If you read any random article on intrapreneurship, chances are the author points to Gifford Pinchot III as the one coining the term in 1985 as well as being the creator of the “the Intrapreneur’s 10 Commandments“ that have circulated widely since their creation.

Some even call him the father of intrapreneurship.

Today we’re pleased to announce that Gifford will be a keynote speaker for the Intrapreneurship Conference 2014. As a taster to his session, we asked him to share his perspectives on what’s happening in the intrapreneurship landscape. If you want to hear more from Gifford and the 20+ other intrapreneurs and experts, be sure to register for the conference on time.


Why is intrapreneurship a must-do for companies?

In a rapidly changing world, innovation is the source of both profit and survival. The faster the world is evolving, the faster old ways of doing things, old products and and old service designs are made obsolete by innovative competitors. So innovation is essential.

The surprising fact is this: You don’t get innovation in large organizations without intrapreneurs. Dr. William Souder did a 10-year life cycle study of 289 innovations in 53 companies. He was hoping to discover a process for driving innovation in large companies. He came back a bit discouraged.

The only thing he could find in common between the successes was the presence of a passion intrapreneur. As he put it, “The intrapreneur is an essential ingredient in every innovation.”


Why do companies struggle with innovation in the first place?

Companies are organized to do what they are currently doing. Anything new cuts across organizational boundaries and probably is not directly helpful to the metrics by which people in all those boundaries.


Are companies really ready for intrapreneurship in its true form?

01_imgMost companies have a culture and a structure that makes innovation difficult. But that doesn’t rule out intrapreneuring. What works is a relationship between an intrapreneur and a sponsor. The sponsor helps the intrapreneur get through the challenges and gates of whatever system has been put in place to support (block actually) innovation. In general successful intrapreneurs gather a team of sponsors who collectively support them despite “the slings and arrows of an outraged bureaucracy.”

Another relationship is also important: the relationship between the intrapreneur and the team.

If all of these relationships are strong, there is a good chance of success. If not, it won’t happen. 


What is the most surprising development in the field of intrapreneurship since you coined the term in 1985?

To me, the most surprising development has been the success of free intraprise. Free intraprise supports intrapreneuring of internal services. Most people in a large organization provide services to other people in the organization. What if the way those services were provided was fully intrapreneurial?

This system has proved to be 1.8 times as productive as more normal ways of providing internal services.  It works also and especially in government, as I have outlined in this post: http://www.pinchot.com/2010/03/intrapreneuring-in-government.html

Some of the free intraprise system establishing dynamics:

  1. There is an internal bank that manages the details of the free intraprise system.
  2. The bank and its steering committee license “intraprises” to operate after they present a plausible business plan. It maintains accounting for the teams.
  3. The bank provides intraprises with a loan to get started.
  4. The intraprises get no allocated funds; they generate the revenue to support their salaries and costs by selling services inside the organization.
  5. As long as an intraprise does not break any fundamental rules they may pursue any internal customer in competition with other parts of the organization such as staff units, direct hiring by their customer, outside suppliers, etc.
  6. An intraprise may set its prices and choose what customers to pursue
  7. An intraprise deposits funds received in the bank. They carry over from year to year until they used. They may be used for any legitimate business purpose without requiring permission.
  8. Insolvent intraprises will be dissolved (HR will try to find members other jobs).
  9. An intraprise may chose its members from willing applicants
  10. No outside manager can force the team to accept a member or prevent one from joining
  11. No outside manger can commandeer an intraprise team member
  12. The leadership will be determined by the team and leaders will not be removed by outside authority except by the Steering Committee with cause


What have you been up to lately?

I have just created a series of 3 online courses in intrapreneuring. The first was a 3-hour course introducing the basic principles of intrapreneuring. It was a mandated course for 1100 IT professionals in a German firm. Despite the negative impression created by being forced to take it, it got a 95% approval rating at the end. This rarely happens with a mandated course.

The second course continued lessons on how to succeed as an intrapreneur, however the main content was on preparing a business plan for an intrapreneurial team. 12 teams began the course. 6 were funded by an executive review panel on graduation. 4 more found some  funding to continue. The returns for the company so far are ten times the total investment.

What are you going to share with us during the IC2014?


Here’s the outline of my talk, called “The Intrapreneurial Renaissance”:

  1. Why Intrapreneuring Now?

This is a particularly good time for intrapreneurs. Why is that?

  1. How Innovation Actually Happens

Significant innovations never happen according to plan. This is one reason why real intrapreneurs are needed, to make the pivots needed to create value when one or more assumptions prove false.

  1. The Nature of the Intrapreneur

Given that the most important way to encourage innovation in an organization is to recognize the real intrapreneurs and provide them with an environment that suits them, it is well to understand the intrapreneurial personality and what they need to succeed.

  1. Overcoming the Corporate Immune System

Every organization has an active corporate immune system. The intrapreneur has to know how to make his or her idea seem part of the DNA of the organization, not to seem like a foreign organism that the immune system should attack.

  1. The School for Intrapreneurs

I will describe the School for Intrapreneurs that was hinted at in #5 above. What were the courses like? How was it started? We have helped our clients launch over 700 products and businesses using the School for Intrapreneurs as a launch platform. I will talk about what we have learned in the course of those 700 ventures.


Lastly, let me tell you that this is an amazing opportunity for me to not only share the vast experience I have, but especially to hear from intrapreneurs, innovation managers and experts in these fields how you are doing intrapreneurship.

So I am really looking forward to connect with all of you during the many networking and social parts of the conference. Talk then!

The Intrapreneurship Conference 2014 is not just another conference on innovation, where you will be listening to motivational speakers all day. During 2,5 days, you will get hands-on training by intrapreneurs and experts, and leave the conference with a clear action plan as well as practical tools for your next step in implementing and leveraging intrapreneurship. Additionally, you’ll be able to  network with an exclusive group of innovation managers and intrapreneurs from other industry leading companies. You can find all the information you need about the conference at a glance in this downloadable presentation