Intrapreneurs are ordinary individuals that do extraordinary things. Many of the individuals that have become successful intrapreneurs never set out to be one. They never thought of themselves as an intrapreneur until they became aware of the term itself – intrapreneur. It wasn’t until they were on the path that they began to understand the true meaning of what it meant to be an intrapreneur.
These are some of the insights they shared from their journey.
For most of these individuals becoming an intrapreneur was not a revolution but an evolution. It was not one event but a series of circumstances that they were involved with in their companies. It was not what they did but what they learned from the experience. It was not what they achieved but what value they created. These experiences laid the groundwork for them becoming an intrapreneur. It helped them develop the entrepreneurial insight and muscle that would be needed for their success.
It is a journey not a destination.
You don’t just wake up one day and look in the mirror and see that you’ve turned into an Intrapreneur. It’s about unraveling the core of who you are as an individual. Your core beliefs and values. Your motivations and aspirations. Your strengths and weaknesses. It’s about finding your hidden self. The person you really are and the person you are capable of becoming. It’s about reaching your untapped potential. Stretching yourself way outside your comfort zone to explore the breadth and depth of your own capabilities.
It is a journey of self-exploration.
Learning to become an intrapreneur starts with a clean sheet of paper. It is being open to seeing what is possible from what seems impossible. It is about exploring the unknown and challenging that which is known. It’s about having a vision that others can’t see yet. It’s about having conviction, commitment and confidence in the face of adversity. It’s relying on intuition when you don’t have all the data. It’s having a strong belief in yourself, your ideas and your mission. It is a way of looking at the world. Connecting the dots in a new way for the greater good.
It is an intellectual journey.
Intrapreneurs know that being an intrapreneur is not just an intellectual exercise. It is grounded in experience. The actions one takes to move an idea or solution forward despite obstacles and roadblocks that get in the way. It’s about challenging long held beliefs. Creating new systems and processes along the way. It is the ability to navigate internal and external landmines that stall and slow down progress. It is not about taking big risks but taking calculated risks. It’s not about failing but failing to act. It’s about creating the future not letting it evolve.
It is an action oriented journey
The energy that motivates and drives intrapreneurs is purpose and passion. A goal much greater than yourself that solves a problem, creates value or addresses an unmet need. Driven by the desire and belief that what you do will have an impact and make a difference. To maintain your emotional composure when confronted with resistance. To be empathic and listen to the voices around you. To show courage in the face of threats and failure to execute as planned. To be willing to stop and start over when it no longer makes sense. To keep going when you are convinced that it will work.
It is a journey of the head and the heart.
The path from ordinary to extraordinary does not happen in a vacuum. It occurs when Intrapreneurs join forces with others to move a project forward. Building a diverse team. Negotiating for limited resources. Co-opting others to support you in your efforts. Collaborating with internal and external partners to provide advice and valuable resources. Cultivating support from senior level executives who can provide coverage when things get crazy. Communicating effectively with key stakeholders to hold their interest and keep them happy. Integrating customers and clients into the development process. Being all things to all people. Taking a 360 view of your world.
It is a journey you cannot take alone.
Despite the growing interest in intrapreneurship, Intrapreneurs still struggle to gain traction in large organizations. For most it is a certain level of frustration with the organizations inability to fully embrace what it means to be intrapreneurial. The people, the processes and the culture that are needed to support and enable intrapreneurship. Intrapreneurs find themselves alone, lost, without a sounding board. Intrapreneurs get that support from others like themselves outside the organization through networking, at conferences and in community groups focused on Intrapreneurship. It isn’t that it can’t be done without this support, it is far easier to learn from others who are in the same boat.
It is a journey where you need community support.
Along the way Intrapreneurs begin to realize that they have to take responsibility for their own growth and development. They select opportunities that will stretch and challenge them. Opportunities that others may find too difficult or career limiting. Experiences that push them beyond the limits of what they currently know. It is through these experiences that they learn what they know and don’t know, what is important and what isn’t. Often they are engaged in things that the organization has never done before. They must make a new path forward. They see themselves for who they are, what they are capable of achieving and what they have left to learn.
It’s a journey of self-reflection.
Every intrapreneurs’ journey has its own twists and turns. Its ups and downs. Its detours and distractions. Its success and disappointments. The path from ordinary to extraordinary is not an easy one but a rewarding one. These are just a few of the things that intrapreneurs have done on the path to becoming extraordinary. It is not rocket science. As Peter Drucker said, “It is not magic; it is not mysterious; it has nothing to do with genes. It is a discipline, and, like any discipline, it can be learned. It is a way of thinking and acting.”
Not everyone has an aspiration to be an intrapreneur but those that do must realize that you can’t decide one day to be an intrapreneur. Being an intrapreneur is not an intellectual exercise it comes from experience – intrapreneurial experiences.
It is a journey that starts with a single step.
A step that takes you on the path from being ordinary to being an extraordinary intrapreneur.
Originally published in 2017.