Meet Instein the intrapreneur – Einstein’s twin from a parallel universe. Arguably, Einstein had his version of intrapreneurship, publishing 4 groundbreaking papers, while working a day-job as a patent clerk. Instein, on the other hand, is a staunch believer in a more conventional form of intrapreneurship – so much so that he decided to emphasize the ‘I’ (and skip the ‘E’).
It’s 7:30 am.
Instein is already through the morning ritual of reviewing his small notebook of big ideas. He has definitive plans for the day..
It’s 8:54 am.
Instein just pulled into the parking lot of his company. It’s a 4 minute walk from the lot to his building and another minute to take the elevator and get to his office. There’s a conference call at 9 am. Those 6 minutes are all that he has got to check remainder of his inbox (part of which he glanced over the breakfast table and then some while driving), skim through the notifications from social networks and like any posts that had appeared since yesterday night.
Information consumption and proactive communication – seemingly optimal start to what promises to be a busy day.
The conference call is over. However, a colleague has just left an offline message seeking some input. It’s not urgent but it’s present.. and thus, it’s acknowledged and serviced. More information consumption and proactive communication.
Instein is hungry!
A chat window popped up. There’s a question to be answered.
There’s another email. Instein has heard inbox zero is the way to go.
It’s 4:30pm. There’s a knock on the door. It’s Dracula. He’s come to feed off Instein’s residual creativity.
IInstein had a great concept for a product to address a new market segment. He had creative ideas to better existing product lines. He had innovative ways to make his team truly agile for once. Exasperated, Instein consults his smarter brother, Einstein, to understand how to materialize his intrapreneurial creativity.
Einstein, in a distant parallel universe, performs a thought experiment and transmits 3 tenets of Intrapreneur’s Theory of Creativity:
1. Intrapreneurial creativity needs its own space-time, parallel to the ‘consuming and communicating’ continuum
There’s enough psychology text out there to indicate that leading a life where we are inundated with information and always consuming/communicating, can inhibit creativity. There’s a reason why minimalistic web designs have become mainstream again and why most popular articles nowadays tend to have numbered lists. It’s also the reason why I’ll distil this post to no more than 3 points (How many times did you get distracted while reading this?).
Any form of creativity requires time and space – distraction-free time to think and mental space to hold those thoughts. Done right, this establishes a creative space-time continuum.
Now, entrepreneurs, independent artists or freelancers can potentially have that extra bit of freedom to completely cut off the noise and focus (greater risk, higher reward). The sort of freedom that intrapreneurs don’t always (want to) have (for various reasons). In an intrapreneurial framework, the creative space-time is challenged by the ‘consuming and communicating’ continuum. There’s no way to get rid of it. The way to work around it is to have the creative space-time work in parallel to this other continuum as per a schedule (imposed with extreme metaphorical prejudice).
When you work in the creative space-time, forget about the other continuum. Let it run in parallel. Remember that nature is all around us and it does not hurry.. yet, everything is accomplished (Lao Tzu).
2. Intrapreneurial creativity needs its own space-time of divergent and convergent thought
Creative process requires thinking from first principles, expansion of ideas, extrapolation of thought, brainstorming in teams, white-boarding, design thinking, reaching out to borrow brains and so forth. In short, it needs divergence.
Intrapreneurs work within corporate setups. Corporate setups value profits amongst other things. Profits are usually generated by servicing a need. Needs usually tend to be specific. Specificity requires convergence.
Ergo, intrapreneur’s creative space-time looks like a labyrinth of divergent and convergent thought. Focus on just the former and you’ll have lots of ideas that never converge to a product. Focus on just the latter and you’ll cease to be an intrapreneur.
3. Intrapreneurial creativity needs its own space-time with a deliberate version of connectedness
There are several abstract forms of creativity where one can (and needs to) function in a fully disconnected environment. For instance, creative writing, painting, poetry or music can be entirely thought-inspired, not needing external validation during the creation process itself. Granted that these days abstract creatives can benefit from some form of market research, purists would still demand disconnection during the creation process. However, within an intrapreneurial framework, ideas need to be constantly validated. Going back to point # 2, validation is the filter thru which divergent thoughts narrow into convergence, which in turn leads to a profitable product servicing a niche.
Using the metaphor of software patents – just like one can’t establish patentability in isolation (without being connected to review prior art), one can’t conceptualize as an intrapreneur without being connected to the extent of performing stakeholder validation. However, this is a very deliberate and necessary version of connectedness – just enough to facilitate creativity without letting through the metaphorical Dracula!
Also published on LinkedIn
Connect w/ @sushain for thoughts on data ecosystem, creativity and intrapreneurship.