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Karin’s Leadership Articles

How To Be A Successful Intrapreneur (Even If You’re Old)

by | Sep 6, 2013 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning |

I’m sick of being told how to win the hearts and minds of millennials. I’ve never bought into the notion that an entire generation of human beings falls into a prototype we can master. I’ve been brewing this sentiment for decades. I thought the HR meetings I attended as a young HR leader (including charts of “what Gen Xers need”) equally silly.

There’s a spectrum of humans in every generation.

The world changes fast, the generations work to adapt. We ALL need to learn to navigate the evolving landscape. That’s what I found most intriguing about millennial, Dan Schawbel’s, new book: Promote Yourself: The New Rules of Career Success He’s a millennial giving advice to other millennial. It’s full of fantastic advice for millennials, and some for the rest of us.

How to Become an Intrapreneur

What moved me from reading to giving Dan a call was his advice on Intrapreneurship (see definition). Intrapreneurship can serve as a gateway to acquire entrepreneurial skills for later use, or as a way to make a difference and get noticed in your current company.

Dan’s advice on WHY to be an Intrapreneur


  • Allows you to create new positions and advance in your career faster than you might have been able to on the regular track
  • Gives you unique experiences that differentiate you from your peers.
  • Is less risky than being an entrepreneur because you’ll have the corporation’s resources available.
  • Can be a bridge to becoming full-on entrepreneur later on

Not just kid stuff.

So how do you know if Intrapreneurship is right for you? Dan suggests that if half or more of the following statements are true for you, you should “definitely” consider pursuing intrapreneurship

  1. You’ve got a passion for something your company isn’t doing right now.
  2. You see opportunities that other don’t.
  3. You’re creative and innovative in your thinking.
  4. You’re willing to take risks.
  5. You’re a great networker and can build cross-functional relationships
  6. You’re a natural salesperson.
  7. You’re good at working on teams and collaborating.
  8. You’re politically savvy and understand how your company operates.

What I didn’t see on his list is be “under 35.”

Want to be an intrapreneur? If you are a millennial ask these questions:

If this was your company where would invest?
What’s the next break through idea?

If you are over 35 ask the same thing. It’s not too late.

What are you waiting for?

Note: While I was writing this post, the guy on the train next to me (not a millennial) and I got to talking. He shared, “Oh, my company is all about this. You come up with your transformative idea and then you have to sell it in.” That’s how they break through. He was headed back from such a meeting. Game on. His big question, how do companies track the success of such adventures? We chatted about Google’s approach and others. Who’s got examples?

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Sharon Gilmour-Glover

    Hi Karin,

    Thanks for the great post. We help enterprises develop cultures of intrapreneurship within their current structure. One the most important tools we use to track success of these new adventures (I love that framing), is ongoing measurement and trending that includes the objective – % complete, on time on budget etc and the subjective – how the people involved feel about their performance and the new adventure.

    Including the subjective, how the different people involved feel about their performance, the new initiative, and its contribution to results, enables individuals to consciously tap into and talk about their level of emotional engagement with the project.

    This combination of rational and emotional really helps teams identify where hidden barriers are, why they are achieving specific results and helps them to make decisions about what new adventures are sustainable and should be incorporated into the steady aspect of the business.

    It is the trending that is so illuminating and the conversation this process sparks that matters most.

    Much of our work is supported by the thinking behind effectuation and research by Saras Sarasvathy and in books like The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries.

    Thanks for your work,

    • letsgrowleaders

      Sharon, Your work sounds fantastic. Thanks so much for adding your expertise to this conversation. I love that you are looking both at the combination of rational and emotional engagement.

      • Sharon Gilmour-Glover

        It’s fun that’s for sure!

        Since I found you’re blog, I’ve been sharing regularly with people. I really appreciate your work Karin.It’s pragmatic & inspirational. My favourite combination!


        • letsgrowleaders

          Sharon, I so appreciate your involvement and sharing.

  2. Steve Borek

    Not sure how they track these ideas. 3M company is big on giving employees x% of time to work on innovative projects. In fact, it’s where most of their new products come from.

    I’d venture to guess that original ideas branch off into other ideas and so on and so forth then voila! A new product or service is born.

    I laugh when I see posts on how to do this or that to a millennial. They’re different yes. But not that much different as to be treated like a unique creature from another planet.

    Gen Y wants to be heard. Loved. Appreciated. Because of their shortage of experience vs. Gen X, Boomers, etc. they don’t like being lectured to or being told what to do.

    What makes Gen Y that much different than other generations in how they want to be treated? Very little.

    p.s. I’m 100%. Yea! Flu is gone.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Thanks so much Steve. So glad you are feeling better. Yeah, we all want to be treated with love and appreciation no matter what our age.

  3. Dave Bratcher

    Thanks for mentioning the important part about age. We limit ourselves at every age. We are always either too old, or too young. During a conference a few years ago, the speaker shared two things he wished he could erase from everyone’s mind. 1. How old they were 2. They were not created to “Retire” (quit doing anything). Thanks for your insight!

    • letsgrowleaders

      Dave, thanks so much. Yes, it would be great if we could forget the stories that limit us.

  4. Matt McWilliams

    The “Even if you’re old” part cracked me up.

    It’s 2013. It has never been more important (or easier) for people of ALL ages to build a platform, market themselves, and be able to go out on their own. It’s just a matter of making time…something that you are clearly doing.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Matt, Thanks so much. It is so much easier than many people think.

  5. Ali Anani (@alianani15)

    Karin- you bring up a touchy point. May be I am the oldest commenter on this blog; yet I live as if I shall not die. Being living is learning and adapting. I still do that
    Thanks Karin for stirring my emotions.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Ali, In my mind, there’s no other way to live. Thank you.

  6. Mike Brown

    Love it… You are never too old to be passionate about your ideas… Everyone has great ideas… It is up to us to take the risk and put ourselves out there… The rewards are great – and if the ideas do not work, the learning is even greater…

  7. letsgrowleaders

    Mike, Thanks so much. Fully agree. Namaste.

  8. webpage

    I personally want to know as to why you labeled this specific post, “How to
    be a Successful Intrapreneur (Even If You’re Old) – Let’s
    Grow Leaders”. In any event I actually admired the
    post!Many thanks-Kareem

  9. letsgrowleaders

    Kareem, Thanks so much. I labelled the post that way because Dan’s book is targeted toward millenials… my point was that it’s great advice for that generation… but also for folks of any age. It’s never too late to reinvent your career.

  10. Simon

    If you’re a budding intrapreneur, or anyone else interested in business, and you’d like somewhere to chat and share ideas with likeminded people – here’s a brand new discussion forum just opened up: http://www.passionateaboutbusiness.com/


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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