We have been programmed from an early age to be this way, do it that way, use experience to guide us, rely on the word of others, prove every point, avoid conflict, embrace conformity and not veer too far off course. Now we are looking at a new way of being that is in conflict with these guiding principles.

It is as if everything has been turned upside down and inside out. The old rules no longer apply in a rapidly changing and complex world. Everything we’ve known to be true is in question.

Failure was once to be avoided. Now you need to fail to succeed. Experience was important but now past experience can get in the way. We relied on data, logic and reason to guide us, now we are learning to trust our gut and intuition. Organizational hierarchy was important to maintain order and discipline, now seventy percent of the work we do in organizations doesn’t need hierarchy. We led with our heads and now we must lead with our hearts, with empathy, understanding and social responsibility.

The old rules no longer apply. They are outdated, no longer as effective, less engaging and less inviting to a new generation of workers. Yet despite these changes we tend to lean on what we know versus what we don’t know.

It was Robert Monroe from The Monroe Institute that first introduced me to the concept of the known and unknown. He taught us that most people fear the unknown, while the greatest fear should be the known. It is that invisible line between what is and what could be. It is that leap forward into the darkness, into the field of possibilities. It is the empty space where new ideas emerge and take shape. It is the dividing line between the past and the future. It is what makes the difference between standing still versus moving forward.

Needless to say a large number of workers prefer to stay within the confines of what they know. They use past experience and knowledge to guide them in their thinking, decision making and actions. They prefer to wait until things become clear before proceeding or moving forward. They resist complexity and try to simplify things quickly, narrowing their choices in the process. They avoid risk and minimize failure, preferring to play it safe. They stay within the boundaries of acceptable behavior, unwilling to bend rules. They prefer to live in a more stable and predictable environment.

There are others that prefer to explore the unknown, see what is possible. They are willing to challenge and question conventional wisdom. They resist diving into the data too early; they want to see the whole picture first. They rely on their own gut and intuition to inform their decision making and actions. They experiment and test their assumptions. They are not afraid to fail; they learn from both their successes and failures. They embrace complexity and linger in it; they prefer to look at all the options before narrowing their choices. They are energized and thrive in an environment full of ambiguity and the unknown.

Interestingly we need both types of individuals in organizations today. The first group provides a solid foundation for managing and leading in the core business. The second group is needed to generate new and sustainable growth. It is this second group where we find Intrapreneurs.

The more I work with intrapreneurs and social intrapreneurs the more evident it is that these individuals are in alignment with who they are at the core, not what the organization wants them to be. By being alignment with their true self they are more engaged, productive and innovative. They think, act and make decisions differently. They have different motivations and aspirations. They operate from their head and their heart. They are driven by something bigger than themselves.

In his book True North, Bill George describes True North this way, “it’s the internal compass that guides you successfully through life. It is your orienting point – your fixed point in a spinning world – that helps you stay on track. …It’s based on what is most important to you, your cherished values, your passions and motivations and the sources of satisfaction in your life.”

The key to finding your true north is self-awareness. Intrapreneurs are always asking themselves is there something else they don’t know that they should. They take responsibility for their own growth and development. They not only want to know, they need to know. They are peeling away the layers of past experience and conditioning to see who they really are at the core. Reaching deep inside them self to understand what motivates and influences them, what drives them, their strengths, weaknesses and areas needing more development.

“True north is a phrase that is often used to define a person who has clarity and direction in his or her life.”

Intrapreneurs bring their A game to every situation. They look at every opportunity as a way to learn, grow, and change. The more they learn, they more they come to know themselves. By exploring the unknown they see what is possible. Find new and innovative ways to solve complex problems; create new approaches to challenging issues. They look at every situation from all sides; making sure that the solution is a win, win for everyone involved. Their energy and passion is contagious. They inspire and motivate others to follow their lead. They are pushing themselves and their organizations into the future.

There has never been a group of people more committed to bettering themselves for their organizations and the world around them. They do not sit back and wait for the organization to offer them an opportunity, the proactively seek out opportunities to do it for themselves. They know that the world is changing and that they need to change with it. The more they know about themselves the better they will be able to deal with those changes.

It was Abraham Maslow who once said ““What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” Intrapreneurs are doing just that. They are looking inside themselves for guidance and direction. They are finding their true north.

What about you? Have you found your true north?


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