Import Knowledge

The focus on a local business environment allows small businesses, startup communities and entrepreneurial ecosystems to support the people they are closest to. This concentration allows available resources to be optimized, but overextending “local first” can devolve into close mindedness and groupthink if it is not accompanied by imported knowledge, global connectivity and inclusive collaboration.

Thanks to the efficiency of our connected era, increased proficiency is just a click away. Regularly inviting outside perspectives into local conversation normalizes fresh feedback and bolsters intellectual awareness. The sense of abundance paired with this shared experience adds confidence within a community. This emerging confidence can illuminate purpose and attract more of what an ecosystem needs, by leaning into what it already has. Over time, this adds cultural elasticity and opens fresh conduits for collaboration.

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Be quick to invite outsiders into the insider’s conversation.

As a local entrepreneurial ecosystem invites more outside perspectives, it also manifests itself to visitors from all over the world. This can grow the community, diversify the ecosystem, and boost the local economy.

These intellectual branches and societal bridges also give more people a chance to export knowledge as they interact beyond the local environment. This extension broadens our range of understanding and overall potential.

Can we stay committed to those we love and take pride in the place we live, while also reducing the limitations of our own location? I believe the answer is almost always yes. With a positive-sum approach to importing and exporting knowledge, we can lean on each other to all accomplish more with less.

Champions of Change

Intrapreneurs are starters who champion change inside established companies.

These skilled and determined people are often salaried employees who want to enjoy their job more. They do this by reinventing how they work at a company they trust. While intrapreneurs shake things up in more controlled environments, they share a similar innovative spirit with entrepreneurs building their own company. They challenge the status quo for larger companies smart enough to listen.

Companies that recognize the value of intrapreneurship stay ahead of the market. They do so by not falling too far behind the innovation curve. Smart companies go further by emboldening intrapreneurs. They do so with trust, resources, and a culture that encourages their passionate employees to get weird.

This sounds cool, but there’s a lot of moving parts when steering a cruise ship (large companies) compared to a little speed boat (startups). Add the fact that no matter how big a company is, change is hard, everyone fears it, and advocating for change is more difficult with more branches on the decision tree. As if it’s not complex enough, new ideas will always feel risky to those in power as well. This makes climbing the ladder of progress painfully slow and poses a quagmire for intrapreneurs: constant oversight and a lack of action can lead to burnout.

Intrapreneurial burnout usually translates into employees leaving the company or choosing to play it safe. When conformity sets in, intrapreneurs lose their edge and misinterpret the market. To avoid this hazard, intrapreneurs must keep making a ruckus and companies must help preserve innovative vibes by motivating intrapreneurs with action.

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Big, small, old, and new businesses can all do more when the people they trust find fresh ways to collaborate throughout the community.

Shifting the perspective, it’s good for entrepreneurs when more inspired intrapreneurs are connected throughout an ecosystem, but collaboration with intrapreneurs requires a long-term approach.

One reason is that intrapreneurs can be hard to identify within a startup community. Many intrapreneurs are also quick to say they’re not entrepreneurial, which makes it even harder to uncover these hidden leaders. If you’re a founder able to connect with these unicorns in the balloon factory, be quick to encourage their fresh ideas. Show interest in their latest innovation and invite them to where other entrepreneurs are gathering. Everyone is entrepreneurial to some degree, so the more intrapreneurs feel innovative energy, the more they’ll participate within the community.

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Are you an intrapreneur? If you shake things up and fuel positive change in an existing organization, You Don’t Need This Book is as much for you as it is for students, side hustle enthusiasts, or entrepreneurs building new companies. Another interesting read is Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin. There’s an entire section focused on championing new ideas into existing companies.

Entrepreneurs need intrapreneurs, and intrapreneurs need entrepreneurs. Intrapreneurs stay innovative by learning from entrepreneurs who are building what’s next. In exchange, intrapreneurs offer entrepreneurs established wisdom and access to customers. Intrapreneurs may not always be the decision makers, but they can still share resources, feedback, and meaningful introductions. This elevates entrepreneurs and fuels more profitable initiatives led by intrapreneurs.

Such shared momentum translates into existing companies getting more excited by profitable progress and often converts to an increase in their company’s community involvement. Companies become more willing to reinvest in intrapreneurship and ongoing innovation is liberated by an entrepreneurial mindset. As more existing companies thicken their connectivity within the startup community and entrepreneurial ecosystem, more ways to collaborate will emerge. Over time, the rising tide of intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial activity compounds into community-driven partnerships that raises all ships through layered economic growth.

2 Hours

Greg Horowitt is a social architect and pracademic. He is an accomplished entrepreneur, investor and global advisor. I always knew of Greg because he co-authored The Rainforest with Victor Hwang. After years of learning from Victor, I decided it was time to connect with the other half of this intellectual equation. I reached out to Greg and he was generous enough to setup a time to chat. We had no agenda, but ended up talking together for two hours!

This extended discussion allowed me to enjoy fun anecdotes about a bestseller so many entrepreneurial ecosystem builders have on their bookshelf. I learned about Greg’s innovation design role at UC San Diego and his upcoming book about the religion of innovation too. We riffed on entrepreneurship, venture capital, innovation ecosystems, complex adaptive systems, how humans think, economic development, the speed of trust and how storytelling brings everything together. Here is a Twitter thread with our photo and a few more memorable moments, but having Greg Horowitt lob knowledge grenades my way was such a treat.

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Meaningful discussions can form faster without an agenda.

This enlightening interaction has me reflecting on how a hint of initiative unlocked another cool connection. Also, how that extra hour gave Greg and I time to discuss a variety of topics with space for this thoughtful exploration to go deeper. Look at your bookshelf or social media feed. All of us have giants we’d love to meet. Do you seek out learning sessions with people you admire? How might a significant conversation evolve if you give it an extra hour to develop?

We’re all busy, sure, but a peculiar conversation is rarely a waste of time. Perhaps it’s only done occasionally, but more cerebral conversations allow us to go beyond protecting our knowledge with fancy jargon. Perpetual learning with a coexisting effort to accelerate others will release innovative energy that sparks creativity and reveals a path to deconstructed understanding.

Pure Wonder

Children embody a state of wonder that entrepreneurs can learn from.

They wake up each morning without a plan. They have no preconceptions. No judgments. No worries. A lack of expectations allow kids to naturally live in the moment. They get excited about the little things and cry over nothing. Their states of pure wonder is fascinating.

Now, fast forward 20 years. The world hardens us. We want to impress and make our mark, but life can feel exhausting and the need to make ends meet adds constant stress. Our experiences make us more intelligent, capable and aware of our surroundings, but they also limit our ability to feel pure wonder.

As you’re building a business, release from the daily grind by thinking like a child. Pretend you were born yesterday. Be silly once in awhile. Forget the agenda. Color outside the lines. Get weird to solve problems. Laugh at your mistakes. Play in your sandbox and have fun getting messy. Let a child-like sense of wonder shrink your ego to make room for what’s next. What you’re building matters and if your work allows you to feel pure wonder, be thankful and pass it on.