Intrapreneurs: The necessary employees for established organizations today.

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The world is changing fast and the speed of change is only increasing. Some even say that we have entered a world of constant change and that the only certainty is change. Change has become the essence of organizations today and as technological and market changes occur faster and faster organizations are looking for ways to cope with this speed of change. Innovation is often suggested a solution, by which organizations can anticipate the changes that are happening. Productivity in innovation is therefore becoming as vital as productivity in production. The problem is that established organizations are in general not suited to cope with this increasing rate of change and often lack the necessary focus on innovation.

Corporate entrepreneurship forms a possible solution for these organizations and is defined as the process of organizational renewal in established organizations, as initiated by actions which originate from organizational strategy or organizational members’ individual behavior. One dimension of corporate entrepreneurship is intrapreneurship, which focuses more on the behavioral and individual level. It can be regarded a bottom-up process wherein organizational members initiate and implement activities to explore and exploit business opportunities. Individuals showing entrepreneurial behavior in established organizations are identified as intrapreneurs.

Poster 2Intrapreneurship contains three key behavioral dimensions: innovative, proactive and risk-taking behavior. Innovative behavior
is behavior that is focused on opportunity and problem recognition, idea generation and idea implementation. Proactive behavior is behavior that is persistent and comes from personal initiative. Risk-taking behavior is behavior that goes beyond the standard job description and the available resources.

The challenge for organizations is to implement this concept and create an environment that is supportive and helps attract, motivate and retain these intrapreneurs.  It is therefore essential to understand, identify, develop and nurture intrapreneurs. A graduation research project was conducted to further understand and identify intrapreneurs, which resulted in a new theoretical model and a tool that measures intrapreneurial behavior of employees and subsequently is able to identify intrapreneurs in organizations.

Understanding intrapreneurs

An intrapreneur can be described as an employee within an established organization who turns ideas into reality and who takes responsibility for this process. An intrapreneur may or may not be the person who came up with the initial idea. An intrapreneur is however the person that takes action and gets things done. Intrapreneurs are said to be self-determined goal setters, self-motivated, action focused, ambitious, creative, optimistic, persuasive and questioning the status quo. Also, intrapreneurs are believed to show innovative, proactive and risk-taking behavior.

Research showed that different types of intrapreneurs can be distinguished. This resulted in a new theoretical model, called ‘the intrapreneur characterization model’, see the figure. The x-axis describes the level of intrapreneurial behavior that a person shows. The y-axis describes the predisposition that a person has to become an intrapreneur. These two axes correspond with a nurture and nature approach concerning intrapreneurs respectively. The model introduces four new intrapreneurial types: a classic, latent, potential and enabled intrapreneur.

Theoretical model

Identifying intrapreneurs

Intrapreneurs can only be identified at the moment based on intrapreneurial behavior. A tool is developed that measures innovative, proactive and risk-taking behavior of employees. The tool creates a first assessment about someone being an intrapreneur, which is translated into an intrapreneurial profile, see the figure.

Schermafbeelding 2017-06-19 om 10.39.35The tool has two main application options, which can be used for different situation. First of all, the tool can be used to determine the number of intrapreneurs within an organization and can therefore determine how intrapreneurial an organization is. Also, it can identify and select intrapreneurs for specific reasons, like innovation initiatives or projects. Innovation initiatives and projects can in these cases be started off with the most appropriate people, which ensures a more efficient and effective project.

Besides identifying intrapreneurs, the design makes it possible for organizations to measure intrapreneurial behavior of its employees. Consequently, organizations can monitor the influence and effect of intrapreneurship interventions by measuring the general level of intrapreneurial behavior in the organization before and after the intervention. This can show the impact of the intervention and accordingly determine if the intervention needs to be stopped or adapted. For example, it can be measured if an innovation program set up for employees actually stimulates intrapreneurial behavior of these employees. Furthermore, interventions can be personalized to the intrapreneurial behavior levels of employees. For example, if a group of employees scores low on one of the intrapreneurial behavior dimensions (innovative, proactive, risk-taking behavior), the intervention could be specifically focused on increasing that specific type of behavior. Also, it becomes possible to follow someone’s personal development and to evaluate employees on intrapreneurial behavior, which are aspects that can stimulate intrapreneurship in organizations.

In conclusion, intrapreneurs are the necessary employees for established organizations today as they make established organizations more innovative. Graduation research at Innovation Booster was conducted to understand and identify these employees, which helps to develop and nurture them in established organizations.