Do What You Want, Get What You Need

 

bingo kids cropBy encouraging innovation, we allow individuals to leverage their strengths, work on their weaknesses, and show what they’re capable of.

As an employee, I’m all for it.

But I’m also a manager—I’m accountable for the success of my students. I’m responsible for making sure they stay on track and meet specific goals before the deadlines.

I think most leaders will relate:

While intrapreneurship is exciting, it can also be intimidating.

Isn’t it a little risky? What if side projects take away from important day-to-day work?

How can we hit the target if we’re focused on what lies around and beyond it?

You wish you could offer more slack, but feel restricted by the stuff that has to get done.

Good news for the leader who’s wary:

Intrapreneurs will innovate, but “in with the new” does not mean “out with the old.”

When it comes to standardized testing, resistance is futile. Teachers know what I mean—it makes us cringe, but it has to be done.

You want to foster innovation, but don’t have the flexibility to recreate Adobe’s Kickbox. Bottom-line stuff is your top priority—as it has to be.

how can you do what you want and still get what you need?

I often let my students choose their own activities, as long as they follow the lesson. At one point, I set the curriculum aside completely and asked what they wanted to learn about.

Their response was surprising:

They didn’t go crazy and ask about Frozen or Spiderman. Instead, they brought up practical vocabulary—stuff I’d assumed that they already knew.

It turned out, my students wanted to be able to do what I asked.

It’s not fun to be confused or feel left behind. People want to know what they need to know.

They used their freedom to fill the gaps.

My students took this opportunity to learn words that would help them succeed—words they’d seen in the book’s instructions but never understood. Together, we strengthened weaknesses that I didn’t know existed.

On top of that, they used vocabulary that I’d never taught them. I wouldn’t have known these secret strengths if we’d stuck to the lesson all along.

What started as a fun (and admittedly off-topic) exercise turned out to be incredibly valuable: our discoveries improved my leadership and their performance on regular assignments.

Conclusion:

If we think intrapreneurship competes with objectives, we’re wrong.

It may seem risky to try something out-of-the-box. But intrapreneurship is more than fun, games, and invention: it’s an effective way to optimize daily performance.

People want to be good at what they do.

When your people get better, your product gets better.

You can do what you want and get what you need.

Thanks!

Molly

 (see also, Part I: Fixing Information Gaps with Intrapreneurship)

What do you think? Tweet @miss_mollyjane:

How can we bring intrapreneurship to non-creative industries?

What would this look like in your workplace?

What are you waiting for? (Hesitations about risk, strategy, effectiveness..?)

Fixing Information Gaps with Intrapreneurship

It goes without saying that we want to hire innovators.

Creative problem-solvers give companies an edge. And while I hate to reinforce the stereotype, millennials generally are looking for opportunities to think outside of the box.

I recently read an article from the Huffington Post about Adobe’s initiative to encourage intrapreneurs:

They created an “innovation-in-a-box” kit called Kickbox… The box, red in color, contains the items below to meet the intrapreneur’s needs:

Money. Each red box contains a pre-paid credit card in the amount of U.S. $1,000. Innovators use these funds to validate their idea.

Instructions. Kickbox includes quick reference cards outlining the six levels in the red box. Each card includes a checklist of actions innovators must complete to advance to the next level.

Other innovation tools. These include scorecards, frameworks, exercises, and other materials employees use to develop ideas.

Caffeine and sugar. Each red box includes a Starbucks gift card and a candy bar, since they know that two of the four major food groups of innovators are caffeine and sugar!

To sum it up, here’s what they found:

…based upon 18 months of results, they have found that the program helps innovators:

  • Be more effective and have more impact
  • Build valuable life skills and experience (for example, ideation, divergent thinking, and business creation)
  • Increase job satisfaction and engagement (as demonstrated by participant evaluation scores)
  • Discover (or rediscover) their passion for delighting customers

(You can read more about the program’s overwhelming success by clicking through to the article.)

I think what Adobe has done is pretty cool. But coolness is not the winning element here…

As a millennial, I feel like I’m cursed with a stigma of restlessness and nonconformity.

But I don’t want a ping-pong table, I want to make exceptional contributions in my work.

I’d love to consider intrapreneurship in a more practical context—the way I’ve encountered it. It’s more than just coming up with new ideas.

Intrapreneurship empowers employees to:

  1. Use strengths employers didn’t know they had.
  2. Solve problems employers didn’t know existed.

Employer-employee information gaps prevent leaders from bringing the best work possible out of employees, and accordingly, employees aren’t as satisfied with their contributions. Intrapreneurship fills these gaps.

Information gap #1: Employers can’t know workers as well as workers know themselves.

Over the past five years, I’ve worked with three different (awesome) employers. Thanks to these experiences—along with StrengthsFinder, BadBobby.com, The John Perkins Center, and some fantastic business professors—I know what it means to be an intentional, self-aware contributor.

Because I know my strengths inside and out, I’m hungry for opportunities to take advantage of them. However, I know there’s a gap. Other people know how I work, but no one else is going to have all of my leadership assessments and strengths tests in hand.

Intrapreneurship allows employees to show what they know. Employers gain by discovering strengths they didn’t know workers had.

Information gap #2: There’s a gap between what employees know and what they could know.

Or, what bosses would like them to know—what workers need to know in order to get the job done with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

Enter: The language barrier.

I spent the last year teaching English as a foreign language in Thailand.

When explaining assignments, I often struggled to give instructions that the students could understand. I had no idea how to fill in this gap. Because of the language barrier, I couldn’t figure out what they didn’t know.

These gaps not only reflect what the employer is missing (information), but what the employee is missing out on. My students couldn’t complete assignments because they didn’t understand the instructions. I didn’t know that was the missing information: I just saw low performance and assumed they were behind.

Intrapreneurship can fix these kinds of gaps.

By encouraging innovation, we allow individuals to leverage their strengths, work on their weaknesses, and show what they’re capable of.

Thanks!

Molly

(See also, Part II: Do What You Want, Get What You Need)

I’d love to hear your thoughts. tweet @miss_mollyjane:

Have you used intrapreneurship to make work better?

How do information gaps affect you, your work, and/or your Employees?

How can non-creative industries adapt Adobe’s idea?

Other comments?