Intrapreneurship can help supercharge your career – even if you never launch your own business

As working Millennials clamor for “meaningful” careers, the allure of intrapreneurship has become a hedging bet against the 90 percent failure rate of launching a startup. While the typical employee simply plugs away at assigned duties, the intrapreneur is a highly skilled worker who identifies both problems and opportunities within a company, proposes a game plan, and rallies the forces (staff, funding, fixed assets) to realize it, thus “owning” the project, division, or even subsidiary.

For the first time ever, the Department of Management at Baruch College is offering a course in Intrapreneurship. Instructor Richard Hochhauser, himself an intrapreneur, sat down with us to discuss the rise of the moniker and its potential for personal differentiation in an increasingly high-stakes job market. “For-profit companies and public companies desire people ball-407081_1920who can run with the ball and take it to where it needs to go, to produce profits in a brand new way. Most companies go out of business if they can’t do that on an ongoing basis,” he explained.

While working for a NYSE-listed public company, Hochhauser founded a market research division to improve the company’s direct marketing initiatives through market segmentation and sizing and customer data insights. Unlike an entrepreneur building a business from scratch, Hochhauser had the advantage of helming the operation while leveraging the resources of the company, including staffing and funding.

“I never had to worry about writing checks or making sure payroll was met every pay period, but I also experienced all of the energy of entrepreneurship – and that’s what excited me,” he said. Married and with a baby at the time, Hochhauser admits he would not have assumed the financial risk of going it alone as an entrepreneur. “[Intrapreneurship] met almost all of the criteria that I had personally,” he said.

Hochhauser’s course at Baruch, open to undergraduates, will expose students to how the entrepreneurial mindset and approach can be used to benefit them and the companies they gear-1015715_1920work for, and to view entrepreneurial behavior from the perspective of a corporation. There is growing consensus among firms that “corporate entrepreneurship” is a requirement in sink-or-swim industries where product and systems innovation are crucial to survival. Disruptive technologies pioneered by Google, Apple and Sony, such as driverless cars or the Playstation, began as divergent offshoots of the core business. Meanwhile, companies such as 3M and Intel promote intrapreneurship by allowing employees to spend 10-20 percent of their time on innovative ideas unrelated to their everyday jobs.

According to Silicon Valley marketing executive Guy Kawasaki, cash cows become deadweights for complacency, and firms that are too wedded to cash cows suffer from saturated markets and no new blood. “[Cash cows] should be milked and killed, not sustained until – no pun intended – the cows come home,” he writes.

Intrapreneurship, on the other hand, means to “think like a child” as Hochhauser couches it, and to persistently ask “Why?”

“What happens in problem-solving is when you ask the question ‘why?’ you get an answer. But when you ask why again, you get an answer that is a little bit underneath that answer. And when you ask why again, you’re finally getting closer to the root cause of the problem,” says Hochhauser. “Once you get to the root cause, you’re able to solve that problem, perhaps with a product or solution that is intrapreneurial.” shops-1026420_1920

Change-averse corporate cultures with lower risk profiles are less likely to respond favorably to out-of-the-box proposals, which could also be a red flag regarding an employee’s potential for growth. “The culture of a company, which starts right at the top of an organization, is either interested in that kind of transformational thinking or isn’t. That becomes an opportunity for somebody looking for a job to weed out companies that aren’t looking for that,” he says.

Contact Professor Hochhauser at Richard.hochhauser@baruch.cuny.edu find out more about the Intrapreneurship class that will be offered at Baruch in Spring 2016.

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