Intrapreneurs are front-line warriors. Their battlefield pitted with corporate bureaucracy, obscured in the fog of analysis paralysis, populated by adversaries both internal and external. It is a hard fight. To win, intrapreneurs must be highly tactical. Here are four winning tactics applied by intrapreneurs fighting for disruptive change.
Tactic #1: The Ask
This is the intrapreneur's first and most reliable tactic - your "standard issue rifle". You'll be astounded by the power of The Ask, properly aimed, timed and delivered. Your first Ask is always for wisdom, never anything else. Don't make the cardinal sin of asking for resources or authority before asking for wisdom. If you do, you won't know the nature of the resources or authority you seek. After you've listened to your colleagues, bosses, stakeholders and mentors you'll notice something remarkable: they'll feel compelled to listen to you. Simply put, if you aspire to being listened to, begin by listening. Ask with purpose, sincerity and humility and you'll be astounded by who will listen to you.
Tactic #2: The Follow-up
Now you must leverage your Ask into a series of exchanges - each a step towards your desired outcome. Start turning your initial conversation into a collaboration using patient, diplomatic and respectful persistence. Understanding the difference between diligence and annoyance is key. Avoid the latter by ditching email in favor of human moments at the water cooler, or a knock on the cubicle door. Human moments ensure your presence is felt as much as your voice is heard. After all, sending zeros and ones through the ether is a cool substitute for a warm handshake. When personal moments aren't possible because the folks you need to Follow-up with aren't nearby, a voicemail followed by an email makes a decent substitute. No matter the approach you choose, try to create a "real" human moment.
Tactic #3: The Cue
A defining characteristic of intrapreneurs is their ability to mix polite persistence with real results. No matter how good your Ask, or how well managed your Follow-up, they amount to nothing if you don't produce results. Results are the Cue your organization needs to elevate the dialogue into something actionable. The best Cue is tangible: a One Pager. Nothing says "I'm serious" like deconstructing your brilliant, world-changing insights into one sweet page of bullet points. One page, never more. Ask your marketing team to swaddle the document in the traditional company garb of color, font and side bar call-outs, or do it yourself taking care to nail every detail. If you want to change your company, start by conforming to it. Oh, and before you hit send on that email with your gorgeous one pager attached, prepare a five minute Prezi presentation for, you guessed it, the Follow-up.
Tactic #4: The Pitch
You've engineered your Ask into a conversation and leveraged your dialogue into a deliverable. Everyone's read it. The halls are buzzing. It's time to sell your idea. At this point, you'll need to accept some very uncomfortable news: you're not selling your idea at all, you're selling yourself. Your values, your voice, your passion. The idea is merely a point around which you rallied everyone, nothing more. This is uncomfortable because it means you, not your idea, can fail. You. Accept it. If you do, you'll be liberated by the realization that there's nothing easier to sell than yourself: it's what you know better than anything else. So how do you sell? You don't, you pitch. What's the difference between selling and pitching? A pitch ends with an Ask.
This post by Matt Ellis, founder and CEO, Measurabl and Aspen Institute First Mover Fellow, in support of the Aspen Institute First Movers Fellowship, is part of a special blog series focused on the growing importance of social intrapreneurs (change-agents within organizations large and small who are fusing business success with positive social and environmental impacts) and the value they are adding to their organizations and society.
Click here to meet the Aspen Institute's newest crop of social intrapreneurs - the 2014 Class of First Mover Fellows. Click here to visit the HuffPost Aspen Institute page and see more posts in the series.