Scratching your entrepreneurial itch – Part 3

Group of people working around a board room table

Feeling scratchy? Just a little – not enough to leave your job – but enough that you’d like to spice things up in the organisation where you are working.

Maybe intrapreneurship is something to give a go.

In Part 1 of this series of 3 articles, I introduced the notion of the entrepreneur and being entrepreneurial for yourself while being an employee of an organisation. In Part 2, I shared advice for preparing to work in someone else’s start-up/entrepreneurial venture.

In this article, the focus shifts a little. Your itch looks for an outlet within the organisation where you work, and for the organisation. This reduces some risk for you, while providing the possibility of meaningful creative work and outcomes.


Origins and a bit of history

The word intrapreneurship is a mashup of two words: internal and entrepreneur. Relative to the notion of entrepreneurship (c. 1700), intrapreneurship is a recent concept. The word first made its appearance in a 1978 white paper written by Gifford Pinchot III and Elizabeth S. Pinchot.  In 1982, the first formal academic case study of intrapreneurship was published by Howard Haller who founded the Intrapreneurship Institute. Time Magazine published an article in 1985 titled, Here Come the Intrapreneurs, and in the same year Steve Jobs was quote using the term in an interview. And while it then it started to get much more attention around the world, it wasn’t until 2011 that the first conference on intrapreneurship was convened in London, England. (Source: Timeline by Wall Street Mojo)


On being an intrapreneur

Much is written about how an organisation can encourage and support intrapreneurship, and why it’s good for the organisations. However, in the spirit of Self unLimited, this article is advice for the individual who might like to take action in being an entrepreneur inside their organisation, and emphasising how it’s good for you.

Here’s some definitions of what it is to be an intrapreneur:
“An intrapreneur has a broader vision for an established company. This vision may involve radical changes to company traditions, processes, or products.” Source: Investopedia 

“An intrapreneur is an employee with entrepreneurial skills and is responsible for developing innovative ideas, products, or services for their company. Their goal is to enhance the sustainability of the business and help it stay ahead in the competition.” Source: Wall Street Mojo

Intrapreneurs differ from entrepreneurs because they use resources and capabilities made available by the organisation in which they reside. And they can operate without great risk – as the organisation takes on that.

In this image you can get a taste of the skills that shape an Intrapreneur, as well as the contributions from the Employer to their idea.

Source: Intrapreneur (


Creating mutual value

At the heart of entrepreneurship/ intrapreneurship is value creation. As an intrapreneur, you can create value for an organisation (and by extension any person or entity in some relationship with the organisation). Consider this: You can also create value for yourself while also creating value for the organisation. It maybe value that you take with you at the end of the day when you leave work; or at a later date when you leave the organisation. It is value that resides with you, under your control and ownership.

Let the value creation begin!


Start by being an intrapreneur for the organisation

Here’s some steps to take to shape your intrapreneurial adventure.

  • Explore within your organisation what internal programs and people are assigned to innovation or intrapreneurial outcomes.
  • Make yourself known to internal intrapreneurial programs and communities. Be interested and be interesting.
  • Hang around with, and support others further down the road than you on an intrapreneurial venture. Be generous. Observe and learn. Contribute to their success. Create yourself some social capital of an intrapreneurial flavour.
  • Make offers about what you can contribute to people with interesting challenges or programs.
  • Leverage off internal programs in coming up with your own ideas. Don’t underestimate the value of a solid base from which you can start doing something that draws on your own strengths and interests.
  • Buddy up with someone else who is also interested in intrapreneurship. Be a mutual source of encouragement, inspiration and insight.
  • Once you’ve started getting involved in intrapreneurial programs, be a PAL (peer-assisted-learning) for others who are just starting out and share with their your experience and insights to help them get going on this adventure too.
  • Get involved in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programs you organisation may run for NFP/community organisations. Often these are time limited, so useful if you don’t want to make a big time commitment, or an ongoing commitment at this time in your life. These may not be overtly entrepreneurial activities, however, they are a great way to jump into something different and cultivate curiosity for other’s needs.
  • Turn your intrapreneurial adventure into a semi-formal venture with/for yourself; making a commitment to how much attention you’ll give this and for what period of time.
  • Do personal Value Exchange Ledger to guide this aspect of your workscape. And to get fluent in the idea of value elements to support value-creation thinking.
  • Define some areas of interest for creative attention – particular with emerging technologies. Cast the net wide. If you haven’t thought about Artificial Intelligence as one possible area ripe for intrapreneurship, start here (and one example of internal change potential).
  • Create and follow a Professional Enrichment Plan with focused intentions to enhance curiosity and explore outside your current knowledge and skills.
  • Shape and do your own experiments, especially when there are no organisational programs. Be prepared to showcase your experiments to key audiences.
  • Go on available training in design thinking, product development, innovation, etc. Talk with your organisation’s L&D people about what is available, especially things that might not be broadly advertised.
  • Find yourself an intrapreneurial sponsor/mentor or both. Get focused attention and advice. Build a deeper relationship with them.
  • Check out the League of Intrapreneurs and consider joining to be part of the intrapreneurial ecosystem outside your organisation. They have great resources: Book, The Intrapreneur’s Guide to Pathfinding and Tool, The Intrapreneur’ Compass which is to help you reflect on the key dimensions and questions that are fundamental for your intrapreneurial quest.
  • Look for published resources on intrapreneurship. Many are publicly and freely available. Like The Social Intrapreneur: A Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers.
  • Create a portfolio of experience and activity; include photos, stories, testimonials and workproduct.  Create during your ventures; and to use to position yourself for future ventures. This is also great personal memento to remind you of the things you did when you take a moment to celebrate your venturing into intrapreneurial waters.



Helen Palmer, Founder of Self unLimited, has been in many workscape situations where she felt the entrepreneurial itch and did something about it. From small things inside an organisation, to working in other’s startups, to founding her own business and creating unique products and services – she’s got personal experience in activating and cultivating her entrepreneurial capability. She’s keen to help others take their first steps into unleashing their creativity and ideas for a world that needs them!


(Amended) Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash