Recently, I’ve been thinking about the power of entourage. Not the Hollywood bros kind, not the rapper’s crew, but the often invisible communities of support that exist behind every great person. What I’ve come to notice is that the most successful social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs have masterfully gone about creating communities of support for their vision and ideas.
Entourage relationships transcend the weak ties offered by platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. It isn’t about tweeting support. Entourage relationships are profound.
Andy Warhol had his Factory. Gaga has her Little Monsters. But for social change agents, the entourage is equally essential for those trying to make change. It could be years—or decades even—before systems start to shift. Developing a supportive entourage where you surround yourself with people that bring you energy and "get it" is key. Your entourage is what gets you through darker times and plays a much-needed role in keeping you going when things appear stuck.
We aren’t lone wolves. And corporations aren’t merely collections of individuals. Corporations are communities. Behind every business is an environment where people are looking to find connection, fulfillment, and identity. And yet, within and across cubicles, it can be so hard to connect on a human level. So how do we bust through? How do we generate communities to really unleash game-changing innovation within big corporations? And how do we grow our entourages into truly powerful networks of change?
In the recently launched Cubicle Warriors Toolkit, Maggie de Pree and I feature stories and tips from seasoned intrapreneurs who have gone about building communities of purpose. Here’s what we’ve learned.
Make a list of all the stakeholders who have a vested interest in the problem you’re trying to solve. Try to go beyond the usual suspects and think about organizations or communities you might never engage with who are part of the "ecosystem of concern" on which you’re working. Map out these actors and understand their competencies and points of leverage within the system. Then spot areas where a shared agenda could emerge. This visual can be the jumping off point for building powerful collaborations with unlikely actors.
Whether you’re building out a private-public sector partnership, working with SMEs through your supply chain, or fostering collaborations with other companies, make sure that you connect with like-minded intrapreneurs within these organizations. Systemic collaborations require an enterprising spirit to be ignited and sustained. So find the right allies in other organizations that you can rely and depend on to accelerate these types of initiatives. You’ll save time and energy by working with others who share the same mindset as you.
Be able to shift how you communicate, depending on your audience—know the right language to use depending on your stakeholder. Part of building community has to do with knowing how to translate your prerogative into the language of others.
Often social intrapreneurs are adept at creating mini subcultures within their host organizations. But at times, it might feel like the culture you’re trying to create is not reconcilable with the culture of your organization. Ask yourself what is the delta behind the culture that is and the culture that you are trying to create. And the delta should be fairly small. Most people don’t like massive change.
Communities don’t revolve around one person. Nor should the success of an idea or innovation be dependent on one person. To be successful you need to be able to democratize ownership of your ideas. Beware of isolating yourself with a community of enablers. Get the "scary people" within your organization or from the outside to champion your work. They are key in getting your ideas to scale.
In conclusion, most game-changing ideas are 10% epiphany and 90% relationships and community building. Don’t underestimate the people part of the equation. People don’t just lean in to ideas; they lean in to communities where they can discover purpose and meaning.