One of the most common rhetorics in the business world these days is that traditional, large corporations are slow to transform — that they can’t innovate. Everyone assumes that change is expensive and hard. That change forces people out of a flow they’ve had for years and often drives them to utter the most dangerous words in business “we’ve always done it this way.”
This isn’t news to anyone. We read about it and hear about it in passing as the cornerstone of countless heated debates on how these corporates are (or aren’t) set up for the future — especially at the intersection of technology. But I believe that within every enterprise organization, there are people fighting the fights worth fighting and pushing the organization to do better.
Won’t somebody please think of the Intrapreneurs?
We’ve seen bureaucracy in blinding, first-hand technicolour here at Intersect over the years, and we’ve lived it ourselves too. We know what it’s like to grind your gears to push for better, only to be tempered down at every corner for one budget/risk reason or another. From the beginning, we knew we weren’t alone, so three years ago, we set out to find and gather those internal champions of change, and formed The Intrapreneur Alliance (IA). Our aim from the start was to highlight the intrapreneurs within large corporations charged with taking their company into the future and to provide a forum where a) these “shift disturbers” could be celebrated for their creativity and b) they could be surrounded by like-minded individuals to share ideas, tactics, and business opportunities amongst themselves. At Intersect, our #1 mantra is that momentum is the most powerful force in business, so the IA was a natural and organic way for us to create value across our community.
To do this, we’ve undertaken many initiatives all with the purpose of helping these intrapreneur types find one another. One of the more popular initiatives has been our Intrapreneur Alliance Meetups. Several times a year we host an event featuring different kinds of learning experiences. From presentations to panel discussions and more, these meetups were open to the public to come and learn from a variety of different people about subjects that speak to the challenges that intrapreneurs or intrapreneurial organizations might face. Some of these topics have included how to tackle organizational change to promote intrapreneurism, how your people, processes, and tools serve as your pillars for innovation, how innovation and change can be possible even within a heavily regulated industry, why cannibalizing yourself doesn’t need to be scary, and more.
Next, we started running an invite-only quarterly dinner series which gathers 20–30 leading intrapreneurs from North America’s top corporations to meet and build relationships in an informal, intimate setting. No egos, no selling, no agenda. It’s been amazing to watch how this relaxed environment allowed for curated discussions and has sparked engaging, authentic learning opportunities among peers. Over the past three years, we’ve been fortunate to welcome heads of digital, CIOs, CTOs, VP’s of Innovation (and similar) at Canada’s leading FIs, Insurance Carriers, Property firms, Retailers, Telcos, and scale-ups at over a dozen events — and we’re just getting started.
We also wanted to open-source these learnings across our general digital landscape, and so we concurrently launched the Intrapreneur Alliance Journal. We’ve interviewed some of the top leaders across our network to share their lessons learned, top challenges facing the wave of innovation at large corps, and provide advice to other intrapreneurs facing the same uphill battle. One common denominator we noticed with our members from the get-go was the frustration in starting an idea and seeing it flourish inside of the larger business. We hear about the inevitable stalling, deprioritizing, and lack of time and resources set aside for new ideas or concepts. Often, projects are ultimately stunted or completely stopped if they fall outside of the current revenue streams of these larger corps. It’s our hope that some of these lessons can continue to fuel the momentum within these leaders and the organizations they’re aiming to transform. We believe that support is everything and that by creating a network of intrapreneurs to collaborate and share strategies, we’ll see a gradual shift in corporate attitudes toward normalization of risk-taking and change-making. We’ve heard it directly from our members: “[Intersect is] doing something amazing that’s not only informing how I do my job, but also about how I think about my career and the type of people I do it with.”
Where to from here?
The IA will continue bringing these incredible people together to inspire each other and provide peer resources to help each other create momentum in their organizations. But, we’ll also be adding a new monthly event series in the form of “5–7” cocktail mixers as a way to gather more intrapreneurs together on a more frequent, casual basis.
Of course, none of this would be possible without our incredible network and members, so a heartfelt thank you for your continued support and energy for the IA. Keep sending us your ideas, referrals, suggestions, and feedback so we can build toward the next three years of impact.
Interested in getting in on the magic?
- Get interviewed — We’re always looking for thought leaders to contribute to our IA Journal
- Stay in the know — click the “Follow” button on our Medium page for updates of our Intrapreneur Alliance Journal
- Join us live — request an invite for a 5–7 cocktail event
- Tell us what you think — we’re always listening and improving
Reach out to Danielle to chat about any of the above (firstname.lastname@example.org)