• Entrepreneurship

“When you choose to be an intrapreneur, you make your own rules!”

Mathilde Cristiani
Mathilde Cristiani
Copywriter & storyteller

Earlier this month, the People’sLab4Good was at Web2Day, the Nantes-based festival dedicated to the start-up and digital ecosystems. It was the perfect occasion to take stock of agile project creation as an intrapreneur with Thierry Croix, who gave a speech as UX designer expert.

Thierry Croix was hosting a conference on the power of simplification: “Simple doesn't mean stupid”. It's a motto he's keen to share with the entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs he’s supporting as Design Thinking expert for the first cohort of the People'sLab4Good!

How do you win hearts and minds when you're launching an impact project in-house? We interviewed him to find out.

Does developing a project as an intrapreneur call for a different approach than as an entrepreneur? 

It isn't so much the approach that's different as the context. Although in both cases you need willpower and tenacity, the intrapreneurs have a safety buffer that the entrepreneurs don’t. They already have a job and security, so in fact they’re jumping with a safety net below them. If they fail, the risks aren't as great – especially in financial terms. In the end, the intrapreneurs also have the advantage of being able to draw upon expert assistance within their own companies, which isn't always the case for entrepreneurs.

This whole environment is an opportunity, which is something intrapreneurs don't always see, because many of them perceive the situation from an employee's point of view – at least initially. I understand this isn't easy, but when you decide to go down the route of changing the rules and working in agile mode, then you need to adopt a switcher's mindset. What I think is too little addressed, is that intrapreneurs have to give themselves permission to create their own rules.

That's true, but when you choose to be an intrapreneur, you're also choosing to remain within the company framework, and to change with it. The whole challenge is to stretch the limits while still using your in-house ecosystem and to make it change with you, isn't it?

Yes, absolutely. What I mean is that some people think that just because they’re joining an intrapreneurship programme, they'll learn new project management skills. You have to be able to get away from that.

Is launching a positive-impact project now seen as an asset, or as another mountain to be moved before you can convince people in-house?

I don't think it changes anything. The reason behind the project doesn't matter. What’s important is to meet a need. The method is the same.The problem I can see is the same one the #Intrapreneurs4Good are creating for themselves over the issue of making money. Many of them find it hard to tackle this subject; because they're combining "positive impact" and "business model", they don't see themselves as legitimate. You have to make money if you want to change the world! But I'm still confident: it's all a question of mindset, and the boundaries are starting to shift.

You mentioned legitimacy. Do you think some people don't dare to push the boundaries because they're thinking, “I've already been lucky”?

Yes, and we have to stop making excuses. We can't spend two years thanking the gatekeeper for opening the door for us! We're lucky to be part of a bank that's prepared to address the subject of positive impact business directly. You need to seize the opportunity with both hands, and go for it!

Let's talk now about bringing your idea to life. Are the first steps, from brainstorming through to prototyping, different from the ones an entrepreneur takes? 

There's no difference. An idea is an idea, and the way you put your project together doesn't change. The end goal is different, but the method is the same. In terms of structure, finances and resources, it's the same story for everyone, and you have to demonstrate your value proposition if you want to convince people. What's different are the stakes, and the values you put into your project.

At Web2Day, you hosted a conference on the power of Simple. What lessons can an intrapreneur take from that?

The same lessons an entrepreneur takes: you have to go back to basics. Especially when you're developing an impact project. Working on 4Good projects means working for people. And people don't care about managerial processes, agility, digital methods, and so on. You need to accept that and go back to basics. Get your hands dirty, and see life from ground level. You also need to remember to keep taking a step back, and regularly ask yourself whether you're still fulfilling a need. Also, instead of thinking, “Each solution brings a new problem”, the mindset you need is, “There's a solution to each problem”.

What advice would you give to an employee who has ideas, but is hesitant about taking the plunge?

I'd simply tell them that the first thing to do is to deconsecrate intrapreneurship. Being an intrapreneur simply means seeing your idea through to the end, and getting hold of the resources to do that. Once you've understood that, you then need to tackle the problem in a simplistic way. That's how you come to identify the disease and sort through the symptoms.

Then you need to dive in, and stop questioning yourself. You have to move forward, fall down, pick yourself up and repeat the process.If the time comes when you think your idea has more potential and impact than your job, then you need to go for it and fight to make more time available. That's generally the hallmark of a company with a real desire to make an impact. 

The movement is still in its infancy, but intrapreneurs also have the responsibility to show their companies that intrapreneurship isn't a sprint but a marathon. It takes time to create real value. If that time is made available, there'll be an impact, but in the long term. The rules of the game have changed... deal with it!

Photo header ©Web2Day

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