This article was first published in the June 2015 Malaysia edition of Accounting and Business magazine.

In recent times, the concept of ‘intrapreneurship’ has come to the fore in contrast to entrepreneurship and its application can certainly benefit any business.

Intrapreneurship is a concept that focuses on employees who have many of the attributes of entrepreneurs, taking risks in an effort to solve a problem. 

Intrapreneurs are also drivers of innovation. In a similar role to that of entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs seek to provide solutions to unique market-driven problems. They seek policies, technologies and applications that resolve a barrier to productivity increases. Like the entrepreneur who starts a company with the goal of providing a good or service, the intrapreneur takes on a task within the company to increase its capacity.

Intrapreneur-ship, sometimes known as ‘corporate entrepreneurship’, is responsible for a lot of product innovation around the world today. At Lockheed Martin, intrapreneurs developed a number of famous aircraft designs. At 3M, they came up with Post-It Notes and at Google, they came up with AdSense and Gmail. 

At Facebook, and many other startups, they have ‘hackathons’ where they encourage engineering teams to collaborate on software projects. The ‘Like button’, one of the company’s most important innovations, was the product of a hackathon. 

Intrapreneurship may seem like a new concept, but it has actually been around for a while. The original word ‘intrapreneur’ was first coined by Apple founder Steve Jobs back in a 1985 Newsweek article. And we all know how innovation has transformed Apple into the world’s largest technology company.

What these examples have in common is that companies embraced the idea of allowing their employees to become entrepreneurs and capitalise on new business ideas. Smart companies want their employees to become intrapreneurs because it fuels business growth and allows them to gain a competitive advantage in their industry.

A successful intrapreneur also understands trends. They see where the company needs to go before anyone else. Any successful company must have a number of intraprenuers to see future trends and meet them before their competitors do.

Intrapreneurs will eventually become the building blocks of a company’s executive teams and leaders. They are the driving force that moves a company forward and have the potential to rise to the top as they understand the company from all levels. 

So does intrapreneurship have any real relevance in the world of accounting and finance?

At ACCA, we believe it has great relevance. Intrapreneurship was a key focus at this year’s annual conference, held in May, which aimed to cultivate an intrapreneurial mindset and ignite innovation within finance professionals so they are able to stay ahead of the curve and be seen as a trusted business partner to their organisations.

Furthermore, intrapreneurship was identified as one of the key features of ‘effective finance leadership’ in the ACCA’s global smart finance function campaign over the past year. It not only involves innovation and the generation of new concepts and opportunities that create value for the organisation, but is also about being bold, taking measured risks, and giving empowerment to staff. 

We have seen a growing number of intrapreneurs already changing the dynamics in corporate culture; transforming businesses to generate growth through new products and services. 

I hope finance professionals will embrace intrapreneurship into their function, so they can help their companies stay ahead and remain relevant in today’s competitive business landscape.

AB.MY will publish a report of the conference in next month’s issue.

Datuk Zaiton Mohd Hassan is president of the ACCA Malaysia Advisory Committee