Intrapreneurship, building the in-company change muscle

This is the intro from my latest book

BUILDING THE IN-COMPANY CHANGE MUSCLE, intrapreneurship, innovation, transformation and strategy, 24 books, 255 questions, lots of tips, tools, lessons and one test

Drop me a line if you want a review copy.

Here it goes:

Our problems are too big, startups, R and D, and innovation are too slow. Hence intrapreneurship. More output focussed, quicker and more clear (try defining innovation). With a long term cultural impact. Utilising all the existing resources that companies have at their disposal. At TRL levels six or above.

Change muscle

When you are starting to talk about intrapreneurship, you immediately get sucked into a question of definition. Is it entrepreneurship, innovation, strategy or transformation? The answer is that it is all of the above. Because intrapreneurship is a collective mindset. Intrapreneurship, innovation, strategy and transformation are interlinked holistic concepts and should be part of the change muscles of your company.

The future is faster than you think

That is why I started this book with some context. You have a choice. You are a disruptor, or you will be disrupted. You will only need to read “The future is faster than you think”. The ability to think exponential is now a critical skill set to understand what is coming our way. It is existential VUCA on steroids. It should be forcing you to spend more time thinking about the future. Hence “The day after tomorrow”. Leaving us with quite a lot of ethical dilemmas. Moral paradoxes. You will not only have to develop a perspective on where technology is going but also a perspective on the future of work, climate, society and humanity.


Ultimately it is about being undisruptable. Past success is no prediction of future success. Study how civilisations crumble. Adapt or die. Become a butterfly using your existing resources to spread your wings and soar.

From incremental to exponential

That is why intrapreneurship is so interesting. It is the quickest way to reinvention and innovation. Because speed is of the essence. At the moment, you are too slow. You can also not afford to take a silo approach. Intrapreneurship needs to become a core muscle. Where everyone in the company is involved. That is the message from “From incremental to exponential”. Note the word exponential (again).

Driving Innovation from Within

Because your staff are your primary source of innovation and ideas, according to “Driving Innovation from Within”. Forget innovation theatre. Engage your staff. The models, case studies and all the examples are already there. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.

Pirates In The Navy

Innovation theatre is the theme of “Pirates In The Navy”. There are quite a few myths around innovation and a lot of things that do not work, and many lessons about why intrapreneurship does not work. You are not a startup. Your organisation structure is not fit for purpose. Innovation takes time and effort and some thinking time. All the books about intrapreneurship agree. It is about developing a deliberate and repeatable process with toolsets, skills training, playbooks, templates, incentives, innovation boards, budgets, financial processes, communication planning, stakeholder engagement and winning hearts and minds.

The greenhouse approach

And accountability. Just because you are creative does not mean that we should not be accountable for the results. “The greenhouse approach” suggests that entrepreneurship is a mix of time, resources and accountability. Start a makers movement in your company. Embracing the creators, the rebels, the connectors, the trendspotters, the mavericks, the researchers and let them create.

Zone to win

The most significant difficulty in innovation and intrapreneurship lies in managing the different time horizons. Managing efficiency, continuous improvement, innovation and loonshots all at the same time. With different mindsets, different metrics and different KPIs. Hence “Zone to win”. You need to know which zones you are playing in, and each zone has a very different playbook.

The third wave

I think intrapreneurship is about policy. Government should step in. The problems are too big, and our systems are too slow. Large companies as change agents helping us to tackle some of the existential challenges that are coming our way. Because government is too slow too. Through intrapreneurship, making the large companies faster in tackling those challenges. Through partnership, policy, and perseverance. All working together. As part of a global transformation.

Creative construction 

Intrapreneurship is closely associated with innovation. You could argue they are the same thing or at least an extension of each other. Innovation as a word is a little more polluted and has a lot of different meanings. Intrapreneurship is cleared and more focused. Whatever you call it, you need to make it specific and linked to strategy, structure, culture, methodology, and it needs to impact positively on the bottom line. Not innovation for innovation sake. That again is innovation theatre.


The next question is how far you stretch yourself. One time horizon needs to be a loon- or moonshot. Forcing you to go radical and forcing you to consider the oncoming S-curve. Embrace the crazies, go to the edge. Create the randomness, the messiness, the serendipity of breakthrough ideas. Be the leaf in the wind. Ultimately the leaf always lands.

The runaway species

Although innovation is complex, we as human beings are born for this. Creativity is in our nature. That is why I included “The runaway species”. We get bored quickly. We like to make. We like to bend, break and blend. Embrace art, history and science fiction. Let your staff play. It will make them happy and more creative. Remember, your staff is your primary source of innovations.

Founders mentality

Employees who feel engaged and empowered come up with innovative ideas 3.5 times as often as those who don’t. That is from “The founders’ mentality”. A passionate plea to never lose the founders dream and the owner mentality. Making the entrepreneurial attitude part of your culture from the word go, codifying it, sticking with it and keeping things simple. An owner’s mentality as the antidote to complexity.

Transforming legacy organisations

Applying intrapreneurship to your organisation should be transformational. It has to be cultural and holistic for it to make sense in the long term. In many cases, transformation is seen as a means to an end. But level 4 intrapreneurship needs to be the end result. You will not survive otherwise. That is why I included “Transforming legacy organisations”. It is all the same, storytelling, strategy, (customer) focus, competition, time horizons, resistance, structure, clarity, but this time with the lens of transformation.

The startup way

You can call it intrapreneurship, entrepreneurship or founders mentality. Or the startup way. Getting companies to act like startups with all the benefits of scale and resources. Where entrepreneurship is a seat at the board table. A CEO (Chief Entrepreneurship Officer). Entrepreneurship as a core organisational capability. Entrepreneurship as a core discipline and core capability within large organisations. Based on the assumption that for a modern company, the payoffs of continuous innovation are not only the breakthrough new products, services, internal systems, and commercial wins that it produces. Continues innovation also provides the opportunity to incubate a new culture, one that unleashes entrepreneurial creativity at every level of the organisation.

Future proof your business

It is the only way to future proof your business. And with that, the organisational structure is crucial. Form determines function. You need adaptability and speed. Future-proof businesses are athletic businesses. Like great athletes, they sense the world acutely, take decisions quickly and train for agility. And in my view, the fastest way to get there is citizen development.

Citizen development

The impacts of citizen development are going to be profound. It democratises business and brings the power to the outer layers of the organisation. The role of CEO, CFO, CMO will diminish, and the frontline staff will become increasingly important. More importantly, citizen development can only work with happy, engaged staff with a clear shared perspective on vision, purpose, values, and you need a founder or startup mentality. It is intrapreneurship in its purest form.

Dual transformation

“Dual transformation” brings it all together. Different time horizons and different transformation streams, balance, metrics, execution capability, purpose, and ultimately it is all about leadership. As a leader, you need to understand that innovation, transformation or intrapreneurship is always a journey.

Working backwards

I put in “Working backwards” to illustrate how simple it is. The leadership principles Amazon applies are age-old, very straight forward and very successful. Cultural cornerstone or guiding principles, principles driven, single thread leadership, five why’s and managing your inputs, not your outputs. Understanding that failure is essential. When a project does not achieve its goals or is deemed a failure, but the effort was admirable and adherent to Amazon practices and principles, the result for the individual is neither dismissal nor shamed. Amazon remains to act like a startup. If Amazon can do it, you can. If they are doing it, you should.


I could have stopped there. But I think intrapreneurship needs to be part of strategy. Bringing it back to the context of exponential and your ability to predict and anticipate the future. “Farsighted “helps you with making those strategic decisions. Helping you to apply system two thinking to strategy.

Lead from the future

“Lead from the future” will help you create a picture of possible futures and work backwards. Most strategic plans work forward. This one works backwards, mapping future financial goals against your innovation and your investment portfolio.

Rethinking strategy

Strategic design is about setting the organisation’s future direction and goals. It involves two significant creative steps. Re-perceiving the future business environment and re-conceiving the organisation’s role within these different futures. Scenario planning at its core. It is the foundation of corporate entrepreneurship and innovation. And it is a business muscle that needs flex constantly. That means embedding a process that is creative, learning-based and participatory. The more the decision-makers feel that they understand their environment, understand the dangers, and perceive potential opportunities, the more they can make riskier decisions. The learning from scenarios ‘slows down change’. Change still occurs at the same pace; it’s just not perceived to be disruptive or overwhelming because the organisation can detect and make sense of it earlier and is rehearsed in its response. Rehearsing the future creates confidence. Participatory strategy development also speeds up non-routine decision-making.

Blue ocean shift

Ultimately you want a blue ocean shift. It does not really matter. What matters is that you make innovation, intrapreneurship, transformation and scenario planning a fundamental part of your business muscle. It does not matter what method or book you pick. Movement is more important than strategy. Market making will follow. At a minimum, it will make you more future resistant.

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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