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9 intrapreneurial ideas that changed the world

January 27, 2023

Intrapreneurs work on the inside of companies to innovate 


From Seasonedpros.ca Insights Lab


You know what an entrepreneur is, but are you familiar with the “intrapreneur”?


An intrapreneur is like an entrepreneur except they work from the inside of the organization. The idea is that employees know their companies well and might have great ideas that can lead to innovation.


Intrapreneurs are freed from the constraints of the job description and given permission and resources to pursue their ideas. 


The mindsets of the intrapreneur and entrepreneur are similar. Intrapreneurs are visionaries and like to take risks to pursue ideas and innovations. 


Intrapreneurism was promoted by famous entrepreneur


The idea of intrapreneurship was popularized by Apple Founder Steve Jobs who published an article on the subject in 1985. 


He described it like this: “The Macintosh team was what is commonly known as intrapreneurship… a group of people going, in essence, back to the garage, but in a large company.”


What Jobs recognized is that large organizations sometimes stifle innovation because employees work in job silos and aren’t encouraged to take risks.


Intrapreneurs bring a small-business agility to larger organizations


Like an entrepreneur, the intrapreneur comes to the role with their own ideas and creative energy.  If they are given permission to pursue these ideas and take risks, they can have a positive impact on the bottom line.


Unlike entrepreneurs, the intrapreneur has the support of an already-established brand and customer base. They do not have spend their time pitching to outside investors, setting up corporate structures, and developing HR policies and health plans. They do not have to assume the same financial risk as the start-up entrepreneur.


Fractional intrapreneurs also change the game


Sometimes the intrapreneur comes from outside the organization and works on a contract to fulfil the project or develop an idea.


The contractor talent model is well-suited to the role of the intrapreneur who is often an exited entrepreneur who enjoys this kind of work but doesn’t necessarily want to start a new business all over again.


The fractional contractor is an ideal candidate for an intrapreneurial role because they are not inhibited by organizational politics, job descriptions and old ways of doing things. 


9 examples of intrapreneurship?


  1. The Apple Computer – Steve Jobs empowered his employees to pursue innovations like Apple Computer and the iPhone. He considered himself an entrepreneur working inside a large organization.
  2. Skunk Works  –  Founded by Lockheed Martin employee Kelly Johnson, this was a small company working inside a big corporation to create innovative aircraft.
  3. Gmail – Google created a policy to tap entrepreneurial ideas within the organization. They were allowed to spend 20 percent time to pursue innovative projects. One employee, Paul Buchheit, used his time to create the Gmail platform.
  4. Sony PlayStation – A Sony employee watched his daughter playing games on Nintendo. Initially, Sony executives rejected his idea of creating a gaming entertainment console, but when the employee started working with Nintendo, he convinced Sony to partner and the PlayStation was born.
  5. Gortex Guitar strings – The company behind Goretex also gave employees a percentage of time to pursue ideas. Dave Myers came up with the idea to use their technology to coat guitar strings to improve performance and durability. They are now the top-selling guitar string on the market.
  6. 3M Post-it Notes – an employee created a light-adhesive material when the company was focused on strong adhesives. He worked inside the corporation and came up with the post-it notes, now a staple in most offices.
  7. McDonald’s Happy Meal – created by a regional manager who came up with a fun box to market a meal to children. It was just a gimmick at first but the idea worked and millions of happy meals were sold.
  8. Amazon Prime – an employee inside had the idea that customers would pay to belong to an exclusive community of people like-minded people who received discounts to shop online.
  9. Swan Matchboxes – in the early 1900s, a factory had an idea to place the sandpaper strike on one side of the box rather than two. This saved the company millions.


Intrapreneurs can bring innovation and boost a company’s revenues, but the role requires the support of leadership and a change in corporate culture.


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