Interviews

Marjorie Brans. Managing Director. School for Social Entrepreneurs.

Looking to have more impact with your life doesn’t always mean you have to quit your current job. As Marjorie Brans says “You don’t need to quit your job to keep your soul”. Social intrapreneurship is a fast growing way to live your values at work. And as a bonus, by actively making your existing job more impactful, you gain tangible experience to help land your next job when the time is right to move on. This week we hear from Marjorie Brans, Managing Director at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, as she tells us how to lead change from within.

What inspired you to become an intrapraneur?

I’m not sure I remember when I started to tinker with things. I’ve always been the kind of person who thinks making stuff up out of thin air is a whole lot more fun than accepting the status quo.

As a kid, I loved to convert my room into elaborate imaginary worlds which included everything from a drive-thru dry-cleaning business to a spy training camp and a courthouse. The workplace is just an extension of the playroom for me.

Briefly describe the process you took to lead change at work.

In addition to loving to play at work, I also have a hard time accepting when the workplace isn’t living up to its stated values or achieving its goals.

In every job I’ve had, I compulsively (against my better judgement!) raise my hand for assignments I decide are needed but aren’t necessarily going to get done. They’ve included starting new programs and projects, or trying to rejig existing ones that aren’t going so well.

Usually, other people around me recognize the need for change too, and as long as a few people buy in, others come along eventually.

What’s the coolest part about being an intrapraneur and what’s the biggest challenge?

To me, the coolest part of being an intrapreneur is coming to the office on my own terms—I won’t work anywhere I can’t find a way to live my values and see that my efforts are contributing to a better world.

The problem is that not everyone is as comfortable with change and ambiguity and risk as I am. Sometimes, working with people and their feelings can be more challenging than the technical side of executing a given initiative.

What advice would you give other professionals who want to make a difference?

First, be humble. Very humble.

Half the time you’ll be wrong about the reasons you think people don’t accept your idea for change. Asking insightful questions and listening hard will give you the information you need to construct a compelling argument.

Once you’ve really done your homework, you’ll have to take some risks. For high stakes issues, you may even have to accept getting fired for what you believe in. But again, if you’ve done your homework, you probably can avoid that fate.

What can you identify as the biggest opportunity for intrapraneurs?

Social entrepreneurship is a really hot area of business innovation, but I think people are starting to recognize that social intrapreneurship is equally valuable. You don’t need to quit your job to keep your soul, and the 21st century green economy is going to need a whole lot more intrapreneurs than are out there today.

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