July 30, 2019

What is eXtrapreneurship?

Many are familiar with the terms “entrepreneurship” and, to a lesser extent, “intrapreneurship”. However, extrapreneurship is a new term that is slowly but surely gaining traction, and is related to both. In an ideal scenario, extrapreneurship represents the best of both intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship worlds with the goal being to deliver current services or products, or to boost a certain metric, be it productivity, efficiency or profitability.

According to Jason Clay, Senior VP at WWF, extrapreneurs can be described as “change agents” that “solve problems by moving between companies, organisations and sectors, spreading ideas and solutions from one to another like bees pollinating flowers”.

It is no secret that large multinational corporations that offer “jobs for life” are quickly becoming outdated and the idea of companies keeping on tens of thousands of staff members is fast becoming obsolete. This is where extrapreneurs come in, with promises of delivering existing services offered by the mother organisation, without the company contracting it to full-time staff. However, both parties have skin in the game which works to ensure both cooperate accordingly to get the best results possible, with this structure feasible in public, private and charitable sectors.

Such organisations will lend both professional and financial resources to extrapreneurs to give them the best possible chance to succeed. In return, they will guarantee a certain level of results or change. For example, an organisation in the public sector may be under heavy pressure to reduce its workforce. Instead of expensive outsourcing, existing staff may be given an extrapreneurial arrangement which reduces cost, but also ensures that key staff will not simply be made redundant.

In addition, these extrapreneurs are also free to seek additional clients elsewhere to earn more income and make full use of their additional time and resources. This arrangement is beneficial to the company as they retain the services of staff that know the culture and organisation, while the extrapreneurs benefit from the flexibility and the safety net offered by a long-term agreement while they pursue additional clients or income. Both parties guarantee each other a minimum level of trade and guarantees, creating a win-win scenario for all.

Extrapreneurship can also transform existing companies that have deep-rooted cultures but who are looking to change perceptions. For example, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has begun offering adventure travel packages run by extrapreneurs, of which a portion of proceeds contributes to the conservation of the very places would-be tourists visit. While such travel goes against the original values of the WWF, there is little doubt that an extrapreneurial venture with various vendors offered the change they desired without upsetting the applecart, and at a lower cost than handling the transition themselves which would include sourcing, hiring, and training full-time staff.

Could extrapreneurship offer a more stable solution than pure entrepreneurship? The numbers would suggest so, with Shikhar Ghosh, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, suggesting that around 30-40% of businesses fail completely, with a staggering 80% unable to project a return on investment. If failure is to be defined as falling short of a goal, a stunning 90-95% of companies fulfil this criterion!

The safety nets that extrapreneurship provides lets established companies revamp and revise their outlook while maintaining their current targets. Problems faced by such large organisations may take too much effort to fix on their own, which is where extrapreneurs can find their niche and connect the dots between global organisations for large-scale change. This also allows burgeoning entrepreneurs to get their feet wet, or seasoned intrapreneurs to spread their wings and fly with a higher chance of long-term sustainability.

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