Special to The Huffington Post – Monday, March 17th 2014 – See at the Huffington Post
Are you an intrepreneur? If you want to succeed in the 21st century workforce, you should think about becoming one.
The word intrepreneur is not a spelling mistake either. An intrepreneur is similar to an entrepreneur — someone who takes ideas and runs with them, willing to try something new while aware of the risks as well as the rewards. Entrepreneurs build their dreams by heading out on their own, starting companies and building businesses.
An intrepreneur shows this same kind of business courage and focus — except that he or she does this while working within an existing company. To be an intrepreneur you need to act as if you own the business that you work for; this affects not only the way you conduct your work, in the long-term it’s a way to gain control of your life.
One advantage to being an intrepreneuer is that the risks are far less than for the self-employed. Good employers today encourage intrepreneurship — they want their employees to be thinking about where the firm can be headed, what kinds of new products and services they can offer or how they can do what they already do, but better.
One of the tricks to being an intrepreneur is to understand that there is not one single path to becoming one. Yet it can be a journey.
In the 1940s, psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a “Hierarchy of Needs” — the things that motivate us as human beings. He depicted these as a pyramid; at the base are our physiological needs, then comes safety, then social needs, the need for self esteem … and at the top, self-actualization — the ability to realize your goals and dreams.
Intrepreneurs can reach the top of this Hierarchy of Needs.
How do you get there? An intrepreneur might start by asking: “What idea can I come up with that might boost our company’s bottom line?” Already, the intrepreneur, an employee, is starting to think like the CEO.
In the mind of an intrepreneur, the wheels are always turning. If you do come up with an interesting intrepreneurial idea, you might then ask: “Can it work?”
The answer to this should not be overly negative — there are always a lot of reasons why an idea might not pan out. At the same time, an intrepreneur is not overly positive either — it’s a matter of being realistic about an idea.
For example, 10 years ago, it was common wisdom in the tech sector that nobody wanted to buy a tablet screen without a keyboard attached. Needless to say, that has changed — you may be reading this on a tablet or a smartphone now.
Another path to intrepreneurship is to take ownership of one aspect of what your company does. A lot of young workers did this within their companies when social media started to take hold — they learned about how businesses could use tweets and postings and messaging to help their companies, and in so doing they became indispensible. That’s a form of intrepreneurship.
You don’t have to set your sights to lofty heights to be come an intrepreneur. Often, the simple act of mentorship can label you as a company self-starter. Intrepreneurial employees who take other workers under their wing build loyalty, respect and teamwork. You might call being a mentor being a good employee, but your boss will see you as an intrepreneur.
Intrepreneurship is all about building your profile within your organization by doing whatever you can to build the organization itself. It means not worrying about labels; an intrepreneur will help the whole company succeed without ever saying, “That’s not my job.”
Successful firms these days have come to realize the value of intrepreneurship. Manufacturers who cluster their workers into problem-solving work circles find their productivity goes up compared with putting people on a mindless assembly line — the workers get to use their brains as well as their skills.
While companies can create good conditions for intrepreneurship, ultimately it’s something you achieve yourself. As Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs suggests, it’s a natural part of all of us to want to do better — for other, for those we work with, and ultimately, for ourselves.