I came across the term ‘intrapreneur’ recently and was rather taken in by it. I didn’t know that one form of full-time employment – the one that I truly relate with – actually had a name, a pleasant surprise if there ever was one!
To give you a little background, I have never really completely understood the importance of taking and giving micro-directions at the workplace. I listened and learned, sure. But the decisions that were made by my team, had to be the team’s alone. Shared goals are great for motivation, but how one reaches that shared goal must be defined by their own style of work and interpersonal skills. Policies are a necessary devil to bring in some semblance of discipline and structure at the workplace. But must they be set in stone if they don’t amount to productivity and great work?
For instance, if your teammate is single-handedly working on a crucial new business pitch that needs their complete attention, must they come in to work at 9am sharp even if that means unnecessary time spent in commute, morning greetings, small talk, and tea breaks? That is good time they could have used thinking and working on time-sensitive deliverable! And finally, do you really need your boss to solve all your work problems?
After a decade of full-time employment, I have learned that the three most important tenets of great work in addition to technical skills include –
If you, like me, feel that much of the rest is just unnecessary fluff, you are probably an intrapreneur too. Simply put, an intrapreneur is anyone who takes complete control and accountability of their own corner at the workplace. He or she is an entrepreneur in a sea of employees.
That being said, in our work culture – where pandering to hierarchies, taking instructions, and always looking for a “cushion” for every potential blow are often just “normal programming”, an intrapreneur is a bit of an oddity. Sure, every organization puts entrepreneurial spirit in its list of core values. But how many actually empower their employees enough to make important decisions independently? Almost none. But you can’t blame organizations alone if employees don’t showcase the first, most important trait of intrapreneurship – complete accountability – it can’t be easy for organizations, leaders and managers to let go of control. Like most things at work, this too is a two-way street.
For me, it is just a matter of work satisfaction; of being able to carve individual path and impact at the workplace. I don’t take well to authority that doesn’t add constant value (an unreasonable expectation, if you ask me). I like to make my own decisions at work. But most importantly, I find “cushions” for every blow truly unnecessary. I often found that meeting my line manager to take instructions on what is essentially just common sense, was a roadblock in my productivity. As a team leader, I still insist on truly owning not only to our failures but also our successes.
For a whole new and restless generation in the workforce, intrapreneurship is about making true impact. This generation truly values its conditioning and interests, individualistic style and core personal and professional skills. These new additions to the workplace form a powerful force. They are the ones that will shape the future of workplaces. According to Alexa Clay of the League of Intrapreneurs, “It’s also good for business. So many industries, from law to advertising to media, are in flux, and they need new ideas and new talent to reinvent themselves. This creates conditions for intrapreneurs. You have to reprogram these goliath organizations and make their cultures be more future friendly – that’s the role of the intrapreneurs.”
No prizes for guessing that the answer to this is a resounding “No”. Some people do need directions and guidance at every step of the way. Intrapreneurship also means an uncanny ability to embrace change wholeheartedly and be solely accountable for all decisions – big and small, right and wrong. It can get a little lonely too.
Most importantly, not everyone is cut out to have his or her own head on the line at all times. And unfortunately, not all organizations view mistakes and pitfalls as part of the learning curve, contrary to all that is said about the correlation between trying new things and making mistakes.
Clearly, intrapreneurs will shape the future of work. This future promises to entail much more emphasis on remote employees, flexi timing, gig economy and consequently, independent action and accountability than our workplaces are currently used to. The sooner organizations recognize, empower, and reward their intrapreneurs, the sooner they will be prepared for the future of work.