Perhaps one of the most interesting and exciting concepts in business today is that of the intrapreneur. The American Heritage Dictionary defines an intrapreneur as a person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation. This is the person who has all the skills and ability to be an entrepreneur but decides to do it within a big company rather than out on his or her own. This is exactly what large pharmaceutical companies need today and there should be aggressive programs in place to help make this happen.
With all the changes in healthcare taking place today and really accelerating over the next year intrapreneurs may be the best bet companies have to survive and thrive in the new environment. There are so many moving parts to the reform that it is impossible to determine the best department or group that should be responsible for dealing with the changes. In fact, it seems that since nobody knows exactly where the changes should fall they seem to put off a lot of solid thinking about the changes. The other trend that could occur with the opening of the healthcare insurance exchanges later this year is that many with entrepreneurial desires will leave their companies, purchase insurance for themselves and go for the dream. This motivation should be harnessed by big Pharma and channeled towards internal projects.
Take a look at the Harvard Business Review piece that deals with intrapreneurs who are setting up social programs inside companies rather than doing it on their own on the outside. The blog talks about people working to help those at the bottom or the foundation of the income pyramid. They talk about individuals driving energy efficiency and other environmental programs for their companies. If you think about it there are a world of possibilities. The key to all of this is that the projects are “profitable” and not just good things to do. They help build up the organization and they benefit the clients, the employees and shareholders. The key is that when doing this work inside rather than outside a company there is tremendous potential for significant financial support and perhaps even a bigger opportunity to make an impact.
Obviously, intrapreneurial projects like the ones discussed in the HBR piece are not for everyone but everyone can begin to think and act more like an entrepreneur. Risk-taking within companies needs to be much more prevalent within the limitations of compliance guidelines. The old ways of doing things need to be constantly challenged, built upon and in some cases even eliminated. There needs to be a constant search for the next best idea and ways to leapfrog competition. This by definition means going well beyond marginal improvements. Big thinking by everyone is needed.
I for one am especially interested in the concept of sustainability. What things are needed by our industry and the companies that make up our industry that will assure survival over the coming years? What needs to change? Where should our energies be directed? When we think of sustainability we normally think just about the environment, but it really is so much more. The primary goal of my consultant work over the next several years will be directed at sustainability that is directed and led by pharmaceutical marketers. Let me know what you think and if your are ready for intrapreneurial action as a part of your job.