We are excited to report that 2018 has been a very good year for Intrapreneurs. We see more and more individuals taking on the role of Intrapreneur and leading the way in their organizations. They know that it isn’t always easy but they are on a mission to change the status quo in and outside of their organization. Their voices are being heard by some of the largest organizations in the world.

Intrapreneurs are putting pressure on organizations to explore Intrapreneurship and challenging them to understand what they need to do to attract and retain intrapreneurial talent. They are making organizations see that talent is their most valuable asset. That profit over purpose can only take them so far. That the organization of the future is beginning to look very different from the past.

A colleague of mine once said that a tiny shift can have a big impact and that is what we see happening now. It’s not to say that we are at a tipping point yet but very close. My hope for next year is that we tip the scales and recognize Intrapreneurs for who they are and what they do. That we acknowledge their contribution to the organization, their ability to drive change and their unique leadership capabilities.

Intrapreneurship is helping transform our businesses and the way we work. It is also helping us understand our responsibility to society and the environment. Intrapreneurs are the driving force behind this movement.

Intrapreneurs are turning business upside-down and inside-out by leveraging technology, AI and data in a way that it has never been used before. They see things through a different lens and relate to the world in a more compassionate way. They see the value in bringing people together into communities with a mission, a goal, and a desire to build a better world.

We are grateful for their commitment to this cause.

Over the last decade we have followed thousands of Intrapreneurs on their journey. We recognize that they have come a long way but still have a ways to go. One of the ways we look at Intrapreneurs is in how they approach their work. Are they more traditional or intrapreneurial? Here are a few things we’ve learned about Intrapreneurs:

1. Intrapreneurs are slightly more traditional than intrapreneurial in their approach to thinking. Although intrapreneurs are independent thinkers a majority of them rely on proven processes for collecting and processing information. They continue to use reason, logic and argument to make decisions versus relying on their own experience and knowledge to guide them. They want evidence to support their arguments and they make judgments based on well supported reason.

2. Intrapreneurs are both traditional and intrapreneurial when it comes to navigating uncertainty. They rely on their intuition to guide them and use creativity to define the future. They are willing to move forward without having all the data. Yet they are reluctant to start projects without having all the resources they think they need to achieve their goals. They are not willing to pursue opportunities without being sure they can win.

3. Intrapreneurs are equally traditional and intrapreneurial when it comes to being engaged and thriving. Half of them prefer the freedom to experiment while the other half want clarity about what is expected of them. They are split between those that want recognition for good performance and those that want recognition for trying even if they fail.  Intrapreneurs are highly motivated by a challenge but look to management to sanction their actions before taking them on.

4. Intrapreneurs are intrapreneurial when it comes to driving change. A strong majority of them understand that making change happens requires changing behavior not process. They know that structure alone will not drive change, that most change is incremental and that you have to be patient. More importantly they know that demonstrating change through their actions is the key to enabling change in the organization.

5. Intrapreneurs exhibit strong intrapreneurial leadership They tend to manage risk through action not analysis.  They are effective at leveraging limited resources to achieve goals. Understand customers as people not just data.  They are good at motivating others and keeping stakeholders informed as things evolve.  They tend to place small bets quickly rather than big bets slowly.

6. Intrapreneurs are mostly intrapreneurial when it comes to execution. They view execution as a process not a goal.  They take measured and controlled steps forward.  They explore variability and contingencies to move forward. They don’t try to eliminate mistakes but learn from them. They understand that execution is an iterative process and never follows a straight line.

What this tells us is that Intrapreneurs have found a way to balance the demands of the core business at the same time that they are building a new one. They continue to rely on more traditional business practices when it comes to processing, analyzing and evaluating information and more traditional in their decision making. But they are more intrapreneurial in the steps or actions they are taking to move their organization forward.  They are doing more experimentation and are more willing to try new things even if they fail.  They are more effective in getting others to change and follow their lead.

Digging deeper we see that Intrapreneurs consistently rate themselves higher in these six areas than their actual score. This is not a bad thing because being highly confident in your abilities is a key factor for success. It does however indicate that there is a gap between their perception of their abilities and their actual actions.

Not surprising the largest gaps in perception were when it comes to independent thinking, navigating uncertainty and engaged and thriving.  Intrapreneurs rated themselves significantly higher in these areas.  They rated themselves higher in the three other areas driving change, leadership effectiveness and execution but not as much.

Intrapreneurs must not only think but act intrapreneurial.

What we are seeing is that the balance between thinking and action has shifted over time. In the past Intrapreneurs had been more intrapreneurial when it comes to thinking and more traditional when it comes to action.  Now we see a reversal where Intrapreneurs are more traditional in their thinking and more intrapreneurial in their action. It is not surprising that we have seen this shift.

This shift signals two things:

First, Intrapreneurs have learned that changing existing business practices in the core business can be a frustrating and futile exercise. They realize that they have to find a way to deal with inflexible and rigid business practices that limit their ability to act intrapreneurial.  Instead of resisting them, they are embracing them and leveraging them in new ways to satisfy the demand of the core business as they are building a new one. They have found a way to balance the core business with the new. A key indicator of a true intrapreneurial leader.

Secondly: Intrapreneurs have gained more confidence and competence in their ability to make change happen.  They have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the obstacles and roadblocks that can derail their efforts.  They are finding creative ways around them. They are more willing to experiment and test their ideas before staking a major claim on an idea. Intrapreneurs have also found that there is no reward in standing still they must move outside of what they know through action.  A sign Intrapreneurs are willing to take on more personal and professional risk to succeed.

We think these are all good signs that Intrapreneurs are not only evolving they are maturing in their understanding of the role and what it takes to be successful.

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