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Intrapreneur Vs. Entrepreneur

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Many organizations want to experience the benefits of an internal culture that is entrepreneurial in nature. What they really want is what many refer to as intrapreneurialism. When it comes to entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship, there are differences and similarities. For purposes of this blog post, I’m focusing not on the funding, capitalization, ownership issues, as much as I’m looking at what the cultural differences and similarities are between these two ideas.

Let’s look at the traditional entrepreneur first:

Entrepreneur:

Definition: A person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.

  1. Entrepreneurs are focused on the larger picture of the organization.
  2. Entrepreneurs often have no one to answer to but themselves.
  3. Entrepreneurs are dealing with an organization that is more in flux.
  4. Entrepreneurs often are the ones who bear the full brunt of failure.
  5. Entrepreneurs generally get all the credit and reward to themselves.
  6. Success here is often based on their success learned in a previous intrapreneurship  role.

Now let’s compare it to the experience of intrapreneurship:

Intrapreneur:

Definition: An employee of a large organization who is given freedom and resources to create new solutions.

  1. Intrapreneurs are focused on internal aspects or processes within the organization.
  2. Intrapreneurs have been free from those who conventionally have to go “up the ladder” to get approval.
  3. Failure is absorbed by the organization if that entity is supportive of such intrapreneurialism.
  4. Intrapreneurs sometimes have to forgo full recognition or credit, and even reward.
  5. Success here often prepares one for a larger entrepreneurship role.

Those are the more distinct differences. But in truth, what they share in common is much more than what differentiates them. Let’s look at that:

Both:

  1. Both take on risks.
  2. Both find more effective ways to ultimately accomplish given results.
  3. Both seek solutions to problems facing their organization or their customers.
  4. Both are trying to improve the capacity, efficiency, productivity of the organization.
  5. Both see trends, and project to where opportunities may lie.
  6. Both must deal with ambiguity.
  7. Both work longer hours and put a great deal of sweat equity into what they do.
  8. Both learn to be flexible, and to move forward in a “ready, fire, aim” pattern.
  9. Both fail to succeed if they have to ask permission of others.
  10. Both succeed if the environment or conditions are right.
  11. Both can’t afford the luxury of giving up.
  12. Both may not easily see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  13. Both operate in an arena or environment where there may be little support.
  14. Money and other financial incentives are typically not the “carrot” that drives their ambition. Yet both find great internal satisfaction in the work they accomplish.

In truth, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are more similar than they are different. Organizations need to be more committed to creating a culture that allows for the entrepreneurial spirit in intrapreneurials. In that spirit, by creating a culture of intrapreneurialism, organizations can experience many of the fruits of entrepreneurialism, without starting from scratch to achieve such.

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