By Paul Crowe
When the first Blackberry phone was released in 2002, suddenly workers had access to emails on the go, and almost overnight, the business world was turned upside down. Five years after that, thanks to the innovative team at Apple, the first iPhone came out. Today, 81% of American adults own smartphones, and our lives—both at work and at home—look completely different.
Of the Fortune 500 companies that were around in 1955, only about 10% still exist. Advancing technology has opened countless business opportunities, but it also means businesses have to evolve constantly and can’t afford to get complacent. Back to the iPhone for a moment—though Steve Jobs usually gets the credit for its invention, the truth is a little more complicated.
Jobs didn’t even know about the project when it first started, and he wasn’t overly excited about the idea of developing a cell phone. Luckily, his colleagues convinced him, and then Jobs backed that team of intrapreneurs—his employees who were using entrepreneurial skills to innovate from within the company—to keep going.
The success of the iPhone can be pegged in large part to intrapreneurship, and so can many other innovations, including Post-it Notes, the Facebook like button, and Sony PlayStation. For corporations thinking of building a team of renegades to come up with big ideas and challenge the status quo, an entrepreneur may be the wrong person for the job. Instead, companies should support intrapreneurs to follow passion projects and take risks.
Today’s employment environment looks a lot different than it did a few decades ago. Many tech jobs no longer require a computer science degree anymore, given that developers can be self-taught and companies have started teaming up with universities to train students, after realizing that schools aren’t keeping up-to-date with the necessary skills.
Many employees will stay at a company only for a few years before moving on, and despite assumptions that the gig economy is built out of desperation, only about 20% of freelancers would actually prefer to be in a full-time salaried position.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sure, it means workers might be less loyal than they were 50 years ago, but it also means they’re looking to get the most out of a job in the time they have and are willing to work hard to gather experience and bolster their resumes.
They’re also often willing to take bigger risks, and for businesses that can be a boon. Harnessing these characteristics can give any company, no matter its size, the opportunity to be flexible and agile, and nurture the same type of creativity that allows startups to see things differently and beat out incumbents.
Entrepreneurs vs. intrapreneurs
Entrepreneurs work on their own or with a small team to start new businesses; intrapreneurs use entrepreneurial skills while working within an already-established organization. Both roles share some important characteristics. They both need to bring creativity and enthusiasm to their jobs, to adapt quickly, have excellent problem-solving skills, and the ability to envision projects and see them through to completion.
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