Cisco Blogs

Digital Britain: The Rise of the Intrapreneur

April 23, 2012 - 4 Comments

Today, the term Entrepreneur is used freely by a lot people, typically to describe someone who has started their own business or launched multiple new ventures.   Since being a part of the Shoreditch tech scene, I’m now starting to understand the unique characteristics of people that can best be described as “entrepreneurial” — and then letting my mind wander back into my own life experiences.

The majority of start-up founders that I have met are not necessarily people who graduated top of their class at school or have huge amounts of experience running a business, but what they do have is a desire; a strong and compelling desire to succeed.

They obviously have the ambition and drive to achieve their goals, but they are also very creative thinkers and problem solvers – which, if you hang-out with these types of people, is truly infectious.

Enter the Intrapreneur

The majority of entrepreneurs are seen as business starters, rather than business changers.  People who are business changers – from within the corporate environment — are sometimes called Intrapreneurs.

They’re people in corporate environments who take responsibility for turning an idea or a concept into a profitable product offering.  This business objective is normally achieved by the intrapreneur through creative thinking, innovation and assertive risk taking.

Looking around Cisco, I see these types of motivated individuals all the time.

How is that possible?  It’s because Cisco has one the highest concentrations of ex-CEOs at a large company.  Most of these accomplished leaders have come to Cisco from one of the many acquisitions that have been orchestrated over the years.  The majority of these acquisitions were small start-up companies, so the entrepreneurial spirit is a part of the Cisco culture.

The Intrapreneurial Spirit

The intrapreneur phenomenon is definitely on the rise.  We are seeing a number of significant shifts which are causing major disruptions in the legacy information age environment; with the proliferation of new technology and associated devices now moving from the consumer environment into the business world.

Empowered by the ability to communicate from anywhere to anyone at anytime on any device, the prior barriers and constraints of the typical office walls have been bulldozed.  We are also seeing a new generation entering the workforce which has the intrapreneurial spirit and desire to change the way we work.

Social Media is no longer viewed as a fad.  It is an everyday reality in most commercial settings, and it has become a powerful tool which is changing how people in business communicate with their employees, their partners or suppliers – and, of course, their customers.

Individuals who are actively disrupting obsolete business processes and bravely using their creativity to challenge corporate norms are often the same people who have embodied the intrapreneurial spirit.  If you are sitting at your desk or in your cubicle now as you read this, perhaps a twinge of excitement is starting in your gut. That’s right, you can have it too.

If you live in the UK and want to know how to use that creativity and ambition in your current corporate job, then head into Shoreditch, Edinburgh, Newcastle or Birmingham and be inspired by the people you meet —  they’re designing new products and services, or solving common problems from a different point of view.

Also, look back at my previous editorials and be encouraged that trying and failing is better than standing on the sidelines – waiting for something to happen.  It’s okay to lead by example and let others follow you, if that’s what it takes to attain real progress.

As it is so with entrepreneurialism, assuming the role of an intrapreneur can be a lonely place at times, but it’s exciting as well.  I’ll appeal to your spirit of adventure;  let’s create a new generation of intrapreneurs and change our corporate cultures — for the better.

>>More… Connected Life Exchange

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. As a Business Executive myself I strongly believe Intrapreneurs are integral towards the growth of a company. I agree most of the time the company culture hampers innovation by confining employees to their duty and never allowing them to share their ideas which could easily drive notable success.

    • @Usman - thanks you for the comment - I agree, If a company has a rigid structure to which they work, and do not let room for deviation this can stifle the innovation. I think in the future, with the increase of Generation-Y's entering in the workspace, companies will have to adapt to encourage innovation

  2. I agree that Intrapreneur can be instrumental to driving success for an organization. What we learn though is that the success really depends on how an organization is structured to offer the right motivation (not necessarily financial rewards) to the individual to drive changes and grow. Sometimes, the challenge of doing something really hard and making things better in it of itself can motivate these Intrapreneurs sufficiently.

    • @anniesmith - thank you for your comments - the structures definitely have to be in place, if the organization doesn't allow its star employees to innovate and run with their ideas and projects, this will stifle corporate development and an organisation can stall.