Daniel Minahan, MSPM, PMP, CM, CAPM, CSM
Entrepreneurship sounds like fun and can be rewarding, but what if you don’t have the funds or risk tolerance for the lifestyle?

Another avenue would be intrapreneurship, which is entrepreneurship within an organization. Intrapreneurs are essential to organizations that want to innovate. Often, employees are stuck doing the day-to-day work to ensure managers are satisfied, clients are served, or customers’ needs are met. The employees may not have the time or resources to be innovative; therefore, it is incumbent upon leadership to identify those with innovative and entrepreneurial skills if an organization is to start an innovation group.

Intrapreneurship was said to start back in the 1940s (debatable origin) with Lockheed Martin and the Skunk Works group. This team was brought together to develop a jet to compete with German jets during World War II. The Skunk Works team set the precedence of autonomy when setting out to develop innovative products. Autonomy is essential to get those teams away from the “flag pole” or “corporate” or whatever you want to call management. By getting away from management and others in the company, it will allow the team to truly innovate without their influences.

Below are some indicators that I have found that may help identify intrapreneurs amongst your teams:

1. A team member who’s innovative and has great ideas and is not scared to execute on those ideas. Timid innovators may shy away from exploring new ways of conducting business.

2. A team member who can work independently and on teams effectively. Need team players on this. There may be a few selfish individuals, but a strong leader can herd the cats to get the project complete.

3. A team member who is trusted by management, other team members, and the client if there is one. Without this, there is little chance the project will get greenlighted.

While basic, these are key for management to trust that innovative work will be accomplished. When you find these types, ensure there isn’t a smokescreen up hiding poor results or work. Some employees can talk a big game and “brag,” but when their work is investigated, it is all talk and no action.

The key is to have trust in the team and to give them autonomy. While hard, it is necessary for true change and innovation to occur.

There are many ways to innovate in today’s corporate world, just need innovative minds to take charge.