Intrapreneurship: Fostering Innovation Within Established Organizations

Intrapreneurship: Fostering Innovation Within Established Organizations

Intrapreneurship: Fostering Innovation Within Established Organizations banner

It’s very common for modern companies to get stuck in their ways and continue doing the same thing for decades. But a lot of companies see massive success when a radical thinker comes along and pitches a new idea, process, or product. These innovations are changing entire industries, and the company is making a ton of money as a result. In this case, it’s intrapreneurship that’s fostering innovation and changing how companies conduct business.

What Is Intrapreneurship?

What is intrapreneurship? Intrapreneurship is the idea of cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset within an organization of employees. With this mindset, employees will want to develop new ideas, pitch new projects, and think about new products, just like an entrepreneur would.

The key difference is that everyone will be making these changes to the company, rather than starting their own individual businesses like an entrepreneur does.

The other point worth mentioning is that intrapreneurship happens inside of companies that already have experience within an industry, and who have a large talent pool. This allows them to push innovation forward even faster and with fewer mistakes, as compared to entrepreneurs who try to tackle the same projects on their own.

In a lot of cases, intrapreneurial ideas revolve around new products or processes. This leverages a company’s existing customers and products to push forward the new idea. In other words, a new product gets a running start when it’s invented by a company that’s already doing business.

How It Drives Corporate Innovation

For many companies, intrapreneurship acts like a catalyst. It can speed up innovation and create ground-breaking new ideas within an industry. Oftentimes, these changes can position a company as a front-runner within their industry, acting as disruptors.

Since this innovation is being driven by upper management and owners of the business, there’s a huge platform and a lot of available people, equipment, and money to get these ideas made. With this unique platform, corporate innovation can start to branch out from every segment of a company: from sales to engineering and logistics.

To put it simply, nurturing an intrapreneurial mindset among employees may contribute positively to the company’s bottom line.

Characteristics of an Intrapreneur

What makes up a classic example of an intrapreneur? Intrapreneurs are known for their ability to think outside the box and question why things are being done the way they are. Under the right circumstances, intrapreneurs are willing to take risks to propel an industry forward.

Most intrapreneurs have a unique blend of problem-solving skills, critical visionary thinking, and incredible willpower and determination to see the project through.

If you think about any of the classic entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll have a starting point as to what an intrapreneur looks like. The difference is that intrapreneurs might have a stronger sense of teamwork since a lot of the ideas are worked on communally as a larger group.

The Role of Employees in Intrapreneurship

Employees are the most important part of any intrapreneurial incentive. They are the people driving the change, pitching the ideas, and making the transformations to a company.

Employees should feel inspired to use their creativity and take reasonable risks in the name of intrapreneurship and change. The management can do their part by giving the employees all the resources and mentorship that they need, while maintaining a supportive culture that puts emphasis on innovation.

Types of Intrapreneurs Within a Company

Within a company, there are different types of intrapreneurs who all work together to complete the project. Speaking broadly, you can categorize each person as either a creator, doer, or implementer.

  • Creators – These are the people who come up with the big ideas and innovative concepts. They’re good at seeing gaps in the market and understanding how a business can step in to fill those gaps. These people often have experience interfacing with customers, so they already know the needs of the market.
  • Doers – Doers will turn a creative idea into an actionable plan. These are the people who manage projects, coordinate resource availability, and oversee the teams. They might also come up with timelines and general conceptualization to understand how the project can be successful.
  • Implementers – Finally, there are the implementers. This group will physically execute the plan and turn an idea into a physical product. They will develop the product or service and fine-tune the right solution.

Benefits of Successful Intrapreneurship

There are a lot of reasons why companies encourage intrapreneurship, and here are some of the biggest benefits of doing so:

Business Growth Perspective

Looking at it from a business growth perspective, intrapreneurship can completely change how a company conducts business through its new innovations. Every business can grow by rolling out new products and services that fill market gaps.

These advances can open a company up and allow them to claim a larger market share.

Employee Satisfaction and Retention

There’s something very rewarding about being part of a project that introduces a new product or idea to the market. By encouraging intrapreneurship, companies can help boost overall employee satisfaction and retention.

These environments allow for a lot of creativity and free thought, which is generally favored by employees. It can help employees feel like they’re a part of something bigger, and it can bring a lot of belonging and a sense of accomplishment.

Cultivating an Intrapreneurial Culture

The big challenge for a lot of companies is knowing how to cultivate an intrapreneurial culture. It’s a lot easier said than done, but it’s far from impossible.

To enhance success, decision-makers must rethink their approach to problem-solving. Instead of adhering to traditional methods, encouraging employees to innovate and address industry-wide inefficiencies is crucial. Key pain points may include operational inefficiencies, cost management challenges, customer satisfaction issues, employee engagement and retention struggles, technological adaptation delays, regulatory compliance complexities, and supply chain vulnerabilities. Tackling these areas can lead to significant improvements in productivity, cost savings, customer loyalty, and overall business performance, contributing positively to the company’s bottom line.

A good way to push more intrapreneurial thoughts across a business is to send out surveys asking employees to target a current shortcoming with the company’s product list. Finding the gaps is the first step in filling them.

Encouraging and Incentivizing Intrapreneurship

Another way to cultivate an intrapreneurial culture is through incentivization. Employees like to be rewarded for their success. In this case, employers can offer gift cards, paid days off, or bonuses for any employees who pitch an intrapreneurial idea that gets approved by management.

Some companies have employees dedicated to recruiting intrapreneurs across the business. These people are looking for people who have the next big idea. By hiring a full-time person to handle this role, companies are ensuring that they are putting enough attention into finding these great ideas.

Real-World Examples of Intrapreneurship

To better understand the idea of intrapreneurship, consider some real-world examples. These are all examples that happened in some of the largest companies in the world. Take a look at these ideas and see if you can draw some inspiration.


Gmail, the largest mailing domain owned by Google, is a classic example of intrapreneurship. Gmail started as a small side project that a Google engineer pitched to phase away from outdated email servers used elsewhere.

In this case, a tiny idea made by a random engineer within the company turned into the largest email service in America.

Post-It Notes

Another great example of intrapreneurship in motion is the Post-It note company. It started out when an employee researcher at 3M tried making a strong adhesive for the aerospace industry. Something went wrong with his chemistry, and he ended up with a weak adhesive that could easily be pulled off. However, he found that the adhesive didn’t leave any residue, and it could be used repeatedly.

Instead of scrapping this idea, he brought it up to his managers and it eventually turned into the Post-It Note.

Sony PlayStation

The Sony PlayStation was ahead of its time, creating a gaming console that offered great graphics at reasonable prices for household use. It all started when an engineer had an idea to revolutionize how games were played in people’s houses. The engineer was frustrated with systems like the Atari which felt primitive and had very restrictive controllers.

With a lot of skepticism, Sony eventually greenlit the idea. Today, the PlayStation is one of the top-played game consoles across the globe.

Duolingo’s Gamification

Language learning has historically been something that kids dread doing in school, and it was done out of necessity for people who had to travel to new countries. However, Duolingo completely changed how language is learned.

In this modern example of intrapreneurship, a developer at Duolingo created the “gamification” of language learning — turning the process of learning a new language into something as fun as playing a video game.

Duolingo is the frontrunner in this space, and a lot of its success is thanks to its unique and engaging way of teaching users a new language.

Can Intrapreneurship Be the Future of Corporate Innovation?

A lot of companies will wonder if intrapreneurship is the future of innovation. The honest answer is that it’s been here the whole time. Some of the largest and most successful companies in the world owe their success to intrapreneurial ideas that popped up along the way. Even companies like Netflix and Amazon can track their success as a series of intrapreneurial decisions over the past decades.

Intrapreneurship is incredibly vital in projecting a company forward. All it takes is a single idea, and you can create the next big thing. Harboring an intrapreneurial mindset in a company can keep them on the precipice of success, growing their market share and helping with the company’s success.

Learn More About Intra and Entrepreneurship at JWU

Intrapreneurship is a great way to innovate entire industries, regardless of how established the organization already is. With enough resources and money at a company’s disposal, workers can have the freedom to pursue big advancements.

If any of these topics interest you, you might find a lot of satisfaction in a career surrounding entrepreneurship. Consider exploring an online Bachelor’s Degree in Entrepreneurship at JWU to deepen your understanding of entrepreneurship and discover how to pursue your passion.

For more information about completing your degree online, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].

Step 1Step 1 of 2
*Required Field Step 1 of 2
Step 2

By clicking Get Started below, I consent to receive recurring marketing/promotional e-mails, phone calls, and SMS/text messages from Johnson & Wales University (JWU) about any educational/programmatic purpose (which relates to my inquiry of JWU) at the e-mail/phone numbers (landline/mobile) provided, including calls or texts made using an automatic telephone dialing system and/or artificial/prerecorded voice messages. My consent applies regardless of my inclusion on any state, federal, or other do-not-call lists. Consent is not a condition for receipt of any good or service. Carrier charges may apply. Terms and conditions apply.

« Previous Step 2 of 2
Request info