I taught the difference between these two concepts some 3 years ago for a bachelor’s programme. Recently, the concepts came up again in my own studies of Creativity and Entrepreneurship. I decided to share my thoughts on it in this article as I am fascinated everyday by the depth of innovation I see with new businesses in my own country.
Many small and new business owners that I come across are those who are turning their own passion into something that is tangible. Sometimes, many of us do this ” on the side ” while still working within another company. This is perhaps the primary distinction between an entrepreneur and an intrapreneur.
According to the Edinburgh Napier University an entrepreneur is
“a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on greater financial risks in order to do so”, or more generally:
“Someone who specialises in taking judgmental decisions about the co-ordination of scarce resources”
With that said, most people believe intrapreneurs are simply internal entrepreneurs. But do we understand the role of an intrapreneur? Although there are some similarities, fundamentally an intrapreneur is someone who exhibits entrepreneurial traits and characteristics, but instead works within an organisation and enjoys the safety that it brings. An intrapreneur:
‘An employee of a large organisation who has the entrepreneurial qualities of drive, creativity, vision and ambition, but who prefers, if possible, to remain within the security of an established company’. Alan Gibb
‘Any of the “dreamers who do”… The intrapreneur may be the creator or inventor but is always the dreamer who figures out how to turn an idea into a profitable reality.’ Gifford Pinchot
Many intrapreneurs can turn into entrepreneurs eventually if this is their goal and desire. In fact, growing statistics support the notion that they are extremely successful in their own enterprises when they decide to take the leap on their own.
Conversely, there are many individuals who have entrepreneurial initiatives (i.e. their own side hustle), photographers, graphic artists, MUAs and so on but are not actively apart of the decision making process or upper management. They do not create new projects or undertake something new without permission in their employer’s company. They are not intrapreneurs but employees. Intrapreneurs are therefore creative and visionary people.
To understand more of the distinctions between the two concepts let’s look at the two main characteristics below.
Intrapreneurs by definition do not possess the level of autonomy of an entrepreneur. They are employed within an organisation and are ultimately accountable to someone. Although, intrapreneurs can be given great scope and responsibility; higher order decision making, many times lies with a CEO or Board of Directors.
2. RISK vs REWARD
All entrepreneurs ultimately stand to lose everything they put into their businesses. For most Trinidadians, this sometimes means putting your personal finances, health, family, mental state and even the new business at stake. For most however, making these tough decisions so that you have a brighter future and stay in charge of your destiny is always worth it.
Now although most intrapreneurs take more risk than the average employee, they usually will not bare the burden if their projects are a flop. A good employer will almost always praise and reward an employee for smart risk taking even if the outcome is not as successful as they may have hoped.
Entrepreneurs play a vital role in social and economic development. They account for a growing section of a nation’s economy that is providing employment and fostering innovation. This is not only taking place in the traditional sense through new product development but through a new breed of entrepreneurs are pushing the boundaries of technologies. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos are being replaced ( not really!) by the likes of Elizabeth Holmes, Melanie Perkins and Jack Ma and I hope to be working with some growing entrepreneurs soon!