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Navigating The Career Crossroad: Intrapreneurship Vs Entrepreneurship in the New world of Work

I had a two-hour session with undergraduate students at the University of Warwick. During the session, I addressed one of the major pain points that next-generation changemakers often grapple with to embark on intrapreneurship or tread the entrepreneurial path. To shed light on their dilemma, I thought it crucial to first help them understand the concept of intrapreneurship and its significance.

I posited that intrapreneurs are the unsung heroes within the corporate realm, resembling entrepreneurs, they identify opportunities where others perceive challenges. The contemporary workplace is increasingly demanding for more intrapreneurs than founders, emphasizing the role these individuals play in driving innovation and helping organizations overcome obstacles.

To illustrate the power of intrapreneurship, we considered the case of Sheryl Sandberg, who, instead of launching her venture after a successful tenure at Yahoo, assumed the role of COO at Meta.

This decision, rooted in self-awareness, underscores a fundamental truth: entrepreneurs may change the world, but organizations also rely on the professional acumen that intrapreneurs bring to the table.

Drawing insights from case studies, including notable Nigerian entrepreneurs like Babatunde Akin Moses of Sycamore, Grace Ihejiamaizu-Paul who evolved from intrapreneur to social entrepreneur to founder. Grace still wears three hats to AMBROSE ADOLE who is stuck with the intrapreneur hat as he leads over 19 states in the Northern region with the Huawei brand in Nigeria, it became evident to them that successful individuals often begin their journey as Intrapreneurs.

A few of the students acknowledged that they may not be cut out for founding companies like Zuckerberg but will excel at building and leading teams, preferring the risk-averse approach to entrepreneurship.

In countries in Africa, where securing investor funding for startups is challenging, the place for intrapreneurship becomes all the more apparent. By cultivating a pool of intrapreneurs, organizations can fortify their teams and offer support to founders who are risk-takers in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In the perennial debate of which comes first – the chicken or the egg – the analogy extends to the question of whether organizations should prioritize cultivating intrapreneurs or founders. I argued that the evolving workplace would benefit immensely from being more supportive of intrapreneurs, funding their initiatives, and allowing them the independence to build impressive portfolios, without the initial financial burden.

Whether one chooses the intrapreneurship or entrepreneurship path, the key lies in approaching the journey with determination and resilience. As the workplace continues to transform, individuals must navigate this crossroads with tenacity, contributing their skills and expertise to shape the future. When done right, serving the community, as exemplified by my speaking engagement at Warwick, becomes a gratifying endeavor in one’s pursuit of a thriving and balanced professional landscape.

Charles Umeh

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