Where public servants dare: Developing archetypes for public sector intrapreneurship

2018-11-20T03:25:51Z (GMT) by Alix Taylor

The public sector is under significant pressure to increase its overall efficiency and effectiveness through promptly responding to changing environmental challenges and community expectations. Public entrepreneurship has been established as an approach to improving public sector performance within the broader public sector innovation agenda for over thirty years, yet it has not been widely recognised as a management practice with numerous challenges to its implementation. Taking this into consideration, there is an argument for intrapreneurship as the answer to achieving the benefits of public entrepreneurship. Distinct from the ‘top-down’ organisation level practise of public entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship encompasses the individual level employee attitudes and behaviours that are innovative, proactive and risk taking. It involves employees voluntarily, and autonomously, pushing their innovative initiatives in their organisation from the ‘bottom-up’. Intrapreneurship in the private sector context has been shown to have beneficial effects on organisational performance, however, intrapreneurship in the public sector context is virtually an unknown phenomenon in scholarly research.

This thesis explores the practise of employees acting intrapreneurially in the public sector. A qualitative phenomenological research approach was utilised to conduct semi structured interviews with twelve participants recruited from the South Australian Public Sector. Study findings reveal three major activities (1) seeking impact and innovation using intrapreneurial strategy, (2) generating freedom and taking action using intrapreneurial behaviour, and (3) responding to challenges using intrapreneurial orientation. Each activity involves a number of distinct mindsets, represented through the use of archetypes, revealing characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, goals, desires and context for use. Each of these activities and archetypes leads to a particular kind of consequence for the intrapreneur, ranging from receiving benefits, taking personal risks and overcoming obstacles through engaging resilience.

These findings contribute to the establishment of public intrapreneurship as a distinct public sector workplace practise. Consequently, this study provides a useful conceptual framework as the first stage of building the foundations for public intrapreneurship as a phenomenon, for further refinement and development in future studies. Also, these findings provide actionable knowledge to assist public intrapreneurs to achieve success as well as educators, policy makers and public sector leaders to enable effective public intrapreneurship through strategies to improve capability and support.