In our work we help individuals explore their own entrepreneurial orientation. We provide a window into who they are, what they do and how they do it.  We look at how they approach work – are they more traditional, entrepreneurial or both. We look at their propensity to act in a certain way, in a given situation, at a certain point in time.

It isn’t just a matter of thinking and acting like an intrapreneur.  Being an intrapreneur is a two-way street.  Its understanding the great divide that separates you from the rest of the organization.

It was Jeffry A. Timmons, Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at Babson College that talked about the paradox of entrepreneurship.  That it is a two-way street. The paradox is that entrepreneurship inside organizations requires two sets of capabilities – managing the core and leading the new business – at the same time.

Telling yourself that you are an intrapreneur, is only half of the equation.  Understanding the other side of the equation is equally important. It is the gap between these two factions that create the greatest barriers and obstacles for intrapreneurs.  Identifying and closing those gaps can be the difference between success and failure.

It is the ability to coexist in both these worlds simultaneously that distinguishes the true intrapreneur from the rest.  That’s why the focus of our work is looking at both sides of this great divide.  Only in gaining a clear understanding of both perspectives will you be able to find a way to bridge that divide.

We often hear experts talk about the antibodies that exist in established organizations that prevent Intrapreneur from being successful.  Keep in mind that everything in an organization is a potential obstacle.  We’ve identified over ninety barriers and obstacles that can get in your way.  These obstacles stifle innovation and growth.  Often these obstacles involve doing something one way versus another. But it’s not about the obstacles…it’s how you deal with them that makes the difference.

Do you walk away when you hit the wall, or do you try to understand how to bridge the divide?  You can’t begin to build bridges until you put yourself in their shoes.  See things through their eyes.  Understand their perspective, how they think, act and make decisions. Explore their concerns, understand their resistance and listen to understand what’s getting in their way.  It isn’t about you, it’s about them.

The advice that many Intrapreneurs get when they hit the wall and can’t move forward, is that it is probably time to leave and move on.  In fact, that was the same advice we gave Intrapreneurs who asked us those same questions.  It is only in hindsight that we realized that we were wrong.  It isn’t about deciding to move on, it’s about deciding to find a way to close the gap between these two worlds. To do that you must understand the differences between them.

Finding common ground requires being comfortable having one foot in both worlds – the core business and new business you are building.  Sounds simple but it is much more complex.  That’s why it is not easy being an Intrapreneur.  It’s like having a split personality, each with its own sets of demands.  The organization has one view of the situation, you have another. It is up to you as the Intrapreneur not the organization to manage this.

Understanding if you have what it takes to be an intrapreneur is only the first step on your journey to becoming an effective intrapreneur.  Understanding the rest of the organization is just as important. So how do you do that.  What do you need to know?

First understand yourself and how what you do shapes your perspective.

  • How your work environment influences the actions you take.
  • How innovation defines the degree of change and resistance you will encounter.
  • How metrics influence the decisions you make and the actions you take.
  • How specific competencies determine how traditional or intrapreneurial you are.
  • How well you understand the gaps in what you do versus what you think you do.
  • How well you know yourself and how your actions impact others.
  • How confident and competent you are in the eyes of those you manage.
  • How your level of commitment to the organization influences what you do.
  • How you see and evaluate the external world around you.
  • How you gather and process information to create new ideas.
  • How you evaluate and analyze data to reach a decision.
  • How you determine when you have done enough to move forward with your idea.
  • How internal and external factors influence and enable you to take action.

These are the things that help you see yourself more clearly.  Help you understand the why behind your thinking and actions.  Help you see where you stand.  Think of it as a sliding scale – being traditional on one end and entrepreneurial on the other.  Sometimes you may need to be more entrepreneurial, other times more traditional or maybe a little of both. It’s a starting point for understanding the distance you may have to travel to close the gaps between you and the rest of the organization.

Secondly, once you know where you stand you will be able to see how what you do is different from the rest of the organization.  Keep in mind that the same dimensions from above can be applied to everyone throughout the organization.

The most simplistic way to look at this is to consider that everything that is done in the core business is just the opposite of what is needed to support a new business.  Think of it as a 180-degree difference. It’s not just the things others do in the core business but the way they do them.  It’s about their mindset, the way they think, act and make decisions.  It’s about how they operate, short term versus long term, incremental versus disruptive, analytical versus intuitive, traditional versus entrepreneurial, and so on.  It isn’t as simple as that, but it is a starting point.

Once you understand those differences you can begin to see how large the gap, how difficult the challenge.  It will be up to you to determine how far you can push the boundaries of what is acceptable behavior or decide when you need to pull back.  You can think of it like a dial, you dial it up to see more change or turn it back to minimize change.  Speed it up or slow it down.  These are things Intrapreneurs do to keep their projects moving forward.

This is the playing field.  The great divide between you and the rest of the organization. It is the clarity you will need to be effective in your role as an intrapreneur.

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