intrapreneur innovation

I really disliked the term when I first heard it “Intrapreneur”. Sounds like a term thought up by a second-rate marketing department. However after a few recent engagements in multi-national enterprises I think the concept may hold the future of these companies.

The rise of consumer-led product design used by startups & small companies and championed by processes such as Eric Ries’ lean startup and design thinking has changed consumer expectations. People want products made specifically for them that give them value. They care less about how the marketing sells it to them because they can read a hundred reviews and ask their friends. If they find little use for it… forget it.

This forces us to make better products. New processes mean products can now be made more economically in small batches which gives the startups a fighting chance. Now add to that the ability to adjust the features of the product quickly based on continuous customer feedback and you have a winner: small companies disrupting large ones and threatening enterprise growth and bottom line.

So how does an enterprise fight this trend? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Throw out a lot of the old “best practice” jargon and get lean and agile.

Create consumer-led design teams in house that are empowered, agile and not constricted by project budgets: enter the intreapreneur. The intrapreneur functions just as an entrepreneur but within an enterprise and benefitting its interests. 3 principles to a successful intrepreneurial endeavour:

  • Your team must operate autonomously – you cannot have layers of management overseeing everything you do and measuring it against the usual company metrics
  • You have to have an ongoing budget, not one linked to a specific project by project budget
  • You need a cross-fuctional team that can do everything necessary to explore, test and create the product

Setting up an intrapreneurial department in a larger company can happen quickly and provide rapid returns. It can reinvent a product line or a whole company; change brand perception; accelerate CSR initiatives; open new revenue streams and more. So get to it. Now, if we could just find a better word for it.

Originally posted on Linkedin



cauri runs rhubarb studios, a technology incubator in downtown Los Angeles. He is instructor fellow for product management and user experience at General Assembly; he also designed the curriculum and teaches at General Assembly product management. cauri loves technology and thinks of it as the application of science to real problems.

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