Back in 2017 I was fortunate enough to attend an event called DreamBig in Airbus. It was an initiative designed to find hidden talents within the organisation by making them think big. Imagine a dragon’s den or shark tank but 100x bigger. We were asked to disrupt the company and imagine how its future would look like. So alongside Florent Petteni, Jean Nicola, Jose Novella, Michael Hoche we did. 

When the panel shouted our team name, all I can remember was my heart thumping hard and my four team mates jumping around like they had discovered oil reserves in their gardens. The journey has been beyond incredible since then. Fast forward to today, CrowdCraft was delivered to the business and I am currently a customer of it in my day-to-day job in marketing. Little did I know that the venture we had established was merely a conduit for me to discover how truly passionate I am about intrapreneurship. 

Intrapreneurship is truly a remarkable asset for any organisation to nurture. Not only because it develops talent, but it is a means to discover them. And the beauty of it all, once an intrapreneur, always an intrapreneur. You simply can’t go back. You’ve ventured into a journey where empowerment tastes so good, you simply can’t settle for anything less. To a certain degree, I believe intrapreneurs have always had it in them, they simply needed a chance to shake things up.

Shaking things up however, comes with a dear price. You see what no one told me back then, is how lonely being an intrapreneur can be. Being an intrapreneur requires swimming against the current and through murky waters most of the time. You see, companies are made of people and people make politics, where vision isn’t always top of the agenda, but rather survival of the fittest. And that gets tiring quite quickly. Now you will always get a choice as an intrapreneur: give up and accept that things won’t change, or become a master chess player and change things from within. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably interested in shaking things up so let’s focus on the latter, shall we?

To truly succeed as an intrapreneur I’ve found you need a set of non-exhaustive ingredients: a dream, thirst, grit, creativity, diplomacy and enough authentic energy to power a continent. All of these are gifts mother nature has given you, you just need to learn how to use them effectively to ensure the journey isn’t too lonely. Let’s look at them one by one.

Let’s start with the dream. You need to ensure your dream becomes the dream of many. If you’re the only one believing in your dream, you might as well leave the company and start your own business. Getting your dream to take off needs endorsement, which in turn buys you time, and ultimately funding. Funding secures you a team with skills you don’t have. A team delivers the dream.

Next you have thirst. Being insatiably thirsty is essential since your first vision will get punched and pierced a million times before everyone gets it. Your thirst to make your dream succeed is going to be your compass as a captain for your team to follow when they get demotivated by adversity.

Grit is probably the most important of ingredients. Your team will often feel deflated by not receiving praise or recognition by those who may feel threatened by your dream. They will often set traps for you to fall into and most likely things will get personal. Dusting it off a few times while maintaining a smile is not too complicated at first. After years of it, oh boy, it’ll hurt. That is where grit comes into play. Grit allows you to become unphased by the noise, find a way to win over the detractors, overcome the negativity, bandage the wounds after tripping over countless times and ultimately succeed. 

Creativity is often overlooked and perceived as a nice to have rather than an essential skill. As an intrapreneur, you’ll be constantly selling: a vision at the beginning and a product at the end. This requires a tonne of creativity, because your audience will be constantly different (age, culture, gender, mindset etc.). Creativity in finding ways to narrate, adapt and pivot on the spot to get people to sail with you on this journey, is essential. Like Steve Jobs used to say, “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.”

Diplomacy is the skill I like the least, not because it’s not as important, but rather because of the lack of authenticity it entails. Sometimes you just want to say things as they are. You simply can’t – any mistake is fatal. Detractors are waiting for something to use against you, don’t give them ammunition. You need to count to 10, breathe deeply and smile. Remember, once you get the detractors on your side, the taste of success is beyond incredible. You’ll get to celebrate later, just focus on that.

Last but not least is authentic energy. Having a lot of energy is of paramount importance because intrapreneurship is like swimming. You use every inch of your body all the time, not just for yourself but for your team and everyone who has bought into your idea. Your authentic energy will be spent on spotting the finer details in that video or presentation that sets pros apart from amateurs, encouraging discouraged team members, redoing the business case for the 100th time, fending off competition, smiling when everything is falling apart and most importantly radiating inspiration to move mountains. 

Yes, intrapreneurship is a lonely journey. It isn’t for the many. However, you’ve been blessed with a rare gift of being a change-maker. Use it wisely and when things get tough, remember those who are crazy enough to believe they can change the world are those who do (cit. S. Jobs).