As intrapreneurialism starts to become more mainstream in progressive, future-focussed organisations, it helps to have some tools and models by which to understand this trend. I’d like to share one here that identifies different levels of readiness for intrapreneurialism.

Realistically, organisations will have people at many different levels of readiness when it comes to being intrapreneurial. Factors influencing their level could be things like length of time in the organisation, career stage, previous experience, perceptions about their leader’s openness to new ideas, confidence, levels of trust and collaboration, nature of professional development undertaken, to name but a few.

There are five common stages people are at in organisations. Let’s have a look at them. Which one do you identify with?

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Let’s start from the lowest level of the diagram, representing the person who is least ready to be an intrapreneur, and work up. 

THE SEAT WARMER is a disengaged employee who is not looking to add value to the organisation or their team. They have low levels of motivation (either intrinsic or extrinsic). If opportunities present themselves for this person to implement positive change it won’t be acted on. In fact, the opportunities may even be sabotaged so that other team members can’t act on it either. This person demonstrates low levels of commitment, self-leadership and problem-solving so their performance is below average. They often have a negative impact on a team hence the rating of X-1 in performance. In reality their negative influence may be far greater.

THE RULE FOLLOWER is committed to doing things the way they have always done them. He or she is good at maintaining business-as-usual processes, is very risk averse, fears failure and is unprepared to try anything new – even if it looks like a promising opportunity to add value. Such a person is effective in a static environment but feels out of their depth in an environment that is rapidly changing, evolving and transitioning. Their average performance rating combined with the outcome rating of x1 reflects their skill of maintaining the status quo.

THE QUESTIONER is someone who is actively seeking for better ways of doing things so they deliver above average performance. This person recognises the need to look for better ways of doing things but lacks the confidence or the skills to be genuinely intrapreneurial. However, the mere fact that they are open to new ways of doing things means that they have more capacity for positive impact in the team or organisation hence their outcome rating of X2. They can be moved up the ladder with some appropriate professional development or mentoring. They may be described a ‘intrapreneurs in waiting’. A failure to develop them results in unfulfilled potential.

THE PROBLEM-SOLVER is someone who jumps at the chance to make things better. If they see an opportunity, they will act on it with due diligence. They are confident in their skills and abilities, have demonstrated that they have good judgment and critical and creative thinking processes. They are astute about how they expend their energy and resources. Their excellent problem-solving skills mean that they are take action and generate positive outcomes for their team, organisation and customers. As such they are sound intrapreneurs in so far as they have the professional, personal and creative skills to effect excellent outcomes on identified problems. The solutions they produce and their openness to collaborate, facilitate the team to high performance. Hence their outcome rating is conservatively placed at X4, in reality it is probably much higher depending on the nature of the problems they solve.

THE OPPORTUNITY FINDER is the true intrapreneur. This person goes beyond being a good problem-solver to being a talented problem-finder. In other words, they are excellent strategic thinkers who can look ahead and identify potential problems before they turn into crises that sap time, energy and resources. These people have found ways of rising above the demands of the urgent to focus on the important. They can help shift teams from reactive to proactive mode. Sometimes they are respected for their skills but unfortunately, they are also occasionally sidelined by less future-focussed team-members or leaders who accuse them of inventing work for already busy people. People who are stuck in a ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality resist the attempts of Opportunity Finders to pre-emptively bring change.

These Opportunity Finding intrapreneurs are invaluable to any organisation that is wanting to become future-ready – hence their high outcome rating of X8. They are the game-changers, pioneers and drivers, the movers and the shakers who help the team and organisation to create and shape their future. They are high performers who believe in what they are doing and in the important work of their organisation. Consequently, they are constantly vigilant in seeking out opportunities to strengthen the organisation. They see it as their responsibility to be aware of the emerging trends, locally and globally, that are impacting their field. and spend time thinking and reflecting on how to ride or navigate them.

A Caveat

Anytime I share a model I always include the caveat that all models are simultaneously useful and flawed. People rarely fit neatly into particular categories – nonetheless models provide a useful way of making sense of concepts and data. I hope this one provides a useful way of thinking about the different levels of readiness for intrapreneuialism.

To find out how to progress up the levels – come along to my Creating Intrapreneursworkshop on the 17th of September being held in Brisbane City.

Hope to see you there.

Until next time,


Dr. Irena Yashin-Shaw


E: irena@direnayashinshaw.com

M: +61 411 330 301

P: +61 7 3849 5003

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