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Intrapreneurs: agents for change in large organisations

Intrapreneurs drive positive change within their organisations, by applying entrepreneurial principals to the roles that they fill in that organisation. They are “greenhousers” - when an idea is planted in their heads, it is unlikely to leave. They will cultivate it and nurture it until it bears fruit.
🕐 3 minutes

by Elisabeth Ferri

We’ve all had front row seats to some dramatic transformations in the world of business in the last few years. Revolutionary ideas, founded on creativity and innovation, have proven their worth in various new business initiatives. The likes of Bitcoin, Uber, and Airbnb are good examples – they have each established a new way of thinking which forces us to reconsider how we look at various industries.

These companies and the revolutionary ideas which drive them have one thing in common: they are led by audacious, strong-willed entrepreneurs who simply refuse to accept the status quo. These entrepreneurs have cultivated near hero-like status in modern society. They are the dreamers, the optimists, and the disruptors held up as paragons of modern society. They are the people that use big ideas to turn start-ups into global organisations that disrupt entire industries.

But it would be foolish to think that entrepreneurial characteristics only exist in individuals working for themselves. There are people working within organisations that display the same fundamental traits. Those with innate passion for their work, who constantly look at ways they can improve the status quo, whether it be through innovation or different applications of existing procedures to optimise processes. Established patterns are not so much a barrier to these people, but a fresh challenge.

Having good time at work

It is time to embrace the age of the intrapreneur.
Intrapreneurs drive positive change within their organisations, by applying entrepreneurial principals to the roles that they fill in that organisation. To highlight a few examples:

  • They are usually self-motivated, visionary people who are comfortable to take the initiative, even if they are likely to meet internal obstacles like a lack of resources or entrenched organisational behaviour/beliefs.
  • They are “greenhousers”. When an idea is planted in their heads, it is unlikely to leave. They will cultivate it and nurture it until it bears fruit. Figuring out how to make things work makes them tick.
  • Intrapreneurs understand trends and, more importantly, where those trends will take us. This means they can put the wheels in motion and prepare their organisation for whatever change they’ve foreseen before their competitors do. For this reason, they can be one of the most important assets a company has at its disposal.
  • In some respects, intrapreneurs have a harder job than entrepreneurs when launching a new initiative. They have the added complexity of doing so within an existing corporate framework, where predetermined rules of business conduct and governance can hinder progress, especially when radical change is involved.
  • Intrapreneurs need to be granted two important freedoms to do their job effectively: autonomy and independence. Only then can they investigate a problem from all angles, and perform the requisite analysis.

All the processes and skills outlined above are worthless without a formidable sense of ownership; both personal ownership from the individual but also organisation-wide ownership. Complete buy-in establishes the necessary room for experimentation and the flexibility to deal with any unexpected results from that experimentation. It also means people do not have to be afraid of experiments failing, as some inevitably will.
It’s not hard to see how harnessing these traits can dramatically increase a company’s productivity. How do we go about doing that? First, we must identify the likely intrapreneurs within a workforce and then we must create an innovation-friendly environment to let them work their magic.
I have seen first-hand the power of intrapreneurship at HARTMANN. We are already a leading company in our field, but our CEO has invited us to embrace our inner entrepreneur to further strengthen that position. This lofty goal has encouraged HARTMANN’s intrapreneurs to effect positive change throughout the entire organisation. By doing so, HARTMANN can further help the millions of people all over the world who rely on our products for their health and well-being.

Elisabet Ferri
Entrepreneur and Consultant Professor at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
Elisabeth Ferri

Elisabeth is a former member of the HARTMANN GROUP. She strongly believes that a solid CRM strategy can provide a competitive advantage. Elisabeth is a PhD in Entrepreneurship and Business Management, teaching entrepreneurship at university level.