The concept of entrepreneurship is currently widely understood — even the notion of nurse entrepreneurship has recently gained acceptance. However, nurse intrapreneurship receives little attention, and the nurturing of nurse intrapreneurs should be a central focus for organizations seeking innovative growth in a shifting healthcare landscape.

Innovation is crucial to healthcare. Staying mired in stale approaches to problem-solving leads to missed opportunities for innovation and creativity.

Intrapreneurs are seen as employees who readily take "ownership" of their work. These conscientious individuals naturally think and act innovatively; they seek creative solutions to problems in the same way that a business owner seeks to innovate in the interest of his or her own company.

Nurse intrapreneurs = nurse innovators

Nurse intrapreneurs don't simply report to work and perform assigned tasks. Intrapreneurial nurses use keen powers of insight and observation to identify and mitigate problems and challenges.

These special nurses are not lone wolves; they are generally consummate team players bringing innovative ideas to the team, eliciting input and working with others to elucidate the optimal course of action. Nurse intrapreneurs use their significant powers of collaboration in the interest of the collective.

Nurturing the nurse intrapreneur

Forward-thinking nurse leaders seeking to promote nurse intrapreneurship must think like intrapreneurs while encouraging innovative thinking and individual autonomy among their staff. Seeing nurses as cogs in a task-based healthcare machine promotes cog-like behavior. Conversely, seeing nurses as having the innate potential for collaborative innovation will cultivate much more creative behaviors.

The nurse leader can actively promote nurse intrapreneurship by leading from behind, listening deeply and encouraging group and individual innovation. Rather than employing an authoritarian approach, the nurse leader creates an environment where both the collective and the individual are honored.

In a nonauthoritarian nurse leadership model, meetings involve the honoring of collective genius, collective problem-solving and the nonjudgmental solicitation of novel ideas and solutions from team members. A culture of inclusion demonstrates to nurses that their ideas are honored and valued, and that management is cognizant of employees' ability to offer out-of-the-box solutions for vexing issues.

The approachable, open-minded, inclusive nurse manager nurtures an environment where nurses are inspired to innovate and connect with their creativity. In such an atmosphere, groupthink diminishes and individuality blossoms.

Seeding the future

Innovation is not born of slavish adherence to task-based drudgery and the wearing of organizational blinders. Rather, innovation is born of the freedom to think creatively without fear of judgment imposed by those higher on the power gradient.

If healthcare executives inspire nurse leaders to intrapreneurship, those nurse leaders will in turn inspire their direct reports to themselves be innovative, collaborative thinkers.

In order to seed the future with the potential for nursing innovation, we must recognize and cultivate the potential for innovative thinking. When nurse leaders nurture intrapreneurship, the future is seeded with unlimited potential.