5 Steps to Becoming a Social Intrapreneur

Scott Campbell

A social intrapreneur is not much different from a social entrepreneur: a sideways thinker, silo buster, prototyper who is changing the world for the better. The only difference: a social intrapreneur doesn’t own a business, but is working inside a company, using the assets of this business to work for good.

This means: Everyone can be a social intrapreneur.

Maggie De Pree co-founded the League of Intrapreneurs, the global network for intrapreneurs. These are her five suggestions to get you started:

1. Just start with the problem—and dig deep.

Too often people dream up solutions disconnected from the real world. Take time to do deep discovery about the problem you are trying to solve. Speak with real, live, actual users. Avoid outsourcing this important work to your marketing department. You’ll be more effective in persuading decision-makers of the opportunity if you’ve witnessed it first-hand.

1st Global Social Intrapreneurship Summit1st Global Social Intrapreneurship Summit. 11.-13.09.2014, Berlin. BMW-Stiftung Herbert Quandt. 12.09.2014

The League of Intrapreneurs

The BMW Foundation is a founding member of the global movement the League of Intrapreneurs. This steadily growing network develops innovative approaches and solutions, connects intrapreneurs around the world, and thus systemically advances social change.

2. Enroll your champion(s) to find ‘air cover.’

Don’t do it alone. Daniela Papi-Thorton has written a report on hero-preneurship. The point? There is no such thing as a lone warrior in systems change. Every successful intrapreneur I have met has found a way to secure backing from a senior champion early on. They can provide funding, emotional support, and, most importantly, ‘air cover.’

3. Understand the people and the politics.

Don’t forget: Every organization is political. As an intrapreneur, you will need to tap your inner anthropologist, psychologist, and even politician to navigate the internal decision-making processes to make stuff happen. Alexa Clay and I wrote more about how to do this in Fast Company.

4. Let go of your ego.

The big prize is the impact your idea can have. So be prepared to let go of your ego! Invite others to feel a sense of ownership in your idea. Letting go doesn’t have to mean that you are giving away your non-negotiables. If you want to ensure the vision remains intact, set up governance mechanisms, such as bringing onboard external stakeholders for accountability.

5. Be persistent, but not at all costs.

Rowan Gray of Made to Move defines resilience as the ability to bounce back quickly from setbacks. He stresses, however, that resilience isn’t the ability to keep going at all costs. Intrapreneurs use a variety of techniques to help them stay emotionally and physically fit, from mindfulness to coaching to exercise. So, when designing your project plan, make sure to include a line item for your resilience regime.

These are just a few ideas to help you on your intrapreneurial journey. One of the best ways to learn and improve your efforts is to connect with other intrapreneurs to share and learn.

Remember: If not us, who? If not now, when?

Good luck!

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