Leading Entrepreneurial Innovation

Leaders of well-established organisations are engaged in a market war to innovate faster and smarter than ever before. But even when companies are staffed with enthusiastic teams willing to generate ideas, “intrapreneurship” (entrepreneurship inside of companies) often disappoints. In fact, intrapreneurship projects in big companies fail between 70% and 90% of the time.

July 2015

Even when companies have the foundations for an innovation ecosystem, intrapreneurship is still all about people, process and politics. Research on entrepreneurial behaviours and mindsets shows that to kick-start intrapreneurship, follow four steps:

  1. Find your desire: Without strong personal motivation to step into the unknown, the chances of success are almost non-existent. Curiosity is a start, but it won’t help you win. And if all you have is “just a good idea” that you don’t personally care about, stop considering it.
  2. Know what you’re willing to invest to take the first step: Companies tend to think in terms of expected returns, which halts most initiatives before they even begin. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, think about acceptable loss (“what can I afford to lose if the next move doesn’t turn out as planned?”). And whereas entrepreneurs focus intently on managing financial capital, would-be intrapreneurs must focus more on managing inside social capital, i.e. relationships and social standing with colleagues and superiors.
  3. Decide who you can bring along with you: Actively look for employee partners and supportive bosses as you build a marketplace and political support for your budding idea.
  4. Start to act: Use the iterative Act-Learn-Build cycle, i.e. immediately build your next step on what you just learned and achieved. Forge the habit of “acting your way into the future” with low-cost, low-risk steps and by using the means you have at hand.

Sources: Altringer, B. (2013) A New Model for Innovation in Big Companies, HBR, Nov 19; Felício, J., Rodrigues, R., Caldeirinha, V. (2012) The Effect of Intrapreneurship on Corporate Performance, Management Decision, 50(10), 1717-1738.

Referenced techniques



The concept presents the history of intrapreneurship which dates from 1985 and reviews its two main approaches, along with implementation steps and success factors.


Innovation Management

The concept determines the critical factors of innovation management. It reviews the managerial practices of successful innovators and summarises the strengths and limitations of innovative approaches.



Entrepreneurship is a highly relevant concept for those leading and working in organisations and not just those starting new ventures. This concept covers technology, creative and social enterprise dimensions and introduces the types and main principles of entrepreneurship. The creation of an entrepreneurial culture is also addressed.

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