Probably you’re an entrepreneur, but you might also be a so called intrapreneur at times. You’re an intrapreneur simply if you want to initiate something new, make some kind of change within an organisation. This can feel like changing the course of a cargo ship. So how do you do that in a more playful way?
Let me take you back to the time I was an intrapreneur, when I felt the excitement and frustrations myself and came to something fulfilling, something that actually worked out quite well. Don’t expect a heroic million-dollar-best-selling-author-story now. It’s all actually quite straightforward. A story with learnings you might easily relate to and use in your own situation.
A few years ago I was involved in the development of a new innovative design curriculum in which I also taught some of the courses myself (still do!). I was hired as an external freelancer, but felt part of the organisation… kind of an intrapreneur, right?
I racked my brain over the question of how to prepare students to become the professionals that could initiate change, self-motivating and responsible… Not by standing in front of the class and telling them what to do, I realised. But what would prepare them?
With this question on my mind I joined the 3-day Art of Hosting training in Karlskrona.
After the first hour, already I knew: this way of learning and collaborating is the solution. I felt inspired and could clearly see how this would work out very positively. But back home, my excitement turned easily into a heavy weight on my shoulders. How to introduce this into the organisation? Where to start? How to make others enthusiastic?
It felt like I tried to change course of a cargo ship, while pedalling in a tiny rubber boat. Hello there, big ship. Can you please go left a bit? Hello?!
Maybe you recognize this somehow? So let me explain the 4 waves you can surf to make this desired change happen more easily, while actually having a good time.
1. Seek advice of independent experts you click with
In this case, a cup of coffee with some experts immediately made a huge difference for me. They easily took the sting out of the situation, showed me how to chunk things down in small easy steps and opened my eyes on how to make it a success. Later on, some of these experts even became collaborators. In this case, these were amongst others Valentine Giraud-Robben and Arjen Bos from the Impact Hub community and Tim Merry (If I didn’t say this already: 1000 x thanks!)
2. Link to what’s truly happening in daily reality
Here I don’t mean the targets and goals in some kind of document in a drawer. But things that are itching and urgent in the daily reality of you and your co-workers. In this situation, there were the introductory days for the soon-arriving students. Simply put, nobody had the time or energy to organise them. With the approaching deadline, this became a true burden. So I took this tension as an opportunity to try something new. I said: “Let me do it!” (secretly thinking &*#%#, now I have to do this crappy thing!). But it turned out to be the perfect start.
3. Setting a vision, a structure and invite people from there.
In a team meeting, I sketched a simple vision of what the introduction days could look like and what it could do for the community of students and teachers. And I explained the overall structure for how to make it happen. Nothing detailed or calculated, just something to inspire my colleagues to start imagining a great introduction for our students. Leaving room for my colleagues to fit in their own ideas meant that, though I took responsibility for the initiation of the project, I created a space to openly invite them to become part of it and co-create it with me. I was lucky to have team members with a shared vision who felt personally called on and signed up with full motivation. But you know that everyone who comes are the right people. Even when there is only one person signing up with you. But – as I explained in step 2 – when you are working around tensions that come from your everyday work experience, you are bound to find someone who feels the same mission to do something about it.
4. Keep hold of the vision and structure, but let go of the outcome.
This was the biggest challenge for me. I imagined the outcome already in full colour, with a super surround sound system. Involving other team members in it meant I had to let go of that image so the project could naturally emerge from the team. It turned out that I almost didn’t have to do anything besides just being there, inviting, giving structure to the process. The outcome was different than I personally imagined, but it seemed the right thing for the organisation at that moment in time.
What was fulfilling about this? I didn’t win any awards with this, right? No, the fulfillment came from seeing that with little effort, while having a good time, we created fun and useful introductory days, which are now the standard way to welcome new students each year. And this is at least one of the things that fosters a safe and fun learning community. They’re essential for educating self-motivated, responsible professionals.
Ok, of course, every situation is different. But look at the 4 waves and see how they apply to your situation – what can you do? Maybe asking support from an expert can make a difference for you. Or is something happening in your daily reality that you can use as a wave? And, aren’t you curious about which co-workers would sign up if you invited them? Can you hold a vision and structure, but honestly let go of your own imagined outcome?
Anyways, step out of your rubber boat, so you can go catch some waves with your surfing board and see where they bring you.