In a speech to a local college, New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman proclaimed that “average is officially over, in a hyper connected world; we must adjust to it before the global economy passes us by.” This coming from the author, who told us years ago that, the world is flat.
Organizations have been dealing with this for several years. Redesigning their business models and changing how they operate. Now the focus is on the individual.
Only now are individuals feeling the impact of Friedman’s words. The very essence of work is changing. The social contract between employer and employee is broken. Many professionals are unemployed or underemployed. Graduates are finding it difficult to secure jobs that leverage their education. The world of work has been turned upside down.
According to Friedman, “Employers will no longer pay you for what you know, but only for what you do with what you know.” This is the great divide between success and failure in the 21st century economy.
It is also part of the reason why entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship are on the rise. There is a growing need for entrepreneurial thinking and action. This is good news for intrapreneurs. It is the very essence of who they are.
Entrepreneurial thinking and action alone is not enough, intrapreneurs need more in their tool kit to be effective and successful. It is a combination of competencies, knowledge and experience that are needed. Intrapreneurs possess a distinct set of competencies that set them apart from more traditional employees. Everyone has these competencies. It is the breadth and depth of these competencies that distinguish the intrapreneur from others.
Intrapreneurs exhibit superior performance in key competencies that are needed to perform this role. On average Intrapreneurs exhibit superior performance in fifteen of seventeen competencies identified for this role. When compared to C-level executives, Intrapreneurs had greater depth in ten out of the seventeen competencies. Not just by a little but a wide margin.* There is nothing average in that.
How can this be! Well, most executives have achieved their success by exploiting the core business, not building new businesses. Just the opposite of what intrapreneurs do. Intrapreneurial initiatives provide a depth of knowledge and understanding that can only be gained through the experience itself – building a new business. It is the experience that provides a deeper and richer understanding of the nuances of building something new inside an established organization.
That said, understanding the core business is an important part of being an Intrapreneur. Most intrapreneurs start their careers in the core business, learning what works and what doesn’t work. They experiment, test assumptions and look for possibilities. They push on organizational boundaries to see where they are flexible and where they are not. Eventually they will want something bigger, more difficult and more challenging to take on. Their previous successes (and failures) have propelled them to this moment. It is then when they know they are ready. They don’t sit around and wait for the organization to hand them an opportunity, they proactively find one. That’s not being average.
Intrapreneurs will raise their hands for the toughest challenges, biggest problems. Not because they know the answer, but because they know that they will learn from the experience. Win or lose they will grow from the experience. They will do what it takes to get things done, even if it means stepping on toes or breaking rules. Nothing comes from playing it safe but playing it smart provides new insight, new knowledge that moves the organization forward. There is nothing average in that.
Intrapreneurs are totally engaged and energized by the work they do. They are highly motivated and good at motivating others. Intrapreneurs believe in what they are doing. In many cases it turns into a cause. That’s why most Intrapreneurs are loyal to their project first, then the organization. This runs counter to what most organizations would like to see but it illustrates the commitment that intrapreneurs have to what they are doing. Workers that are engaged are more productive, innovative and help their organizations achieve higher financial returns. These workers are anything but average.
It was Gifford Pinchot that gave us the Intrapreneurs Ten Commandments. The first one being “Come to work each day willing to be fired.” Intrapreneurs are willing to put their job on the line for what they believe. How many employees in your organization are willing to do that? There is nothing average about that.
Perhaps Friedman is right, being average is not good enough in today’s rapidly changing environment. According to Friedman, “Companies are looking for people who can invent, adapt and reinvent their jobs every day.” That’s what Intrapreneurs do. That’s who they are. They are not afraid to lose they are only concerned if they don’t try. They look at every opportunity to make a contribution to themselves and their organizations. It’s a two way street. As they grow, so does the organization.
Being average is not something intrapreneurs are willing to accept. The intrapreneurs that I’ve met have helped their organizations build million and billion dollar businesses. They have helped propel their organizations into the future.
It’s time to end being average.
*The Corporate Entrepreneur Profile™ was used to evaluate the competences of intrapreneurs.