The reality for Intrapreneurs is that being different is what makes you do what you do.
You are willing to try new things, test your assumptions and explore the unknown. You change your thoughts and actions based on what you see, experience, or learn. You are open to shifting your stance and taking a new approach. It is what makes you stick out in the crowd.
You can call it being a rebel, a non-conformist, a maverick or even a positive deviant but what it means is that you do not resist change, you embrace it. You do not sit back and wait until things become clear before you act, you act and see what you learn from it. You are willing to step outside of what you know to explore what you don’t know. These small things make you able to adapt, change and transform who you are. It’s all about changing your behavior.
This is what makes you different. According to his article Leaders Focus Too Much on Changing Policies, and Not Enough on Changing Minds, Tony Schwartz asks why transformations are so difficult. “Among many potential explanations, one that gets the very little attention may be the most fundamental; the invisible fears and insecurities that keep us locked into behaviors even when we know rationally that they don’t serve us well.”
Everything that goes on in an organization is the result of someone’s actions – their behavior. How they behave reflects how they think and the level of risk they assign to any decision. It’s not about what they say but what they do. Often we are locked into our own beliefs and assumptions that prevent us from moving in a new direction. It creates resistance, fear, insecurity. That is not the case with Intrapreneurs.
It’s not about being unique it is about being open to new possibilities. Intrapreneurs stick out in the crowd because others are not willing to step outside of what they know to explore what they don’t know.
Years ago, I visited The Monroe Institute (TMI) after reading an article in Omni Magazine about the organization’s exploration into various levels of consciousness. The Monroe Institute (TMI) is a nonprofit education and research organization that is the preeminent leader in human consciousness and expanded states of awareness. As a prelude to the week ahead of us we were all asked to give up our watches and phones. There were no clocks on the walls, no radio, or no TV to keep us connected to the outside world. We were all strangers gathered together to explore the unknown under the guidance of Bob Monroe. Among us were executives from Fortune 50 companies, entrepreneurs, photographers, graphic artists, students, and musicians from around the world. A mixed bag for sure.
The experience and learning were profound for all of us and made us aware that there are things beyond our current ability to fully grasp or put into words. That we are more than what we see and that there are always new things to explore. It was Bob Monroe who said that the greatest fear most people have is ‘fear of the unknown.’ Yet he went on to say that the greatest fear should be ‘fear of the known’ because it keeps us locked into the present, comfortable, content, and complacent.
Little did Bob know that what he was describing was happening in the majority of organizations that many of us worked for then and now! The inability to change is rooted in each one of us. Not in something out there but something inside of us. It’s how we think and how we express our thoughts through our behavior. Not just any behavior but behaviors that enable us to deal with the external world around us in ways that move us forward. Like dealing with complexity, uncertainty and the unknown. Collectively these behaviors form the basis for organizational cultures. They don’t change if we don’t change.
According to Tony Schwartz, “What organizations typically overlook is the internal shift – what people think and feel…This is where the resistance tends to arise – cognitively in the form of fixed beliefs, deeply held assumptions and blind spots; and emotionally, in the form of fear and insecurity that change engenders.” It is a reflection of how we see the world and react to what we see.
Intrapreneurship is about change. Changing everything. The way people think and act, changing the way the organization operates, and changing the culture. The goal of intrapreneurship is to build capabilities that enable organizations to respond to change and accelerate new business growth. So, it is not surprising that among the top competencies of successful Intrapreneurs is Navigating Uncertainty and Driving Change.
According to Effective Skills of Change Agents, “Individuals and organizations do not resist change; they resist disturbances to their frame of reference caused by change.” These frame of references include, attitudes, expectations, behaviors, emotions, beliefs, values, habits, past experience, education etc. To make change happen there needs to be a major shift in many of these. The reality perceived by each of us is filtered by our own frame of reference. Organizations also have their own frame of reference.
Resistance is futile. We are living in a world that is constantly changing. If we don’t adjust to those changes we will be left behind. Managing resistance requires getting individual and organizations to reframe themselves. There is a direct correlation between the extent to which we modify our frame of reference and the amount of change and pain that an individual or organization will undergo. The key to unlocking individual and organizational potential is demonstrating change through your behavior.
That’s what intrapreneurs do. They stick out in the crowd because they are consistently exhibiting change in the way they think and the way they work. In doing so they are not only changing themselves they are changing organizations. This is the power of intrapreneurs. They not only drive change, but they are also opening the door for others to change.
Asking others to change is more difficult. The key is understanding what you are asking them to change, how many things you are asking them to change, and the impact those changes will have on them. Exploring those things is the key. It provides a way for them to see change in a new light. Making it easier for them to deal with their own resistance to change.
Instinctively and intuitively Intrapreneurs learn the behaviors that enable them to thrive in an ever-changing world. They do it through their experience of being an intrapreneur. In most cases they have done this on their own. Without the aid or assistance of their organization.
Sticking out is not always easy, comfortable, or welcomed by Intrapreneurs but like everyone they must look at their own frame of reference and ask themselves what they need to change to move past these feeling.
In doing this they come to understand the power of sticking out in the crowd.
Originally published in 2018, updated in 2022.