Examples of Intrapreneurial Success in Major Corporations
The example of the successful Intrapreneurial creation of 3M's profitable product line Post-it Notes
Intrapreneurs, like their entrepreneurial counterparts, need to envision and create an idea. But instead of convincing outside investors and risking their own personal capital, the intrapreneur needs to create the right team within his company to successfully launch the new products. Then the intrapreneur needs to convince some "mover and shaker" in senior management to approve the new product concept and then to invest the company's time, money, and other resources.
Some enlightened corporations, such as 3M, do allow an employee-intrapreneur limited freedom to pursue new ideas. The Intrapreneur still has too overcome the roadblocks of formal corporate structure and the delays of corporate bureaucracy. The corporate entrepreneur, or Intrapreneur, must convince senior management that the new, out of the main stream idea has merit, has possible market, and that the new produce would be both profitable and synergistic to the corporation.
The good new is that corporate entrepreneur or Intrapreneur is really just an entrepreneur who has less risk in building a new venture. The Intrapreneur has materially less control of when, or even whether, the product will be launched by his employing corporation. To be a successful Intrapreneur takes a unique set of talents and abilities far more than just being creative. The must be willing to take some personal risks at sharing and pushing an unique idea with the senior management of the corporation. The Intrapreneur must have the persistence and perseverance to work to secure senior management's approval to create and launch the product or service.
Intrapreneuring and intrapreneurship existed in corporations for decades, even before the term was used in the 1982's. Gifford Pinchot (1985) made it famous in his book Intrapreneuring. Apple's Chairman, Stephen Jobs (1985) use the term "intrapreneurship" in his article Newsweek article in the September of 1985. Job's said, "The Macintosh team was what is commonly known as intrapreneurship-only a few years before the term was coined - a group of people going, in essence, back to the garage, but in a large company." Back in 1982, Dr. Haller wrote his master thesis on the "Intrapreneurship Success" of PR1ME Computer Inc in the late 1970's and early 1980's.
Some major public companies specifically foster and encourage intrapreneurial explorations on company time through formal corporate intrapreneurship programs. During the intrapreneurial journey from idea to product, some ideas and products are ignored or neglected. The twelve year course from idea creation to production of product for 3M'sPost-it Notes is an example of this.
Just like the entrepreneur, the intrapreneur must constantly stay focused and fully committed to the product and be willing to keep pushing, even if it takes years to produce their new product and deliver it to market!
The brief summary of the story of the successful Intrapreneurial creation of 3M's Post-it Notes
Through it's intrapreneurial "Bootlegging Policy," (which allows employees to spend up to 15 percent of their time at work developing their own creative ideas for the betterment of the company and the creation of new products or services) the usually staid, 3M Corporation was able to capitalize on the creative ideas of 3M Intrapreneurs Spencer Silver and Art Fry to create and launch the 3M Post-it Note product. 3M scientist Spencer Silver invented a not so sticky adhesive in 1968, but it took him several years to come up with how to best use and market the product. Spencer shared his idea through seminars in which he shared the features (and benefits) of this semi-adhesive to fellow 3M employees.
But no one really caught the vision of his product for five long years. Finally, a co-worker, Art Frey, recognized the need for Spencer's idea! During choir practice and performances, Frey's bookmarks were regularly falling out of his hymn book. This product concept solved his problem! Still, 3M still did not do anything with Spencer's idea for over a decade. Then finally, in 1980, Minnisota Mining and Manufacturing's (3M) Post-its Notes product line, which is their moveable semi-sticky notes product, was successfully launched across the entire US, and internationally.