Which brings me to Mark Bidwell, who interviewed me for his podcast last month (in honor of my book release). Meeting him revealed a passion to create a community of innovators with sophistication and professionalism too often missing from less experienced entrepreneurs you see in headlines.
Beyond leading what I considered an excellent interview, he was doing what many corporate types dream of: creating a business around his passion without losing what he loved about his corporate life.
I caught up with him to interview him back, on what motivated him and how he made his transition. If you're in a corporation dreaming of innovating and leading, read on.
Inc.: You were an intrapreneur and became an entrepreneur--why the change?
Mark Bidwell: I began my career as an entrepreneur in my early days and the mentality stuck with me throughout my time in the corporate world. When faced with an important business decision, I have always asked myself, "if this was my own business, and my family depended on the business, what would I do?"
So for me there is not much distinction between being an intrapreneur and an entrepreneur. I have always been heavily invested in the areas of development, innovation and growth and always embraced growth, both personally and professionally.
On a more personal note, I made this transition from intrapreneur to entrepreneur as I entered the second half of my career or the back 9 of my 18-hole golf round if you like.
I wanted to use the skills I had developed over the years to build something for myself and, essentially, live life on my own terms whilst sharing my experiences and learnings with others.
I simply wanted to have an impact beyond the organization and market in which I was working and being an entrepreneur allows you to do that.
Inc.: What can entrepreneurs learn from intrapreneurs?
MB: Basics skills around stakeholder management and engagement are key here.
Intrapreneurs are often excellent networkers and great at sourcing the right people to do the job from within their own network or the organization. They are experts at navigating and making sense of complexity and finding the right people.
They also have a strong propensity to systems and process thinking, how can you make things sustainable in a large environment and create impact in a place where people are often treated like a number on a spreadsheet (as previous guest Heiko Fischer so delicately put it)?
Additionally, partnerships between startups and corporates are essential for entrepreneurial survival.
Intrapreneurs can be the first step into these corporate partnerships, they speak the language, they know how to communicate with risk averse individuals, teams and divisions.
Inc.: What can intrapreneurs learn from you?
MB: My story and my experience can help a lot of people but also my willingness to gather the stories of others, to seek external expertise and connections has been essential in my journey which is what I really try to do through the podcast and our flagship program the ILC [Mark's Innovation Leadership Circle].
I also pride myself on my resourcefulness and ability to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity.
In the corporate world, I developed a reliable ability to de-risk, persuade and sell--the latter attribute will be absolutely essential in the new future of work.
Over the years, I have also developed a number of self-awareness hacks for my personal and professional life, I'm a strong believing in cultivating understanding of yourself in order to be a better leader and indeed a better person. Such an ability allows you to reflect better on the needs of others and this is an important attribute of any innovator, leader, intrapreneur or entrepreneur.
Inc.: Why people over products?
MB: All ideas start with people. At the Innovation Ecosystem we try to equip the person--the source of the idea--with the best proven insights, tools and resources possible to increase their personal and professional innovation capabilities.
The resources we are providing are exactly what I wish I had access to as a corporate innovator.
Inc.: Okay, what is your Innovation Ecosystem and why should Inc. readers care?
MB: The Innovation Ecosystem provides a key learning platform for corporate innovators based on four cornerstones: Ecosystem Learning, Community, Pragmatic Skill-building and Quality Experiences.
We deconstruct world-class performance of remarkable and thought-provoking people on the topics of innovation, leadership and change in the worlds of business, academia and sports.
We bring ecosystem members carefully curated strategies, insights and practical tools they can use straight away. Through the Ecosystem we aim to bring together corporate innovators and business leaders from mature organizations to equip them with the skills and experiences necessary to become more innovative and better able to respond to the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.
Inc. readers should care because these tools are applicable to any leader, innovator or individual trying to improve themselves and their organization irrespective of organizational size, industry, sector or geography.
Inc.: You talk about the challenges of innovators in corporations. It sounds incredibly frustrating. Yet you seem fascinated with it. How can corporate readers learn to take on the challenges like you did?
MB: It's all about perspective and how you decide to look at things, which we talk about a great deal on the podcast.
In the past, working for a large, established corporation was viewed with a sense of security, certainty and stability. In today's world that's just not the case anymore.
We're likely to have at least three careers in our lifetimes and work for who knows how many companies. The world is changing, it's demanding more and different things of us so we have to view our plight in this way.
We have to all see ourselves as active participants and contributors to the organizations we work for, we have to tap into new skills and abilities if we want to remain relevant.
We had a guest on the show previous, Pamay Bassay, who discussed the need for lifelong learning, and it was brought up again when one of our ecosystem partners attended a future of work conference here in Zurich.
The lesson: we all need to be learners and maintain this learner mindset.
Inc.: How can your corporate readers do this?
MB: They can listen to the show or sign up for our ILC program which offers innovative business leaders the opportunity to delve deep into their business challenges with our ecosystem learning technique and leaders from other non-competing industries.
Inc.: How can intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs, and corporate innovators find out more?