Signs That Define an Intrapreneurial Organization


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Reading the Signs of an intrapreneurial organization. Artwork by nick Schklair

Companies that are intrapreneurial in nature can be both enjoyable and profitable for employees, and managers, particularly if they consider themselves intrapreneurial/entrepreneurial by interest, discipline, personality and ability set.

If you are currently ensconced within either middle or upper management, and believe that your organization needs to be more intrapreneurial, consider whether change toward that direction is possible or even likely based on the characteristics of an intrapreneurial company.

Willingness to Take a Risk… Stepping Into the Dark

Intrapreneurial organizations are more willing to “live dangerously.” A prime example of this is the fabled Skunk Works, and its founder Kelly Johnson at Lockheed Martin.

Johnson ignored the accountants and only worried about producing the most innovative aircraft of its day; both success and profitability followed.

Companies that take the calculated risk time and again and plunge into promising markets or products often receive awards such as an ever-increasing share price and market dominance. Apple is another incredible example of this type of company and attitude. Under Steve Jobs, the company produced some of the most innovative products on the market and even launched whole new industries in its wake.

Flat Structure Versus Hierarchical

There is a significant difference in the way an intrapreneurial organization operates compared with a typical corporate hierarchical power structure. In the corporate structure of an intrapreneurial organization, the corporate pyramid gives way to a flatter structure. There is a greater emphasis on networking, teamwork and the shared sacrifice, esprit de corps in which close intrapreneurial working groups are immersed.

This is in stark contrast to the the traditional corporate organization ethos that places the highest values on inhibiting individual creativity, limiting risk, waiting for instructions and avoiding failure. In a word, the hierarchical organization exists partly to make sure that “…bad things don’t happen!”… while innovative companies typically break internal rules measuring success by increased market share and soaring stock prices while inevitably enduring a few market misses.

Eliminating Corporate Road Blocks

An intrapreneurial organization cuts out the so-called red tape in order to adroitly move new products through an organization. The whole company can be intrapreneurial, or perhaps only a division (per the Skunk Works) – or even a project. The underlying credo is enhanced innovation.

Cutting through corporate “obstacles” for its own sake is just as cumbersome as establishing a company culture mired in rules, regulations and thick corporate procedural manuals. The goal must always be to bring out the creative impulses of the employee or employee group within the organizational culture.

Listen Always & Spark the Intrapreneurial Impulse

Finding intrapreneurial talent in an organization can come from anywhere. Image by imelenchon.

The leadership in an intrapreneurial organization listens to their employees on a continual basis. No one manager is so knowledgeable that he can afford to ignore the good or potentially good ideas of his staff whenever they might arise. This attitude will permeate throughout an organizational group and serve to drive creativity and ignite ideas that could ultimately coalesce into new products or even industries.

Seeking Intrapreneurs Within the Organization

The innovative manager and organization searches for future intrapreneurs. This quality is almost always present in companies that are called creative or intrapreneurial. Virtually everyone has some creative expression resident internally waiting to be expressed.

Intrapreneurial companies fan the flames of this creativity despite the risks and the failures that will eventually follow. For instance, in the venture capital industry, fully  75% of all new start-ups usually fail, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Intrapreneurial organizations should experience considerably better odds because they’re usually going concerns with an existing customer base and available cash flow to handle financial troubles.

Learning Culture Creation

While profit-making organizations are not universities, one of the markers of creative, intrapreneurial companies is the fact that creative impulses thrive on new ideas where there is enough intellectual space to allow these ideas to develop into potential products. This creative experimentation is often found in the most intrapreneurial of corporate enterprises. Obviously, management must temper such ideas with the commercial interests of the company, but the common sense of the employee base and its management in such companies provide a degree of direction and control towards the aim of profitability.

Not all ideas are good, just as not all products will become commercially viable and successful. In business, as in life, there are unexpected problems and unexpected outcomes. In the end, the intrapreneurial organization permits moderate risks, with management fully aware that some of the projects will fail.


Rainone, Mike. How to Build an Intrapreneurial Organization. (2013). Product Design and Development. Accessed Oct 31, 2013

Hisrich, Robt; Peters, Michael; Shepherd, Dean. Corporate Versus Intrapreneurial Culture. (2005). New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin. Accessed Oct 31, 2013

Nies, Thomas. Create an Intrapreneurial Culture. (2005). The mindful network. Accessed Oct 31, 2013

Webb, John. How Dreamworks, LinkedIn and Google Build Intrapreneurial. (2013). innovation excellence. Accessed Oct 31, 2013

Gage, Deborah. The Venture Capital Secret: 3 Out of 4 Start-Ups Fail. (2012). Wall Street Journal. Accessed October 31, 2013.

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