19 Tips for Beginning Intrapreneurs

When you feel like intrapreneuring can be your way forward to make a difference with your ideas and advance your career at the same time, the big question is: where to start and how to do it?


sa.am talked with Katharine Bierce, an inspiring intrapreneur. She was finalist for the Net Impact “Impact at Work” award and addressed their annual conference in 2012 about intrapreneurship, which she found ‘pretty cool’. During the webinar, we asked her lots of questions, like:

  • Is becoming an Intrapreneur is the best way to create meaning and impact in your work?
  • What does it take to become an Intrapreneur and create real results
  • Why is it important for you to understand your organization, its values and the people?
  • How to hold on to your vision when the going gets though – and the rewards of doing so?

Unfortunately Hans’ voice was echoing too much, so we split up the video into short audio bites. Enjoy, and do leave your questions in the comments section. We will address any follow up questions you might have after hearing Katharine’s “19 Tips for Beginning Intrapreneurs”.

1 – Is intrapreneurship the solution to our quest  for meaning at work? What was your starting point? (03:02)

You don’t need to let someone give you your dream job for you to make it happen. Once you understand your company really well, you can use your personal drive and passion for some mission to identify areas where you can have an impact through your work.  By seeing yourself as an intrapreneur rather than just another employee, you can create meaning in your work by noticing things that others overlook.  Impact comes from understanding what drives your business and what matters to you in the world, and aligning those two.

2 – Your intrapreneurial road was quite an adventure, right? (03:20)

3 – What does it take to become an intrapreneur? (00:54)

#Intrapreneurship means translating your social mission into coherent presentations or strategies” – Click to Tweet

4 – How much time does it take before you start to understand your organization? (00:42)

This is the most important thing you can do if you want to get started.  The reason why intrapreneurs can be successful whereas someone trying to be a social innovation consultant will not, is that companies trust their employees more than outsiders.  Period.  So you as an employee have an advantage in creating innovations because since you come from within, you will be taken more seriously than some activist pounding on the front door or yelling with signs.  Once you understand your organization, values, and people, you can translate some larger social or environmental mission into a coherent presentation to give to middle management, executives, or other decision makers.  That’s the power of the intrapreneur over the outsider – you can get the meetings to make things happen, because you already work there!

5 – Ten steps for becoming an intrapreneur (03:05)

My suggestions are as follows:

  1. Be excellent at your day job.
    Don’t get fired, and also don’t go unnoticed.  You want to be seen as someone knowledgeable, helpful, and empowering the team you work with.
  2. Talk to a new colleague every day, over lunch or coffee if possible.
    As the book title says, Never Eat Alone.
  3. Understand your organization, its values, and the people.
  4. Get to know people across functions and offices.
    Use the internal company knowledge sharing platform, wiki, etc. or start one if you have to.
  5. Figure out what your values are.
  6. Figure out what your company’s values are (if they’re only implicit, figure out what everyone assumes the values are).
  7. Find the intersection of your values, the company values, and the company culture and corporate priorities.
  8. See #2 – talk to people about ideas for innovations and get feedback.
  9. Do something.
    Even if you can’t get $10,000 or $100,000 for your project, start with a few people doing a few hours a week or a few hours a month on the intrapreneurial project.  If you can’t motivate with money, you have to motivate with meaning, so keep the timelines short and the goals small or reasonable.  Show results early and you can get more resources (human, financial, etc.) later.
  10. Show results and repeat!
    Once you have some small wins, use that momentum to get more people to get involved, and get more financial resources to get the next medium size win until you can keep going to achieve a “big win.”

6 – Be excellent at your day job! How do you do that? (01:32)

“Talk to everyone, #Intrapreneurs must find out how an idea could work anywhere, anytime” – Click to Tweet

7 – Talk to a new colleague every day (00:59)

8 – The most powerful question you can ask somebody (00:18)

9 – The difference between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs (00:19)

“Entrepreneurs get control without resources, #Intrapreneurs get resources but struggle for control” – Click to Tweet

10 – How do you assess where your ideas fit in? (00:34)

11 – Why it’s essential to figure out what your values are (01:50)

“Your values are a connection, a way of relating across offices and cultures” – Click to Tweet

12 – Values or resources? (01:11)

13 – How do you find out the values of the company? (00:57)

“It’s only when things are difficult that you see what a company is made of” – Click to Tweet

14 – How to hold on to your vision when things get difficult? (00:55)

I don’t honestly have as much experience here since I only spent 2.5 years at one company as an intrapreneur there, not 20 years, but I can say that because I didn’t give up, I helped give a name to [the group/initiative] and inspire a group of people who are still running employee volunteering and fundraising events after I left the company.

15 – Why is it important to talk a lot about your ideas? (00:51)

16 – Be careful not to talk too early about your idea – you might kill it (00:46)

“First, try booststrapping. Intrapreneurs do as much as they can with what’s already there” – Click to Tweet

17 – What if you need to show results when you are not ready for it? (00:47)

18 – How to get started? Do something! (01:11)

“There is no perfect time to start Intrapreneuring, there is only now” – Click to Tweet

19 – What is success for an intrapreneur? (00:13)

I personally think that the ultimate test of whether you are successful is not how good you are while you’re there (as an intrapreneurial leader), but how much of the work continues after you are no longer leading it.

PS – Note from sa.am: if nothing else, listen to the last two :)

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Are you full of ideas for change and innovation, but not sure how to turn them into actions and results?
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