Looking at change through the lens of the intrapreneurial team

Written by
Jean Egmon

15 Aug 2016

15 Aug 2016 • by Jean Egmon

"An intrapreneurial mindset to foster change will create a new business, uncover new ways of doing things"

When change is framed around intrapreneurship there is excitement and possibility.

Intrapreneurs can be individuals, but more often they are teams working across departments and functions. People get on board because they understand the benefits to the organisation—and to their particular job, function, or professional growth.

Fostering intrapreneurship requires three types of leaders who have specific capacities to be agents for growth and who can leverage connections to have an outsized impact. 

3 well-known characters represent them:

•    Thomas Edison - the open-minded, creative leader with a can-do attitude who never met an idea he/she didn’t like;

    Indiana Jones - rational and methodical, who asks questions with healthy skepticism, but will take a leap of faith when logic and certainty don’t supply all the answers;

•    St. Paul - the broker in the network, who spans many groups; he/she has an inside track to the key players, knows what motivates them, and can influence their thinking.


Breathe innovation into your organisation

The presence of these types of leaders adds energy to the organisation and sparks movement from the current state toward a desired direction.

Consider Tesla, Inc., known for its electric luxury cars, which recently made an intrapreneurial move with the unveiling of its new $35,000 Model 3 for the midmarket. CEO Elon Musk, sounding very much like a “Thomas Edison” type leader on creativity, with the calculation of an “Indiana Jones” said development of the Model 3 was part of a “secret master plan” to popularise electric cars. 

The hype and anticipation around the Model 3, with lines of customers waiting to be among the first to put down $1,000 to reserve one of the new cars, sight unseen, are part of Tesla’s intrapreneurial story of continuous change to determine the future of the company and can even be tapped as “St. Paul networkers” in the market. Although the Model 3 faces competition from similarly priced electric cars made by other manufacturers, Tesla is drawing from past experiences to turn new opportunities into growth. 

Obviously, Musk did not pull off the Model 3 rollout alone. Such a project requires thousands of people in various functions - R&D, engineering, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and more, along with suppliers and other strategic partners. Among these people are also Thomas Edisons, Indiana Joneses, and St. Pauls, who are not limited to the top of the organisation. These change agents help inspire and guide others to take on the necessary challenges. 

Within many organisations I’ve worked with, I’ve seen numerous examples of intrapreneurial leaders in unexpected, but ultimately strategic, roles. It may be “Vinny,” who heads maintenance and knows everybody. Because of his connectedness (a real “St. Paul”) Vinny is crucial to getting people on board with a new venture or even the turnaround of the organisation. Thanks to people like Vinny, the intrapreneurial team understands what it takes get people’s buy-in, what those people and departments want or need and how to help them get it.

These insights help foster an attitude of mutuality, in which there are a multiple “wins” across the organisation. Not only are the benefits realised within various departments and functions, from manufacturing to sales, R&D to marketing, they also benefit external stakeholders such as suppliers, distributors, and customers.

Foster a culture of trust

In order to realise the potential to generate mutual value, the intrapreneurial team needs to put forth multiple goals, what I like to think of all the “itches” to be scratched. They identify what matters to others, what motivates them to take action, what they will enjoy giving to others to help them achieve their goals. Reciprocity occurs naturally, which also helps foster a willingness to change. 

Change is never easy for people or organisations. Even when the organisation’s survival is at stake there can be resistance and fear around doing things differently. By identifying the intrapreneurial leaders among individuals and teams who can create mutual value, organisations greatly increase the number and effectiveness of its internal change agents. As results are realised, enduring value is delivered, not only in business outcomes but also in personal friendships. 

A culture of trust is engendered as individuals from multiple professions and diverse disciplines come together in the spirit of, intrapreneurship to explore how to bring about a new venture or initiative, one that, when looked at through the lenses of individual silos, once seemed impossible. By coming together as intrapreneurs, these innovators and change agents can make things happen because of the way they work, the way they behave, and the way they embrace and embody change.