Author Sarah Ban Breathnach’s said “The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do” This aptly sums up the essence of an intrapreneur. They are people who can operate at both ends of the spectrum – dreaming and doing. That means that they can conceive and birth creative ideas as well as action and implement them to bring them to fruition.
Intrapreneurs are usually easy to spot. They usually come to the attention of others because of the initiative, motivation, energy and creativity they demonstrate in their work. (And also outside of work. It is not unusual for intrapreneurs to also have start-up type activities, ‘side hustles’ or social intrapreneurial projects bubbling away from home.) In team meetings, they will be the ones with the alternative viewpoints, asking lots of questions. Intrapreneurs thrive on growth projects and stretch development.
They are resourceful employees who have a growth mindset, who are prepared to do things differently, take some calculated risks and bring a great deal of energy, commitment and passion to their work.
What To Do Once You’ve Spotted Them.
Empower and enable them through training, time and resources to not only create original ideas but also see them through to the prototyping and implementation.
Give them the opportunity to learn new skills in the work environment. DreamWorks Animation, the company behind Kung fu panda, How to train your dragon and Madagascar, offers their employees free classes, from script development to pitching, and then puts them in front of the company’s real executive team who will listen to their ideas and – should they be of the requisite standard – puts them into development!
Google gave their entire workforce the chance to be intrapreneurs when they introduced their famous 20 per cent time. They don’t do it now but when it was first introduced in 2004, it was responsible for a slew of innovations.
Identify intrapreneurs early in their career and give them a diversity of experiences and some good oversight or mentoring. This can have a catalytic effect on their performance, career development and ultimately their long-term contribution not just to the organisation but potentially to society at large as the following story illustrates.
The Story Of Claude Blanchet
Claude Blanchet became the first Director General of the Société de développement des coopératives du Québec, the Cooperative Development Corporation, demonstrates this.
Fresh out of an MBA, he worked at a company called Campeau Construction Co. in Ottawa, Canada, which was itself run by a successful young entrepreneur called Robert Campeau. The company had blossomed to such an extent that Campeau himself had achieved millionaire status by the time he was 30 years of age. Campeau recognised Claude Blanchet’s potential and gave him several positions in different departments of the firm to become familiar with its operations. He was then appointed manager of the International Division. Campeau Corporation had subsidiaries and representatives throughout the world, and Claude spent a full year travelling the globe to learn how the firm operated abroad. He developed his intrapreneurial skills through involvement in various innovation projects in several European countries, including Britain, France and Sweden.
Claude benefited enormously from the flexibility, responsibility and leeway he was given but most of all from his mentor’s experience. About that he says that the most important thing he learned from Campeau was how to turn a dream into reality. ‘Society isn’t set in stone. If you use your intelligence, imagination, energy and willpower, you can make an impact. I really learned a lot about leadership. If you want something enough, you can change the world and the course of history.’
He took what he learned at Campeau, one of the most dynamic property development companies in Canada which had given him global experience and turned his considerable talents to social entrepreneurship to help create an ambitious vision for the future of Quebec. He became the President and CEO of The General Investment Corporation of Quebec and was able to revitalise the corporation to the extent that it became the lever that made possible the development of many other sectors of the economy, and he ultimately became the first Director General of the Cooperative Development Corporation.
When you invest in developing your intrapreneurs you never know how far the ripples can spread.
 Louis Jacques, F., & Mircea-Gabriel, C. (2012). Claude Blanchet, entrepreneur, intrapreneur and public sector manager: Supporting the development of Québec. Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, 6(4), 369–382.