SustainAbility calls the social intrapreneur a new species. In 2008, the sustainable business consultancy published a manual with Skoll Foundation, IDEO, and Allianz called "Social Intrapreneur: A field guide for corporate changemakers."
The free 72-page study of 20 change agents from companies as diverse as Dow Chemical and Morgan Stanley notes their defining characteristics, habitats, and approaches. "Their adept opposable minds exist to juggle dilemmas and catalyze new visions, products, services and solutions," states the guide.
More recently, FastCoExist featured an article last week that highlights the work of three intrapreneurs from Walmart, Autodesk, and Swiss Re participating in a program by the Aspen Institute to bring together and train social intrapreneurs.
Change agents. Tempered radicals. Social intrapreneurs. They go by many names, but you may know it best as agitator or rabble-rouser, because the work of social intrapreneurs is often met with resistance.
"We're introducing students to software for analyzing company language to position themselves appropriately and identify new opportunities," says Davis. Intrapreneurs are often themselves the lonely prophets of change and the first to identify transformations necessary to adapt to changing social and environmental conditions, so students will also learn new software to build relationships and organize within an enterprise.
You are probably a social intrapreneur if you relate to any of these situations. Over the next few weeks, I will offer a rare glimpse of the best practices, experienced intrapreneurs, and tales from the University of Michigan class on social intrapreneurs to provide a map and compass for creating big sustainability wins at companies through change initiatives.
The lessons may not propel you to the summit of Mt. Sustainability today, but they may help you reach the next peak.
Next Week: Seizing the Opportunity and Building a Case
Green employee photo via Shutterstock.