A spotter’s guide to the men and women of finance.
So sayeth Wikipiedia:
“Intrapreneurship is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur, while working within a large organisation.”
Wikipedia also defines “entrepreneurship” as “the capacity and willingness to develop, organise and manage a business venture along with any of its risks to make a profit.”
Now you might wonder whether you are alone in sensing a smudge of cognitive dissonance about this. You are not.
However imaginative they feel themselves to be, people who work in large organisations — and the JC speaks here from thirty odd years’ coalface experience, by the way — go out of their way to take absolutely no personal risk. The more they harp on about their “intrepreneurial spirit”, the less real-world risk they will take.
For as Nassim Nicholas Taleb has observed: all employees have one, enormous, tail risk — the one those who have found themselves clutching Iron Mountain boxes outside the premises of Enron and Lehman know all about. But even that calamity is only the sudden discontinuation of a coupon, rather rather than forfeiture of your capital. The men and women of Lehman and Enron who did not wind up in jail were quickly back in a saddle elsewhere.
In any case that one big risk is plenty enough for most employees in large organisations. Thereby, successful ones will construct entire professional trajectories around the singular objective of avoiding anything — anything, however innocuous at first sight it may seem — which could, in any conceivable light, even resemble risk.
To be sure, the organisation itself will take risks — it has to: there is no return without risk — but the key for the canny intrapreneur is to “syndicate” her personal underwriting capacity to the gormless Boxer the Horse types — men and women who plough loyal furrows through valleys in the shadow of death, unwittingly risking their own limbs to clear a safe path through terrain infested with mines, snakes, vermin and illness, that their intrapreneurial colleages can safely follow, as soon as they are back from the panel discussion or awards presentation at which they have been blowing their own trumpet.
Intrapreneurs are an organisation’s apex creditors: they feed first, drink longest at the well, and manage their own private conflicts of interest — namely, to spend as little time at the well as possible, while drafting as much as is humanly possible from it — while the stockholders and actual workers stand by.