In last month’s blog we talked about whether Intrapreneurs would choose Fame or Fortune. Since then I’ve met with several intrapreneurs who said that what they really want is freedom and flexibility. Not fame and fortune.
These intrapreneurs want the freedom to do what is needed to solve customer problems and create new services. It isn’t about shining a light on themselves. They aren’t looking at this as a win for them, they are looking at it as a win for the customer and the organization.
They want the flexibility to try new things independent of how things got done in the past. They aren’t concerned about how to get it done they are interested in getting it done. The real reward is knowing that they were successful in achieving their goal.
All of the intrapreneurs I spoke with were offered promotions in their own firms but they turned them down. None of these individuals were interested in climbing the traditional corporate ladder. The thought of climbing higher in their organization was not appealing. Unless they would have the same freedom and flexibility that they now enjoyed. Many expressed concerns that they would eventually become part of the problem and not the solution. It would take them further away from the action.
Intrapreneurs prefer to work on the leading edge, exploring the unknown and creating value for their clients. Being closely aligned with customers and the markets is what makes their work so rewarding. It is what motivates them and keeps them engaged. It is also a key ingredient of their success. Not only engaging customers but integrating them into the process itself.
Most intrapreneurs are not interested in the political wrangling and power struggles that go on in the upper echelons. To them it is a waste of time and energy. It negates the real issues that organization’s face in a world that is rapidly changing, where growth is harder to achieve and competitive forces are consistently changing the playing field.
Intrapreneurs prefer to be as far away from the corporate politics as they can be. The thought of spending hours in meetings that never seem to accomplish much more than take up time is not what they want to be doing. They recognize that politics is a factor in all businesses but they prefer to leave it to others to play that game. It’s not that they don’t engage in politics, much of what they are doing is politically charged. They just don’t let it get in their way. They find sponsors who are more adept at organizational politics and will shield them from organizational distractions.
Intrapreneurs want opportunities that give them the freedom to cross organizational boundaries. They want the freedom to recruit and solicit help from those whose experience and knowledge are far greater than their own. They want the freedom to challenge traditional methods and practices that no longer make sense. The want the freedom to question decisions that may have made sense in the past but may not today. They want the freedom to partner with internal and external organizations that help further the cause even if they might eventually become competitors. They want the freedom to give customers a stake in the game by giving them a seat at the table to help shape and guide the project along the way. They do it because they want to expand their own knowledge and that of the organization.
Intrapreneurs know that flexibility is the key to dealing with complexity, uncertainty and the unknown. They want the flexibility to do what is right, not what is politically correct. They want the flexibility to change course or even kill a project when it no longer makes sense. They want the flexibility to create new processes and systems that support what they are doing. They want the flexibility to encourage workers to step outside their comfort zone despite the consequences. They want the flexibility to experience failure as part of the learning process. Intrapreneurs understand that being flexible is the best way to adapt, react and deal with a rapidly changing business environment. Being inflexible will do just the opposite.
The intrapreneurs that contributed their thoughts to this blog posting were fortunate, they had the freedom and flexibility they wanted and needed to stay motivated, engaged and productive. It wasn’t something they were just given it was something they had earned. These individuals had demonstrated through their actions that being successful is not always about coloring inside the lines but stepping outside of them. Freedom and flexibility is achieved through superior execution.
Each of these intrapreneurs had been given more freedom and flexibility as they achieved more success. This in turn had increased their visibility and accelerated their potential within the organization. Just the opposite of what they wanted. Yet it gave them leverage in their negotiations and allowed them to more freely move around the organization looking for new and exciting opportunities.
What organizations often fail to understand is that freedom and flexibility is what is needed in today’s business climate. What many organizations find hard to accept is that the traditional career ladder is not what employees always want? What many organizations fail to see is that existing structures and processes are stifling innovation and growth. What many organizations fail to acknowledge is that technology is transforming the way business operates in ways they can’t even imagine. What many organizations fail to accept is that power has shifted from the organization to the individual. More and more employees are choosing self-employment as a career choice.
All of these dynamics are creating a more uncertain, more complex and unpredictable world that many organizations are not totally prepared to deal with. Intrapreneurs thrive in this type of environment. They are after all pioneers. Charting a new course. Finding new and creative ways to get things. Discovering hidden needs that even analytics cannot predict. They are the answer to this changing business climate. Yet, like traditional employees Intrapreneurs have wants and needs and freedom and flexibility are two of them.
Freedom and flexibility are key ingredients for intrapreneurial success. Not only for the individual but for the organization as well.