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What is Intrapreneurism? 6 lessons for adaptation, innovation, and leadership

Recently I had the privilege of being the moderator at a panel discussion on social leadership and intrapreneurism with intrapreneurs Carla Stolte, Ian Howat, and Pieter de Vos presented by IPAC Edmonton. It was an opportunity to gather with curious leaders who are interested in finding out more about what social leadership looks like and what intrapreneurship means.

From perspectives shared by the panelists, to questions asked by participants, the panel generated many useful lessons worth sharing.

Young teamSo what do social leadership and intrapreneurism mean?

  • Social Leaders are people who have the ability to bring people together, facilitate agreements, and drive efforts in the same direction.
  • Intrapreneurs are people within groups or organizations who are willing to take risks in an effort to innovate and solve important problems.

These are complementary skills that can be developed by many people. In fact, lots of people already work in these ways – they just don’t know it yet!

The six lessons I took away from the panel fall into two categories: individual and organizational.

LESSONS FOR INDIVIDUALS:

1. Discover for yourself that “I am enough.” This is more than a true statement – it’s a way of being, living your life, and working. Discovering that you are enough will allow you to see the opportunities in taking risks and sticking your neck out. From the place of “I am enough” you can build resiliency, commitment, and the ability to be invested in both your goals and the goals of others.

2. As intrapreneurs it is likely that you will face “no.” It’s important to take rejection as an opportunity to learn what others see as important so you can increase the likelihood of a “yes” the next time.

3. Intrapreneurs bring their whole selves to the table – all their identities, perspectives, experiences, and “ways of knowing.” Hobbies, interests, previous roles, community/volunteer work, and current roles are all resources that you can rely on to inform and advance ideas and projects.

LESSONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS:

4. Develop a tolerance for change. Intrapreneurism requires space inside of organizations to incubate ideas, generate buy-in, and communicate within the organization. Often we work in organizational cultures that are unnerved by small groups gathering to discuss “pet projects.” These movements should be encouraged because there is the potential for these conversations and projects to be the birth places of innovation and positive impact.

5. Create a framework for intrapreneurism. Organizations can create and implement frameworks for endorsing and encouraging intrapreneurism. This allows those who are not the intrapreneurs, but are often affected by intrapreneurs work, to understand how the approach fits into the strategic directions of the whole organization.

6. Support a “learning environment.” The space and opportunity to apply learning is often limited. A learning environment encourages people to explore new ideas and apply new skills and thinking to their work. New perspectives and ideas may disrupt the organization’s status quo; however, outcomes are likely to improve when learning is given space to grow and to thrive.

Ultimately, every organization has forces that vie for stability and status quo, as well as those that pull for change and adaptation. Professionals that are emerging intrapreneurs and social leaders can bridge this tension, resulting in increased capacity for innovation and impact.

For more information on intrapreneurism, check out www.leagueofintrapreneurs.com

Annand Ollivierre
Volunteer Alberta

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