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Virtual Intrapreneurs: Being a Corporate Rebel While Sitting at Home

Virtual Intrapreneurs: Being a Corporate Rebel While Sitting at Home

“Innovate or die,” “disrupt or be disrupted”... Our world has been in a flux of speed and competitiveness for some time now. When the speed and complexity of change are high, the premium is on intrapreneurship, agility, and spanning boundaries.

by Sergey Gorbatov, Professor of Human Resources and Organizational Behavior at IE Business School.

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Intrapreneurship is particularly needed in uncertain times. Organizations need people who will raise their hand when things aren’t going right, come up with novel solutions, and take accountability for fixing them.

Intrapreneurs are those who innovate and create new things within the boundaries set by the organization… while continuously testing and expanding those boundaries. Your job description is the coloring book. Your knowledge, personality, and expertise add color. Intrapreneurs keep drawing outside the lines, making the picture even more compelling.

Intrapreneurship has three parts: innovation, voice, and taking charge. How do you do that virtually?


First of all, innovation comes either from your own creativity or from the creativity of others. Both sources are good. As T.S. Eliot famously said, “good writers borrow, great writers steal.” Working on your own, in the confines of your own home, may even make you more creative.

Drawing on the creativity of others is more challenging when working virtually. Check in with others more often. Engage in deep conversations. In group meetings, draw ideas from others. Make everyone feel included and willing to contribute. Get comfortable with silences: they invite reflection and participation.


Secondly, voice is about raising your hand and speaking up when things aren’t going the way they should. It’s about making your opinion known even if it differs from the norm. Your innovative thinking needs to reach others, and those with more voice are more effective at it. In the virtual environment, your voice can be amplified exponentially.

Take advantage of technology. You can easily reach hundreds or even thousands of colleagues by posting your ideas on internal social media or by organizing an online jam session. Experiment with creating online groups. In short, make your thinking and your work visible.

Taking charge

Finally, intrapreneurship is about taking charge. Doing something. This is one of the features that distinguish pure innovators from intrapreneurs. Innovators are infatuated with ideas and may abandon them as soon as they have proven the concept. Intrapreneurs have the grit and gumption to bring those ideas to fruition. After all, Nike® put it best: “Just do it!” What do you stand to lose? Actually, you are likely to regret it more if you don’t act on the ideas you believe in.

Researchers at Cornell University found that people are twice as likely to regret a failure to act. Why? We rationalize our failures, but we can’t rationalize away the stuff we never tried at all. As we get older, we tend to remember the good things and forget the bad. So simply doing more means greater happiness later in life.

Uncertainty is ripe with opportunities to take charge. While others are grappling with the new ways of working, you have a chance to make a name for yourself by stepping up to tough challenges. Get a virtual team together. Inspire them around your idea. Connect the dots. Chart the course. Plan. Empower. Execute.

Standing still is the only option we don’t have—coronavirus or not.

Note: This article represents the author’s personal opinions and not those of his employer or affiliated organizations.