Why should we talk about the “I word”

Why should we talk about the “I word”

There were two independent conversational threads, which caught my attention last week.

The first a heated debate about the living wage and the second the interesting new trending topic of Intrapreneurship – in order to give spell check a break I’m going to call this the “I word”.

Back to the living wage, the debate was quite emotional and wrapped itself around the possibility of forcing businesses to the wall by making them pay more than they could afford to feed the living wage earners, countered by some equally emotive notions from business owners who had already got systems in place to ensure that they paid more than the living wage. Are these people just fortunate enough to be in high value service businesses or had they unlocked some other key, which meant that their businesses could afford the living wage?

Now the “I word” – I started to think deeply about this concept after attending a workshop offered by the Centre4Enterprise, the course was led by Jamil Ahmed. Jamil is a self styled Thought Leader with a passion to tell the world about the power of Intrapreneurship.

It turns out that the term means an individual who works as an employee but shares some of the characteristics of an entrepreneur, they are people with dreams and ambitions who may well be currently constrained by the organisations which employ them.

Gifford Pinchot first coined the term, I believe, and the characteristics of the Intrapreneur are perhaps best understood from Pinchot’s

ten commandments of the intrapreneur

  1. Come to work each day willing to be fired
  2. Circumvent any orders aimed at stopping your dream
  3. Do any job needed to make your project work regardless of your job description
  4. Find people to help you
  5. Follow your intuition about the people you choose and work only with the best
  6. Work underground as long as you can – publicity triggers the corporate immune system
  7. Never bet on a race unless you are running in it
  8. Remember its easier to ask for forgiveness than permission
  9. Be true to your goals but realistic about the ways to achieve them
  10. Honour your sponsors

So we start to get the feel for an individual who is goal motivated and shares some of the drive and passion of the entrepreneur or business owner.

But what are we going to do about these people?

Here’s where the two conversational threads start to weave together.

The threads suddenly came together for me during a discussion with the owner of a branding agency, we were trying to understand why productivity amongst his team varied according to how much work they had on their schedules. That is, why did the work spread to fill the available time? and how could he make them more productive all the time?

Maybe I wondered does the answer for him lie in understanding and empowering Intrapreneurs in his team?

So lets go back to the workshop and try to understand why the “I word” might unlock the key to improved productivity.

As it turned out we had a couple of “Intrapreneurs” in our group, they thought they were just doing their jobs to the absolute best of their ability, but for me the fact that they lit up when they spoke about what a good job looked like to them gave the best indication of how powerful unfreezing this aptitude in other organisations could be.

These ladies have a voice and make suggestions as to how customer service could be improved and have the freedom to make changes, as a result excellent customer service is delivered.

Well-done Carrwood Park, for allowing us to share them for the day and for giving them the freedom to light up !

Busting through the jargon during the day we began to get a sense of the power of this movement with some real examples warmly delivered by Gareth Bullen

We learnt how Gareth in his role as Director of the Inspire Academy and Talent Management at Northern Gas Networks unlocked some of the potential with NGN then going on to scoop a Customer Service Excellence award in 2014

Listening to these stories, it seems to me that its time for the entrepreneurs and business leaders to step out of the limelight and make way for the intrapreneurs

Ultimately the point of bringing another piece of jargon into the world isn’t to fuddle our already over stimulated brains, its to help us leverage the power that exists very often unseen or if seen, even worse unacknowledged, within our workplaces as Gareth has clearly very effectively done at NGN.

Gareth freely acknowledges that there were two key elements to his success at NGN

  • The buy in of the CEO Mark Horsley who allowed him the freedom to unleash the potential of the employees and
  • The trust built up between himself and the employees

Whilst I do have issue with the terminology as it runs the risk of complicating the objectives of this movement and letting the academics take ownership of it, the word serves a purpose, which is to start the conversation about this potentially viral movement.

Once we start to talk we can then start to identify and discover the people that we need to put into the limelight

How do we identify the Intrapreneurs?  Easy, there’s a plethora of great psychometric testing tools available enabling us to understand people, it’s really just a case of making the shift and wanting to understand.

Once we identify “Intrapreneurs” we can then learn to empower them and so effectively build businesses which make life enhancing products and services; turning them into companies which are innovative, flexible and robust enough to react to the changes which our fast paced economy now requires, and to make them stronger through increased productivity enabling them to fight off competition.

The old hierarchical structures with command and control at their core don’t work anymore. Even in organisations where compliance is still a major priority, as at NGN, we need to build cultures, which enable Intrapreneurs and allow questioning, which give thought freedom, which in turn find solutions.

When we empower the Intrapreneurs they then become advocates of change and flexibility and make cultural shifts possible and change potentially conflict free.

This movement interestingly doesn’t start with talk of company Missions and Values and how to align the employees with those it talks about the individual’s own ambitions and characteristics.

It’s about an environment of continuous improvement for people and processes, which isn’t imposed from above but led by the Intrapreneur.

It’s a movement, which fosters innovation, we spend time worrying about innovation and an ideas pool but potentially the ideas pipeline could be stacked full if it was based on the shop floor not in the boardroom.

One of my favourite expressions from the workshop was the sense that putting the power back where it belongs reverses the trend for the “lunatics to take over the asylum,” this movement hands control back where it rightfully belongs, with the people who can actually deliver the results.

The result, a “thank God it’s Monday again” organisation

Ultimately however we phrase it, this feels like a win win outcome, we build better more effective organisations and everyone is happier.

However much the “I word” irritates its hard to argue with the outcome of championing this movement.

Ask yourself how many people in your organisation when tomorrow dawns will say “thank God its Monday again”, how many light up when they talk about their jobs ?

Is it time for you to make some real changes, unfreeze some potential and become more productive?

Special thanks to daughter no 1 for allowing the use of her photograph.