“Don’t wait for opportunity. Create it.” -Anonymous
You don’t have to be an entrepreneur to exercise creativity and innovation. And you don’t have to quit your job and start your own company to live in your purpose. It is possible (and often less risky) to make meaningful change from within your current organization. It’s not necessary to switch roles or gain a promotion—you can unearth purpose-driven opportunities from exactly where you are today. It only takes some strategizing and a healthy dose of intrapreneurship.What is intrapreneurship?
You’ve probably heard of entrepreneurship—the activity of setting up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit—but you may not be as familiar with its cousin, intrapreneurship. In essence, intrapreneurship is the practice of making innovative changes within a company. According to Gifford Pinchot III (who allegedly coined the term in 1978), intrapreneurs are, “employees who do for corporate innovation what an entrepreneur does for his or her start-up.” They are “dreamers who do.”
Many companies actively promote intrapreneurship. Famously, Google encourages its employees to spend about 20 percent of their time on personal projects that could potentially benefit the company. This freedom to pursue passion projects has led to some incredible products and innovations, including Gmail, AdSense, and Google News.
Not every company is as flexible as Google, of course, but it is still possible to practice intrapreneurship within many organizations. How can you make an effort to pursue purpose-centered, innovative work at your workplace? Start with the following four steps:1. Reflect on Your Path
Before diving in, it’s wise to take some time to reflect on your path and your purpose. What is missing for you in your day job? What would you like to be doing? What would you like to achieve?
Your purpose may be specific, such as making meaningful changes in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion in your workplace. Or your goals may be a little less definite, such as weaving more creativity and out-of-the-box thinking into your daily work.
2. Connect Your Work with Your Passion
Once you’ve thought about what you would like to achieve at work, look for connections between what you’d like to be doing and potential opportunities within the workplace. If your goal is to lean into your strengths as a writer, perhaps you could volunteer to write the company newsletter (or start a newsletter, if one does not already exist). If you’re intent on bringing more awareness to mental health issues, maybe you could spearhead a program that brings in guest speakers and/or form a committee to discuss potential company-wide changes.
3. involve your boss
In most situations, you won’t be able to simply strike out on your own and begin pursuing new initiatives. You’ll have to enlist the support of your superiors. If you have an idea for a meaningful side project, discuss it with your boss. It is up to you to be your own salesperson and make a compelling case for your ideas. Lay out the potential benefits for the company, and the methods you’d like to use (creating a program, initiating a committee, holding meetings, etc.) to achieve your vision.
Even if your superiors do not go for a “Google level” of intrapreneurship, do your best to negotiate some amount of time each week to devote to your passion project. You could start small (devoting, say, two hours per week to your initiative) with the potential of earning more time for the project if it’s gaining traction. During the whole process, keep an open line of communication between yourself and your boss and regularly report your progress.
4. strategize and go!
When you’re moving forward with intrapreneurship, it’s necessary to have a little strategy and a lot of motivation. If possible, talk to others about your project to gather different points of view and ideas. And once your project is moving forward, don’t be afraid to hit the brakes and re-strategize. If your goal is to create a more eco-friendly workplace, for instance, but all your ideas surpass the company’s budget, you may need to take a step back and rethink your approach. Or, you may need to start small and build up to your original goals.
It is possible to find purpose and creativity within the walls of your workplace. Most of the time, our possibilities and potential are only limited by our own beliefs and motivation. Dare to envision an environment in which you’re working within your purpose, and then take the necessary steps to get there.