When you’re saddled with the name of a national forest, you have to do something pretty big to stand out. For Gifford Pinchot III that took the form of creating a brand new word – along with an approach to innovating in corporate America that defines it: “intrapreneurship.”
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." In his own words, “Intrapreneuring is about people who behave as entrepreneurs within large companies,” Pinchot said.
The grandson of a former governor of Pennsylvania and the first chief of the US Forest Service, Pinchot has had a storied career in his own right – going from blacksmithing to writing correspondence courses on entrepreneurship, to consulting on new products, to promoting the concept of intrapreneuring with his wife, Elizabeth. They began with a paper they coauthored, later adding a series of books and most recently by founding the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, and the first MBA program in sustainable business.
“Intrapreneuring is about people who behave as entrepreneurs within large companies,” Pinchot said. In order to work within a hierarchal organization, which are known more for avoiding risks than taking them, an intrapreneur needs a partner, a sponsor (or more likely sponsors). These sponsors lend their power within the organization, can help find resources, and run interference when necessary. They manage some of the behind-the-scenes politics required to do anything new inside an organization, while the intrapreneur focuses on results. “Sponsors,” Pinchot explains, “don’t do the work but they protect it and help to find funds for it.”