Advantages of Intrapreneurship: Examples of How It Benefits Companies
What Is Intrapreneurship and What Are Its Benefits?
Before we get into specific intrapreneurship examples, what does intrapreneurship mean? It sounds kind of like entrepreneurship, and it works kind of like entrepreneurship too. Intrapreneurs apply the same methods, mindsets, and skills that startup founders use to launch new products and services—but adapted to the structure of an established organization. Intrapreneurs combine their knowledge and experience with their company's resources to pursue innovative ideas on behalf of their employer.
What are the benefits of intrapreneurship? Intrapreneurs create value and spur growth for their companies by bringing new ideas to the table. But in addition to that, intrapreneurship increases employee engagement and retention and attracts top talent to your company. Don’t overlook the benefits an intrapreneurship program can bring to your culture—innovative employees are drawn to companies that demonstrate a true commitment to innovation.
We know you're a smart cookie, but we love talking about innovation, so we decided to cook up some of our favorite intrapreneurship examples, which include:
- Guitar Strings
- And our favorite—Flamin Hot Cheetos
Gmail is the most popular email service in the world today, but it began as the personal project of Paul Buchheit, an engineer at Google.
One of Google’s most famous innovations is its “20 percent time” policy. This intrapreneurship program allows employees to use up to 20 percent of their work hours to pursue innovative intrapreneurship projects of their choice. Buchheit, who started his career at Google in 1999 as its 23rd employee, took advantage of the program to work on a web-based email service that implemented Google’s search engine.
A lot of people within Google were skeptical of the idea. Most thought it was a bad idea from both a product-based and strategic perspective—they thought an email service was too far removed from the search engine that was Google’s primary offering. Fortunately, company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin supported the project, and Gmail was eventually launched in 2004.
In those days, the major players in free, web-based email were Hotmail and Yahoo Mail (what a time to be alive). Gmail didn’t just beat the competition—it went on to become the dominant email service. Today, Gmail is a key part of Google’s product offering, with more than 1.5 billion active users. Moreover, it led to the integration of online advertising with email, setting the foundations for Google’s online advertising model that would make it one of the most financially successful companies in history.
Elixir Guitar Strings
- L. Gore and Associates, primarily known for its Gore-Tex material used to manufacture waterproof outdoor gear, has an intrapreneurship program it calls “dabble time.” Similar to Google’s 20 percent time, this policy allows employees to spend ten percent of their workdays on personal projects.
In 1995, the company was experimenting with using PTFE, a low-friction plastic, to coat cables used in animatronics. One employee, Dave Myers, realized this idea could also be applied to coat smaller metal cables—like guitar strings. Through his dabble time, he recruited a marketing and manufacturing personnel team to help develop the project.
At first, Myers and his team believed the main benefit of the coating would be more comfortable guitar strings. But to their surprise, after extensive market research, they found an even better benefit: guitarists who tried the coated strings reported improved sound over standard strings. The coating did make the strings slightly more comfortable, but more importantly, they maintained their tone longer than uncoated strings. W. L. Gore launched them in 1997 under the brand name Elixir Strings—and that spinoff is now the world's second largest seller of guitar strings.
Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
An ecosystem of experts can help you avoid wasting time with ideas that aren’t viable, letting you focus on the ones that are. You can weed out bad ideas quickly with access to the right knowledge, best practices, and experience. Good ideas can then be connected to the people within the organization who know how to make them a reality.
Flamin' Hot Cheetos—whether you love them or hate them, you can’t deny they’re massively popular across the globe. (And if you hate them, just keep it to yourself. More for us.)
In the mid-1980s, Frito-Lay CEO Roger Enrico announced a new initiative calling on each of the company’s 300,000 employees to "act like an owner.” Sound familiar?
Richard Montañez, a janitor working for the company, saw the initiative as an opportunity to pitch a product idea. He’d noticed that his local stores didn’t carry any snack products marketed to Latinos, so he decided to invent his own. He acquired some plain Cheetos before being dusted with cheese flavoring, took them home, and covered them in his own homemade seasoning mix.
Impressed by Montañez’s initiative, Enrico agreed to a meeting. Montañez brought his homemade spicy Cheetos, packaged in individual bags with hand-drawn logos to the meeting with the CEO and the Frito-Lay board. They were so enthused by his idea that Enrico said to Montañez, “Put your mop down. You’re coming with us.”
Flamin' Hot Cheetos is now one of Frito-Lay's most successful products of all time, and Montañez became VP of Multicultural Sales and Community Promotions. His story was so inspiring that it’s now being made into a film directed by Eva Longoria!
Jumpstart Intrapreneurship With rready and KICKBOX
Have these intrapreneurship examples inspired you to pursue a similar program at your organization? rready helps businesses encourage intrapreneurship by building innovative, supportive work environments that harness innovation from the bottom up. Based on a proven methodology used by more than a thousand companies globally, our KICKBOX program can help you encourage intrapreneurship from idea generation to implementation.