The terms Great Resignation and now Quiet Quitting are being used today to describe the growing dissatisfaction among workers. The pandemic was the catalyst that provided an opportunity for everyone to reassess their life, work, and well-being. That is a good thing.
The great resignation provided a collective voice for workers to express themselves. It was a signal that things needed to change. That business as usual was no longer working for a large portion of the work force. That there were other things that were more important.
Instead of staying to fight for change, individual workers expressed themselves by walking out the door. Leaving many vulnerable and uncertain about the future. Leaving organizations struggling to fill empty positions.
Now Quiet Quitting is part of the new lexicon, where workers scale back their commitment and set boundaries to focus on a better work-life balance. They commit themselves to doing the minimum amount of work to get it done not to improve it or change it into something better.
The great resignation and now quiet quitting are two ways for individuals to voice their opinion, take a stand and make changes in their life. They are creating a new way forward for themselves, their families, and their life. Work as we’ve known it has taken a back seat to personal interests and desires.
But are these work trends also a sign that something more valuable is ready to emerge.
A tipping point of sorts that says enough is enough. That it is time to step up to the challenges we face as individuals, organizations, and society. Or is it just a visible sign of the level of engagement of workers into today’s organizations – disengaged (resignation) and enrolled (quiet quitting).
Yet, there is another group of individuals that are committed to creating the future. These are the intrapreneurs committed to an idea, a purpose, a new way forward. We’ve found that intrapreneurs are either highly engaged (self-motivated) or disenchanted (disappointed) – two other categories of engagement. Being disenchanted doesn’t mean one is disengaged they are disappointed that their words, ideas, and thinking are dismissed or not taken seriously. Most intrapreneurs are interested in making a difference no matter what the circumstances.
You might question whether some of the individuals that have resigned are Intrapreneurs – perhaps – but if they’ve left their organization it is because they have done all they can, pushed organizational boundaries as far as they could or they have seen greater opportunity in organizations focused on Intrapreneurship. These individuals would never engage in quiet quitting because they are always looking for new opportunities to learn and grow. They don’t wait for opportunity, they create it.
Many organizations find themselves trapped in a time warp of business practices that worked well in the past but are faltering in this new rapid paced, uncertain business and technological environment. They have felt the impact of the great resignation on their workforce and the stagnation of employee productivity retaining their quiet quitters. It means that many of these organizations may survive but not thrive in this new economy. They will be left behind to pick up the pieces, break up into smaller companies, change direction or eventually fade away. It happens.
Unfortunately, we are talking about some of the largest companies in the world. They have not been able to make the transition to being agile, proactive, innovative, or entrepreneurial. The question is whether they have tried or are they hoping they can ride things out until all the dysfunctional things happening around them are somehow, some way resolved, and things can get back to normal. No…. it isn’t going to happen.
There is no new normal, nor may there be for some time. We have entered an era of chaos that has no sides, no ceiling, no floor in which we can operate without acknowledging that things need to change. It is a time of transition. It is that uncomfortable and painful space between the past and the future. Like it or not we have been forced to confront it head on whether we want to or not. Things are broken and we need to fix it. Resigning is one way of dealing with it, being a quiet quitter is another. But that won’t solve the problem it only makes it worse.
We need to recruit the people who want to fix it, change it, drive it forward, create value and have an impact – Intrapreneurs. Yet, organizations continue to pay lip service to Intrapreneurship and Intrapreneurs. In many organizations Intrapreneurs still remain a hidden talent because they don’t fit the model of the traditional worker.
Intrapreneurs step on toes, break the rules, question authority, and do things without getting prior authorization or approval. That’s because they are doing what’s right, not what is common practice. They see opportunity in the smallest issues and the biggest problems. They spend time and energy trying to get others to see what they see. They take an outside-in perspective when it comes to mapping customer needs to capabilities. They are judged on metrics that don’t measure the true value of what they are doing. It doesn’t make sense to continue to ignore the most value resource your organization already has– your intrapreneurs.
Finding them within your organization shouldn’t be the problem, nurturing, supporting, and investing in them is, however. Long neglected, ignored, and undervalued these individuals are exactly what is needed to jumpstart innovation and entrepreneurship in organizations. Unlike traditional workers Intrapreneurs exhibit a set of capabilities that enable them to thrive in chaos. The bigger the challenge the better. No problem is too big, no issue too complex, no hurdle too high to get over, no barrier too strong to hold them back. Yet, a majority of intrapreneurs are still underutilized. No wonder so many of them are disenchanted.
The biggest challenge facing intrapreneurs is building the bridge between the past and the future, the core business and the new. Doing all this while trying to change hearts, minds, and beliefs. Not an easy task for an individual or a few individuals. There needs to be a network or community of Intrapreneurs in organizations to help facilitate the change or transformation. One or two small groups will have minimal impact and no lasting value if they are not integrated into the fabric of the organization. That requires developing intrapreneurial skills at all levels of the organization.
A colleague recently introduced me to the term emergence – which I hadn’t given much thought to before. He asked me how it related to Intrapreneurship and frankly at the time I didn’t know. Emergence is “the process of coming into view.” It seems that emergence is a term that could describe intrapreneurship. It is creating something new out of nothing, out of chaos or as a result of an unmet need. Often a high value, high impact idea that emerges from a network of people. It is the end result of the collective effort of a group whose interactions and individual contributions come together to create a new idea. Sounds a lot like Intrapreneurship to me.
Aspects of Intrapreneurship that are related to the concept of Emergence.
- It is a collective effort – it is focused on a common belief or goal.
- It is self-organizing – individual parts come together to create something new.
- It requires dealing with – complexity, ambiguity and the unknown.
- It is an iterative or dynamic process – learn as you go.
- Requires an integrative mind – it’s not an either/or but both.
- Dependent on connections – establishing networks of likeminded individuals.
- Existing rules and processes get in the way – must tweak, change, or eliminate some.
- Must be decisive – make moment to moment decisions.
- Success is co-determined by the interaction with its environment – culture matters.
- Shifts the balance of power – the power of ideas moves things forward.
- Renewed focus – focus on creating and building the future.
- Facilitates the movement from – adapting, to adopting, to integration.
According to research, emergence plays a central role in theories of integration levels and complex systems. Integration occurs when parts interact to create a wider picture of what is possible. It requires seeing patterns, synthesizing large amount of information, building new structures. It is a co-creation process where things unknown are revealed by exploring complexity, not simplifying things too quickly. Like intrapreneurship, emergence happens when diverse actors and ideas come together to create something new, which then becomes known. It is valued for the contribution it makes and the impact it can have on what ever issue, problem or need it was designed to address.
It is a natural process that is not constrained by rules and processes but flows from the interactions of its parts. Much like intrapreneurship the sum and value of an idea evolves when a diverse group of individuals and ideas come together as one. That is why having only a few intrapreneurial projects in an organization at any one time is not enough to develop the innovative mindset and behavior required to sustain it over time. It needs to be integrated into the organization for it to stick. It takes time and experience to let it grow. It needs nurturing to embed it into the culture. A culture that enables intrapreneurship to thrive and generate growth.
So are the forces at work in today’s business environment coming together in a way that now recognize that intrapreneurs – those that are both engaged and disenchanted are a critical part of the organization’s evolution to a new business model. A new way of thinking and acting that challenges and questions the very essence and foundation of the organization. Not in a bad way but in a way that frames the future. A future that must blend the best of the past with the promise of the future so that they can both co-exist until such time when a more innovative, entrepreneurial culture emerges.
Intrapreneurship hasn’t gotten the traction it needed to sustain itself over time, due in part because it takes time to develop and see results. That’s because Intrapreneurship is all about change. Changing everything that is required to move things forward – it is a transformational process. It needs someone to drive that change – intrapreneurs. Not just one or two but a wide spectrum of leaders, managers and workers that can span across the organization, network together and collectively change how the organization operates. That’s how intrapreneurship emerges. That’s how it gets integrated into the fabric of the organization. It moves from adapting to adoption and finally integration.
Isn’t it time for the Great Integration to emerge. Time for intrapreneurs to flourish, workers to reengage and organizations to grow. Intrapreneurship may be the key to doing just that. Especially when many of the people you need are already there to help your organization succeed.
Inspiration for this article came from a group of individuals focused on changing the future through Intrapreneurship and Revenue Science.