"Intrapreneurship" is a topic that has become increasingly popular as large companies struggle to find ways to maintain their competitive edge in the global economy.

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The Puget Sound region is well known for its many successful start-up companies. But did you know that you don’t need to form your own company to be an entrepreneur? You can also be an entrepreneur while working for a large corporation. The only catch: It sometimes requires a few additional attributes or skills.

“Intrapreneurship” is a topic that has become increasingly popular as large companies struggle to find ways to maintain their competitive edge in the global economy. Intrapreneurship is similar to entrepreneurship, except that it focuses on ways people can act entrepreneurially from within established organizations.

According to a survey by Ernst & Young, internal-company entrepreneurs need specific characteristics because “large and well-established companies often comprise rigid structures that can stifle the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Attributes and skills necessary for becoming a successful intrapreneur include:
• Knowledge of the internal and external environment
• Vision and willingness to challenge the status quo
• Diplomacy and ability to lead cross-functional teams
• Ability to build a professional support network
• Ability to persevere, even in the face of uncertainty

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Successful intrapreneurs not only need to understand all aspects of the external environment, they also must be able to navigate the large (and sometimes maze-like) internal corporate environment, which is often weighed down with politics and varying personalities.

Bringing a new product or service to market can be much more difficult within a corporate environment when forced to follow company policy or lengthy approval processes. To overcome this challenge, an intrapreneur needs to be a visionary leader, and patient enough to do what it takes to overcome obstacles and garner internal support. It requires the confidence to encourage change and to challenge current ways of doing things.

Because bringing innovative ideas to market within large companies often requires the knowledge and skills of employees from many departments, intrapreneurs also need advanced skills in diplomacy and the ability to drive multidisciplinary teamwork and projects.

Being open and honest, sharing credit wisely and building a coalition of trusted advisers and supporters within the company can help an intrapreneur be successful. The encouragement and assistance from a professional support network will also help intrapreneurs persevere in the face of obstacles and adversity.

Even though almost 50 percent of the survey respondents said that generating innovative ideas becomes more difficult as an organization grows in size and complexity, cultivating these important attributes and skills can help intrapreneurs be successful in large corporations.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.