Entrepreneurs, experiences and reflections on the art of intrapreneurship within organizations.

In half an hour we present INprendedores, experiencias y reflexiones sobre el arte del intraemprendizaje dentro de las organizaciones, a book born from the collaboration of 16 people from different fields. You can download it at this link. Here is my contribution:

Intra-entrepreneurial self-diagnosis

Intrapreneurship, or starting something from within something is rewarding because you leave a legacy, it is fun because you do something you like and you do it yourself, and it is profitable because it is usually a great showcase for you to be seen from outside in the short term and also from within in the medium and long term.

Some of us have, in a natural way, that irresistible inclination to change the things we find on our way; sometimes we are mistaken with "acracy", but it is not exactly acracy the inclination I am talking about, it is something more similar to perennial nonconformism, to not being able to stop turning things around; it is to use our critical spirit as an alert and our creativity to look for an alternative solution to the one we see.

Controlling our tendency is, at times, fundamental for our survival in the workplace. We must evaluate the terrain and see if it is favorable for things to change or not, and we must also have a clear communication policy, i.e., on many occasions we must keep quiet about our plans and on others communicate things more openly than we would like to.

In spite of everything, intrapreneurship is an experience that makes us grow personally and professionally, is fun and is usually profitable. Intrapreneurship has two main problems; first, you will not be understood at home - that is, you will be a geek or a bum for the common of your peers - but you will be understood outside, and this is different from what happens to entrepreneurs who are valued by their fellow entrepreneurs, but usually not by the outside world. The second is that your work, even though it is yours, is not exclusively yours as it happens to entrepreneurs and that goes into your pocket because a successful entrepreneur ends up making a lot of money, but an intrapreneur will never reach those heights. The good part is that when you do it from an organization you have more resources to carry it out and brand to bring your project to market, the chances of success are at least ten times higher than those of the entrepreneur and the risk of failure is not comparable because the intra-entrepreneur receives a salary from his organization, while the entrepreneur can only draw his salary in an optimistic business plan.

Managing success can be an additional complication, do not forget that dying of success is a death like any other; we all dream of it, until it happens to you and you realize that it is not a dream but a nightmare. If you think big and do things right, something too big may well appear within your company; your colleagues must like you, because, at that point, the structure you have, your small intra-entrepreneurial cell, will not be enough to manage that big thing you have created and you have little time to get support, because the market will not have patience with you. There are discussions that lead nowhere, as if the entrepreneur is born or made, and it is not my goal to reach such high conclusions, but you can see if you are on the way to intrapreneurship and if you are in the right place to do it or not. To do this, you have to evaluate some of the things happening around you and you will have to evaluate yourself, because, as Ortega y Gasset said, "I am me and my circumstances".

These are some of the most common situations and perhaps you have not considered them enough: think if the company's management really wants to do something new from within, or at least if they will understand if you do something new there. You have a series of signs to see it: if there is a negative trend in the company, if there is fear of something that is going to happen, if...; the director is looking for a new solution. Because intrapreneurship in an organization that does not want anything to be intrapreneurial is preaching in the desert; and, despite the change we are undergoing, organizations that do not want to change are like the meigas, "habeilas hailas". You may think that they are heading for death, that they will not survive for long in this busy beginning of the 21st century, and perhaps you are right, but there is little you can do in the face of a management that is not willing to accept the departure from the status quo.

Then, look inward, take a look at your track record. What is usual for an intrapreneur is that their stays do not go beyond three years in the same company, if the company is large, it may allow a radical change of scenery, either by physical location or by mission, we could also count this change as a change. Look at serial entrepreneurs, they have just created something and are already thinking about the next project, they do not stay to pilot the ship they have built; an example that will illustrate this is the construction of a cargo ship; first there is a team that draws it and then another that builds it to pass, finally, to another that launches it and drives it through the sea; the entrepreneur (intra or not) does the first two tasks, namely: draw it and build it, but it is the entrepreneur or the manager who then exploits or directs it, all this translates into project changes on a regular basis for the one who is good at drawing and building, but not at piloting.

It seems obvious that an entrepreneur (intra or not) not only has the idea, but also carries it out; Leonardo da Vinci lived on ideas, but it was a contemporary of his, Michelangelo, who made The Pietà, The David or The Sistine Chapel. Leonardo studied and Michelangelo did; only Michelangelo was an entrepreneur. Before launching into intrapreneurship, you must value your time. Those of us with small children have little time available outside of work; the same is true for people with an intense social life. Intrapreneurship may be easier for singles who live in a different place from the one that raised them, perhaps you have gone through the experience of arriving to a new place to live, you will be aware of the time you have available, if, in addition, you do not have a TV, you will realize that these are optimal conditions to focus on a new project. Thus, if you have more time, you will also have the possibility of creating your own company outside your job, as long as your contract allows it, which is an alternative for environments hostile to entrepreneurs. We seem to be living in good times for independent professionals and small companies that do great things.

Also value your immediate superior. In many occasions, the intrapreneur is a headache for his superior, if you have drive and desire to change things, you attack the status quo of your superior and your colleagues. It can help if your boss is a judoka, that is, if he or she knows how to use your strength to his or her advantage like a judo fighter. You will recognize this because they are skilled and rather vague people who bring you calm and gradually give you the limelight; it is a good situation, but with an expiration date because you do your own thing and gain visibility, but you wear yourself out. This case has a dangerous derivative, that, in addition to judoka, your boss is or will become over time a "chupacabras", that is, a lazy freeloader; in this case, your push becomes exhausted and transformed into a bad mood, you stop pushing on his shoulders and you opt for the infallible low blow; usually, this materializes in a meal with the boss of your boss. But also think that having good results with a "chupacabra" on your shoulders is an indication of your intra-entrepreneurial success, although you had better have achieved visibility before because there you will be burned looking for the exit at all costs; do not get confused, do not sell yourself cheap, before the others you and the "chupacabra" have been successful.

Intrapreneurship requires a series of previous calculations, for example, the path you can have in your company. If the company is small or young, it is advisable to analyze the latest changes that have occurred in its structure, take out the crystal ball and see how the structure will be in the future; think that the intrapreneur has no place in the classic echelons; I suppose it should fit in the Projects Area, but this department is usually a pure and simple consulting business line that has little to do with starting something from within. Finally, I recommend you to stop mumbling and focus on your purpose. Be clear about your destination - the path is only clear to a few visionaries - and think big. This is common with entrepreneurs. Think about making your company, your environment and the world a better place, use your strength to overcome the times when you will not be understood by your colleagues, use it also to sacrifice hours of your free time because your colleagues' day-to-day is the same as yours, unless you work in an isolated center, so you will have to work more hours than them. The separation of the work center deserves special attention because it usually makes things much easier for the intrapreneur, especially in the initial moment when everyone wants to know what you do, but you have nothing to teach them.

Although it is very convenient to communicate with various departments because, as I said before, if you are successful you will need them, so, from time to time, try to visit them. Probably, you will get into many puddles from which you will not be able to get out by yourself, there intrapreneurs have an advantage over entrepreneurs, because we have an organization behind us, but you have to win people over.

You have time to do it, because you will be working in the shadows for an initial period of time if the management wants to start from the inside. Guy Kawasaki, in "The Art of Getting Started" devotes a chapter to "The Art of Being a Good Person"; his proposal is summarized in doing favors for those who cannot return them; it is nothing new because the Bible already says something like that; the fact is that doing favors for colleagues who cannot return them is profitable because you will be liked, in line with "The Moral Law" that Sun Tzu talks about in "The Art of War", and if they like you they will return the favor, either themselves or others with whom they have spoken. That favor will be to get you out of the puddle you couldn't get out of on your own.


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2 responses to "Entrepreneurs, experiences and reflections on the art of intrapreneurship within organizations.”

  1. [...] of a business project. And be careful, because, as Javier Cuervo says in chapter 10 on intra-entrepreneurial self-diagnosis, in the art of INpreneurship it is as likely and dangerous to die of failure as to die of success, since [...]

  2. [...] of a business project. And be careful, because, as Javier Cuervo says in chapter 10 on intra-entrepreneurial self-diagnosis, in the art of INpreneurship it is as likely and dangerous to die of failure as to die of success, since [...]

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