Entrepreneurship is a mindset. An entrepreneur is someone who embraces critical thinking, innovation, and change rather than waiting to adapt to changes as they occur. Entrepreneurs who operate within an organization are looking to add value; they are open to advice from mentors and managers and proactively seek innovative solutions. They take full control of their career paths. Strong business leaders understand that human capital is the most valuable asset they have, even though it often does not show on the balance sheet, and that the best employees are the ones who are proactive, not reactive. These are the people who make the clients and customers happy.
The entrepreneurial spirit is not inherently at odds with an established organizational structure, but new ideas, by definition, shake up the status quo. Even though organizations across industries are calling for innovative, out of the box thinking from employees, would-be entrepreneurs do face a certain set of risks. How can entrepreneurial-minded employees working from the inside act on their initiative while minimizing risk to themselves and their organizations?
It is not enough to simply have a good idea; you must also have drive. Without this startup energy, you will not feel sufficiently motivated to venture into the unknown. Curiosity and problem solving skills will get you halfway, but if you do not personally care about the outcome then the risk factor will overshadow the possibilities.
The next step is establishing what you are willing to invest to take this step and, beyond that, what you can afford to lose if things do not pan out as you hoped. Traditional risk calculations would otherwise nip conceptual exploration in the bud. With an uncertain expected return, investment is less than prudent. But, as they say, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” You have to readjust your mindset to embrace uncertainty before you even begin.
The landscape looks very different for external entrepreneurs. While they calculate time and money risks, internal entrepreneurs are wagering their ambition against the social capital already accrued within their organization. The most significant risk criteria to consider is their relationship capital and social standing and these risks must be addressed in much the same way as traditional entrepreneurs manage financial risk and investments.
Now that you have embraced your entrepreneurial spirit and calculated the risks, you need to look around and figure out who you want by your side. Internal entrepreneurs benefit greatly from employee partnerships and supportive bosses, or at least indulgently passive superiors. Your evolving ideas require emotional, physical, and sometimes political support as well as a potential marketplace for your efforts.
Once you’ve given yourself the green light and internal network to pursue your passion, it is time to act. Remain flexible and always learn from the outcomes of your actions, readjusting before taking your next step. Learn how to proceed with relatively low-risk steps, using your available network as a support and sounding board. In this way, you can bring energy and continuous improvement to your organization, thereby establishing yourself as an invaluable resource and entrepreneur, all while remaining within the supportive structure of your organization.