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5 Steps to Intrapreneur Change Within Your Organization

Leading change from within an organization – intrapreneurship – can be rewarding personally and professionally. Yet the benefits of intrapreneurship often don’t come without savvy, resilience and grit.

Presented by Marylhurst University April 20, 2018

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Whether you work in the private, public or nonprofit sector, these 5 steps will help you avoid common missteps and effectively inspire change as an intrapreneur.

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Confidently articulate how your proposal will address current strengths, challenges and goals of the organization. Knowing your audience from the inside out will enable you to relate your proposal to the needs of the organization and each individual within it. 

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To improve the quality of life for her children, Lisa Estrada intrapreneured sustainability practices as an employee of the City of Peoria. With an MBA from Marylhurst University, Lisa knew she could use education as a catalyst for change by helping critical stakeholders understand the long term benefits of budgeting for sustainable practices and the impact on their bottom line. To relate her sustainability goals to the organization’s priorities, Lisa adopted an intentional communication strategy that appealed to diverse points of view and illuminated efficiencies and saving opportunities, rather than the principle of “going green.”

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As an intrapreneur, the outcome of your proposal cannot be guaranteed. Make it easier for someone to embrace the uncertainty of change by offering supporting evidence. Develop examples, cite the latest research and humanize your proposal. Discuss how the proposal will positively impact the lives of employees or the community, in addition to the organization. Tell a compelling story by appealing to the emotion of decision makers, using competitors, employees, or another familiar name as an example.

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Whether you wish to intrapreneur change within a private, nonprofit or public organization, change is hard. “Don’t overlook the chance to use stories as an ally during times of personal or organizational transition,” said Will Hornyak, who teaches storytelling in business communication at Marylhurst University.  “Storytellers don't memorize words, they deeply inhabit the landscape of a tale and describe first-hand what they're seeing. To embody a story means to smell, touch, taste, hear and see it, as well as to feel it and think about it. The stage in storytelling is not where the storyteller stands but in the imagination of the audience, which is in part its appeal and power: a story is always a creation between audience and teller.”

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Identify stakeholders and strategic allies critical to the success of your proposal, looking both inside and outside of your organization. Knowing who has aligning or competing priorities will help you navigate corporate politics and build a strategic support network. External organizations, researchers, and thought leaders can extend credibility, funding and even encouragement as you move your proposal forward. Strategically growing your base of advocates and allies can amplify your message and build momentum towards change.

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Megan Bigelow, director of customer care at Jama Software, co-founded PDX Women in Tech (PDXWIT) as a Meetup Group in 2012. A study published in 2016 revealed that Portland was last among cities for employing women in technology, and as word spread, membership in PDXWIT grew. Today, the group has evolved into a 501c3 nonprofit organization with 5000 members supported by 70+ tech firms. As co-founder and president, Megan seeks to empower women and others underrepresented in the tech industry, connecting them to mentors, educational programs and companies. Megan Bigelow holds an MBA from Marylhurst University and was honored as a 2018 Woman of Influence.

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Introduce your vision and demonstrate results through a controlled and funded pilot. Key decision makers are more likely to agree to change in incremental stages.

During the pilot, perfection is not your goal – demonstrate an apt to learn, evaluate and make modifications in the name of success. As an intrapreneur, you likely have existing responsibilities – your day job! Don’t commit to a pilot that demands more time and resources than you have to give.

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In pursuit of a gender-equitable computer science professional landscape, elementary school teacher Audra Gans applied for an innovative teaching grant to launch Coding Robots for Everyone - a pilot project in her classroom. As the grant recipient, Audra purchased Wonder Workshop Dash and Dot robots to teach students how computers work and why coding is important. Audra Gans earned an M.A. in Teaching from Marylhurst University in 2016.

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Intrapreneurship requires patience, passion and perseverance. You’re guaranteed to face opposition. Influencing change within an organization, regardless of its mission involves several moving pieces, numerous points-of-view and endless distractions. Stay true to the core purpose of your proposal and show reverence towards key decision makers as they seek to understand your intent though seemingly endless questions and skepticism. Even in the face of discouragement, you must be willing to celebrate small wins to build momentum and excitement for the next step in your project.

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After earning an MBA from Marylhurst University, Lisa Estrada was rewarded for her years of intrapreneurship and commitment to improve the City of Peoria’s sustainability practices. Despite competing priorities within the organization, her perseverance to educate key decision makers and launch pilot programs resulted in a new, full-time paid position with the city as Economic Efficiency & Sustainability Manager.


Take charge of your future as an intrapreneur. Learn how to develop skills to inspire change across community, business and industry through a Marylhurst University graduate degree.