our choices. Intrapreneurs are needed do a lot of planning and fact finding before they come to the stage of making choices and before they are sure whether or not their passion for an idea is in the right place. Therefore they need to select the right option not only by listening to their inner voices but choices available on the ground. Whether the idea or his choice will be accepted and appreciated by the customers, whether there will be ready market and whether they will be able to fetch the right value. Intrapreneurs, therefore, become excellent decision makers eventually, even without sufficient data, at times.
3. Clarity:  The intrapreneurs articulate their vision, the ultimate goal. In other words, the intrapreneurs keep their work goals clearly in their sight. They are able to vividly describe their action plans, objectives and expectations from each of their team members. They are absolutely clear on what they need to deliver and what they need to receive as support, guidance and resource for them to execute their performance. They exhibit a high clarity of thoughts, clarity of vision and clarity of the role, that they have to play and clarity of responsibilities that they have to own. All of these forms to be significant ingredients of what constitutes the clarity that are required to become a successful intrapreneur.
4. Communication: Intrapreneurs just do not talk great, they are great listeners too. In absence of effective communication skills, it is quite possible to become isolated from customers and colleagues. They ensure the communication runs in all directions, talking and listening, up, down and around the chain of command. Successful intrapreneurs are adept at their ability to communicate with a CEO and the desk - clerk with same efficacy and ease. This ability to communicate productively sets the intrapreneur apart from the functional 'managers'. As per Jack Welch, the communication is most effective when it takes care of "Speed, Simplicity and Self - confidence". These three attributes contribute as most essential components of a communication that change and grow the organisation with the changing environment. They believe in boundary - less communications and do not inhibit their channels of communications or the order of communications. Their communications aim to influence people around, business contacts, clients and others to accomplish their own objectives, and thereby larger organisational objectives.
5. Consistency: Consistency in thought, speech and action is not just a mandatory mechanism for becoming an effective intrapreneur, it also is the most vital and desirable trait of any organisational leader. Their consistency and competence to deliver consistently will shape the performance of those getting influenced by them and therefore the organisational output ultimately. Consistency across goals, strategy, plans and hence the actions also form a surety to success. Consistency of highest order in the decisions taken/made can be shaping continued success of the organisation. Consistency in the zeal, passion, commitment and values also constitute the other needful for the sustained success on the long - term. Finally, carrying out constant performance evaluation by being consistent in adding the right improvements at the right time.
6. Conviction: Conviction about self is most important. Self - confidence that he can lead the organisation's efforts to its desired levels of achievement and beyond. The conviction that efforts would meet success, conviction that efforts are set in the right direction and conviction that whatever hurdles that lies ahead in the path can be overcome. Success comes to those intrapreneurs who not only have conviction to go beyond the obvious but also have the same for their ability to drive the aspirations of those associated, to their level of desired triumph. The investment of resources is usually for that conviction and confidence that intrapreneurs demonstrate throughout the journey. They exhibit tremendous amount of perseverance and persistence by attaching to their ultimate goal of taking organisation to the next level.
7. Collaboration: As Peter Senge said "Collaboration is the human face of systems thinking". Another critical prerequisite for accomplished intrapreneurs is the art of collaboration with all the stakeholders, directly or indirectly involved with the intrapreneurial venture. The most positive and productive approach is to collaborate and not to compete or to have conflict. It is the most sustainable and progressive way to manage the immediate team members, customers, other employees in the company, suppliers, governmental agencies, senior or top management of the company etc. Working with collaboration with those in the company helps to change mindsets and helps others see the links between their work and the future opportunities presented by the intrapreneurs. They do this by supporting these people and meeting their needs and giving them directions in different areas. Successful intrapreneurs work hard at collaborating by not alienating people and not burning bridges.
These 7 Cs will surely help those in their quest to become successful intrapreneurs within the given constraints of an organisation. Big companies, having greater width, deeper pockets, larger workforce, are already on a journey to create organisational cultures, conditions and processes that encourages as well as facilitates intrapreneurship. However the 7 Cs above are equally capable of transforming the conventional managers into modern - day intrapreneurs, in small, medium or large organisations, alike. The 7Cs, if adopted in the right spirit, will have following advantages:
a. The intrapreneurship would be more attractive career proposition for the ambitious and hence it will work as more conducive for an individual's progress.
b. The productivity of the intrapreneurship and therefore of the overall organisation will enhance.
c. The retention of the critical talent will be easier and thus, conducive for long term business success.
d. There will higher level of commitment, dedication and ownership among the large part of the workforce and hence the business focus would be more result - driven.
e. A culture of shared ownership and multi - level leadership will emerge which will help the organisation to achieve the goals more effectively.
It is evident that the internal corporate entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs are the driving forces of the present and future business paradigms. Intrapreneurs play a key role in keeping the organisation on its growth path and drive innovative ways to success.