Unhappy at work? Get in line. According to Forbes, only 19% of Americans are satisfied with their jobs. Maybe your boss is a blockhead. Maybe the pay is lousy, or the work is unfulfilling. Whatever the reason, you’ve been binge-reading The American Genius and you’re wondering if it’s time to submit your resignation and start your own business.
Not so fast! Before you bid sayonara to a steady paycheck, consider a middle way: the path of the intrapreneur.
Broadly defined, an intrapreneur is any employee who takes risks to solve a problem. Instead of building a new venture from the ground, intrapreneurs utilize resources that already exist within a firm to create innovative offerings, programs, and policies.
They inspire teams. When they fail, they try again. And here’s the kicker: They are happier, more focused, and more fulfilled at work. Downstream, this can lead to increased job security, promotions and raises.
So maybe it’s time to stop thinking of yourself as a wage slave and start thinking of yourself as a budding intrapreneur. Write a pitch, develop a strategy, build consensus by inviting your coworkers to critique your idea. If you can bring a viable solution to the table, you’ll be hailed as a hero.
Even if your plan stalls or fails, there’s a good chance that you’ll be recognized and rewarded for leaning in. Good, bad, or incompetent, your boss needs help. She has quarterly objectives and quotas to meet, and if you can create value that supports your manager, your team, and the company as a whole, you will quickly become indispensable.
As Sir Richard Branson noted, “While it’s true that every company need an entrepreneur to get it underway, healthy growth requires a smattering of intrapreneurs who drive new projects and explore new and unexpected directions for business development.”
Branson’s Virgin Group is one a handful of prominent companies, along with Google, 3M, and IBM, that have formalized intrapreneurial practices. Perhaps the best-known example is Google’s “20 percent” rule, a policy that permits employees to spend up to 20 percent of their time working on original, self-initiated projects they believe will benefit the company.
Of course, employees are only half of the intrapreneurship equation. If managers want to unleash the power of intrapreneurs, they need to create a culture where risk-taking is tolerated—within limits—and creativity is encouraged. This begins with better job descriptions and more strategic pay structures, but it might extend to include flexible teams, role switching, and collaborative professional development.
Whether you’re a boss or worker, intrapreneurship has the potential to unlock opportunities for growth and success.
Not sure how to get started?
Brainstorm with your team to identify a sticky problem and draft a plan to solve it. Recommend a concrete first step, something that can be accomplished in less than one week. Now, get to work!