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I have been an intrapreneur for practically my whole career. Even before it was called Intrapreneur. It’s really hard sometimes. You find yourself being that innovative and fearless voice in the corner of a large organization (whether you work for the co, or for the consulting co or agency they’ve brought in to play the role). And when you are that person – alot of people just plain out hate you. Your mere existence gives threat to an established world order.
Most people don’t like change. They fight it tooth and nail. I never understand it. Discovering new things, trying new ways – it’s so exciting! It’s like the world is a giant puzzle but so many people just can’t do it.
I absolutely loved this article. Especially the part about integrity. So much of corporate life can be filled with a lot of smokescreens. Watching that succeed has always been so frustrating for me…because I do really believe that authentic integrity is hard to come by these days. And I’m proud I have it. Thanks David K Williams for highlighting the importance.
The 4 Essential Traits Of ‘Intrapreneurs’
David K. Williams
Intrapreneurs are the heroes of a business environment
There’s been much discussion of late about the entrepreneurs within an organization—those highly valuable executives and team members who will perhaps never become a company founder, but who have learned to apply the essential principles of entrepreneurship to the roles they fill within a company.
We refer to these employees as “intrapreneurs” because they’re not entering into their own, work venture, but they are working within your company, thus the “intra” part.
Our company, Fishbowl is filled with intrapreneurs. They think and behave like owners. Most of them actually are as our organization is employee owned. They are invaluable to the company’s health. But how do organizations recognize and develop intrapreneurs, and, even more importantly, how can you be sure they won’t leave?
As authors Vijay Govindarajan and Jatin Desai have noted in a Harvard Business Review blog post, there are certain characteristics that successful intrapreneurs share. I would like to focus on four of them:
1. Money is not their measurement. Intrapreneurs certainly respect the value and importance of money. They understand the economic drivers that allow the organization to succeed and are able to support this fundamental truth and not fight it. A non-intrapreneur is perpetually looking for non-economic ways to justify their own advancement and payment. An intrapreneur “gets it” and does their work in a way that shows the organization they are someone it can’t afford to lose. The money and advancement finds them.
2. They are “greenhousers.” When you speak about an intriguing idea to an intrapreneur, the idea never leaves them. It germinates within their mind, and they carry with them the desire to figure out how to make it work. When you see them next, they are likely to have grown the seed of an idea into a full-blown plan or they will have created an even better set of alternative plans in its stead.
3. They know how to pivot. Intrapreneurs aren’t afraid to change course, nor do they fear failure. It isn’t outward bravado that drives them but an inner confidence and courage that every step takes them closer to their ultimate goal. In my own training and vernacular I call this phenomenon “failing up.” I celebrate opportunities for growth, even painful ones.
4. They behave authentically and with integrity. Most importantly, intrapreneurs exhibit the traits of confidence and humility—not the maverick behavior of corporate hotshots, Govendarajan and Desai say. I agree fully with this conclusion. Integrity (along with Respect, Belief, and Courage) are key among the traits I call the 7 Non-Negotiables, which have driven my own company to miraculous accomplishments and are at the core of the methodology I describe in my book. A budding businessperson could carry every other characteristic in spades, but without a foundation of integrity, they will fail (and the work landscape is littered with many examples of such failures).
So if these are the traits that describe what an intrapreneur looks like, where will you find these individuals and how can you ensure they will stay?
For starters, a company founded with an entrepreneurial/intrapreneurial emphasis becomes a magnet for more of the same. Employees recommend the company to others who share their values. Like breeds like, which is also to say that a company can’t conduct itself without integrity and still expect to find those traits upheld in its ranks. With time and experience, you will learn to ask the searching questions that will help you determine the true traits of the individuals you consider.
The search will be worth the effort, as tomorrow’s world of work ecosystems will be driven by the increasing ranks of intrapreneurs.
There is a great article in the NY Times this week about “Busyness”. The Busy Trap examines the idea that we have forgotten how to relax here in America. That being busy gives you bragging rights. I experience this often. As a busy person I actually MAKE time to “do nothing”. Sometimes it is “structured nothing” – like meditation. Other times it is laying on the patio with a pile of catalogs that seem to never stop coming no matter what I do.
I think it’s really very important to set boundaries for yourself in our connected world. A couple of times a year I take a Social Media Vacation. When I’m working on projects that cover multiple time zones I really try and figure out when I have to be “live” to folks in the UK or folks in Asia….without this boundary I would be working 24 hours and not sleeping. At times I would actually realize that my “evening” was really from 2 – 6 when I was working with Germany AND Hong Kong.
I recently had a conversation with a man I know about his new role as President of a division. He was commenting on how a few of the team members he inherited had asked him what his philosophy was on “live work balance”. He found this entertaining and telling. His answer was – “you’re all grown ups. if you think you need to be at your kid’s baseball game at 3pm then you go. how could i possibly deny you that when you were out to dinner with clients 3 nights this week or working on the presentation for Monday morning on your Sunday afternoon.” He said they looked at him in shock. I have to admit this is someone close to 60 and I was super impressed with his modern approach. It is that kind of approach that the workplace needs these days…at least the kind of workplaces my peers and I are a part of…
It’s a bit archaic to have the boundaries set by an HR person or even by the time zones that were set long long ago. It is up to you to make your own time valuable and meaningful. And that includes sleeping.
As a GIRL who ened up working in DIGITAL communications. I have to tell you – Ray Bradbury (along with Star Trek and Phillip K Dick) is a very large influence on who I have become as an adult.
How is this possible? Well – it all started with the Illustrated Man. In my school district in Hamden, Connecticut you progressed in your “reading” through a very set group of tests that were “levels” to show you had advanced. Level 40 was supposed to take you to the end of 6th grade. I passed level 40 in the middle of 5th grade. (I never brag so cut me some slack here….)
I then was tested for the “talented and gifted program”….TAG. As a member of the special elite forces group I got to hang with 10 kids from 3 other nearby schools 2x a week and develop my critical thinking skills. The first book we used as I recall? Yep – “The Illustrated Man”. I had nightmares. For sure. He was standing at the end of my bed on a few occassions at 3am, much to the chagrin of my mother. But since every book on her nightstand had a foil cover and involved alien abduction, murder or international intrigue – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Ray Bradbury followed me into Junior High – Farenheit 451 – what many think of as not his BEST work – but it certainly opened my eyes up to censorship and freedome of speech and mind control. It was certainly the primer for films that all fall into my favorite dystopian category – THX 1138, Brazil, BladeRunner…
Every single day I think Ray Bradbury crosses my mind. He crosses it while I’m watching CNN on my 55″ flatscreen on the living room wall. He crosses it when I see a digital billboard with video at the busstop while I’m sitting at a stoplight. He crosses it when I drive downtown by the Bradbury Building made so famous by Blade Runner and sort of a “mecca” for those of us who like to see that sort of static influence in person.
I just downloaded Farenheit 451 (and the Martian Chronicles) to my kindle app on my i-pad. I haven’t reread either in a while. They will get read again before my Monday meeting with a new client.
I know that I will surely be inspired by something in there…and yes – there is something in a book from 1953 that I will subconciously (or purposefully!) introduce into a strategy session on communicating an idea, a product or a new technology to our uber connected world.
And dear Los Angeles Metro team – can we please christen that subway to the sea as the “Bradbury Express” when it launches? That would be such a wonderful tribute to this most futuristic and influential thinker of our era. “LA’S Future is Up In The Air” by Ray Bradbury
Merci Beaucoup Msr. Bradbury…vos idees vivra a jamais.
I’m a Gen-Xer through and through. I am also a latch-key kid. A child of divorce. The oldest. All of these things contributed to my becoming someone who is considered a change agent; someone who can adapt. It was natural that I end up in digital right? I mean really – rules? Confinements? Please.
This also has made me “a cool boss”. I get that you want to and CAN work from home. Or Hawaii or Vegas. I know that you are working at 2am so why in the world would I “admonish you” for showing up on email at 10 and not 8:30? (notice I said on email and not IN THE OFFICE). As long as you remembered to bring your laptop to Vegas you’re all good.
I get that desks and cubes and such are the butt of every joke and want to provide an open workspace. One that encourages communication, creativity, transparency. Our Social People “space” is a loft – not an office building full of hallways of whispered conversations. And it is referred to as a “space” – it isn’t the “office”. You do not HAVE to be there. Its a place where when everyone needs to come together or we have clients or brainstorming sessions…we have a space. Heck it even doubles as a hotel for our out of town clients and colleagues!
But what I learned this week….what I learned is that my latch-key kid ways, welllll they don’t work well with the 20 somethings on our team. These people are smart, creative, educated – we connect on many levels that they appreciate as being part of boutique and disruptive agency rather than going into a big agency. They like being where there is no guy in his late 50s making 3 million a year down the hall that still doesn’t know how to use facebook. I am not that guy. Or Gal. And frankly I don’t ever plan to be.
BUT – I need to get a little more of that guy in me with certain things because these kids? Man – they are spread THIN! They have no clue how to prioritize. They are so used to doing everything at once – and doing so many things well; that the pressures and demands of delivering real actual value is a challenge for them to understand. “It’s all cool”. Well guess what – it’s not all cool. We have turned the world into this giant popularity contest – and good work, thorough work, is not what is important to them. It’s how cool they look on twitter. Who has the best profile shots, the most followers, who is showing off their wonderful and exciting life in the biggest and brightest way. When I built one of the first successful online artist centric communities for Nelly, (1mm users baby in 1999!) what we have now is NOT what I imagined “community” to be. I hate popularity contests. Haaaaate. I’m an introvert and thanks to Susan Cain I am now going to be damn proud of it.
But back to the “kids”. What these programmed-to-be-extrovert kids forget? THE WORLD IS WATCHING.
I’m watching. Our clients are watching. Our potential clients are watching. So this month I had to have a sit down with a 26 year old guy on our team. Why? Because his peers and his work were being affected by his “digital nativeness.” So here are the tips I gave him.
1. Reduce the Swagger
Dude. Nobody needs to know that you were out at some club with some DJ until 2am when we all know that we have a deadline for our biggest client due the next day. We get that 4square is a phenom and we are recommending check-ins and on-premise engagement opps to our clients so people WILL check in on 4square but nobody needs to see it when we are worried that you are on the verge of missing the deadline.
2. Everybody is an Influencer
You, the person next to you, the 4 of your peers on your team. Yes you all have thousands of people that you are connected to and each of you knows the coolest in your own worlds. Play nice. Don’t try and one-up each other. Work it out – and if you can’t? Come complain. Don’t throw a hissy that your colleague is giving you attitude when you have just as much attitude. We don’t have time. Someone is going to be the better person for a part of a project – not everything is the competitive sports that you participated in your entire life while your parents were slaving away at work so that you could have every new Apple product as it was released. Deal with it. The office is not the back seat of a station wagon. Stop fighting for credit. You will get it when it is due.
3. THINK TWICE. TWEET ONCE.
We know that you have been communicating in public your whole lives. (also refer to #1) Twitter is not the place to have an argument, flirt, sext or post party pictures. This is why that guy at the end of the hall doesn’t think he has to go on Twitter or Facebook. Your shenanigans are making it hard for us to get more budget. You look like an idiot. Stop. We aren’t going to give you a raise if you keep doing it. And I think that you are home working on the deadline we have and you are making me hyperventilate that the more party pics you post the less powerpoint there will be at 2pm tomorrow. PartyPics do not equal PowerPoint. STOP!
4. ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT. HUNT US DOWN.
Unlike your parents that were working and unavailable – we are available – it is our job to be available to you while working. We may not seem like it because we are very used to being off on our own and “doing our own thing”. We weren’t as lucky as you where we played on 3 soccer teams and had multiplayer XBox. We only had one team in intramurals til 5 and 2 player Atari. Therefore we spent alot of time alone. On the phone. In our bedrooms. HOURS AND HOURS on the phone. Now don’t get me wrong at this point – I have to agree with you. I hate the phone. It wastes time. BUT when things are going wrong or you need help PICK UP THE PHONE. Even though I can see every tweet I can’t read your mind about the presentation that’s due when you are tweeting about how Bon Iver didn’t deserve the Grammy. It’s okay that you don’t know what to do. You’re not going to get in trouble. You already made it through college with a 3.9 and are able to code, draw, write, film and have seen more media today than your great-grandmother saw in her lifetime. You’re fine. It’s okay to say I don’t know, help me.
Thanks for reading. I hope this helps you.
I for one love you way more than I love the guy down the hall; he’s the guy that didn’t think anyone would ever watch a video on their computer let alone the phone, remember? I can’t even believe he is still in the building sometimes! I get you….but he thinks you are INSANE.
But don’t let all that bad press scare you. I’m counting on you.
The guy down the hall is going to crash the Social Security system and I’m expecting a senior citizen version of Couchsurfing/AirBnB to come out from one of your genius heads when you hit 45 and you start to worry about where the hell your parents will get money to pay the medical bills for their robotic eye.
peace out. (ha!)
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
“Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”