Are you a Radical Intrapreneur?

Published by Chris Oestereich on

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what we need from business leaders.  And by business leaders, I mean everyone who is actively making (or influencing) business decisions.  We know there are myriad problems which we need to deal with.  We know we have a limited amount of time with which to right the ship.  As such, we have to rethink the way we do business, but I think there’s a growing cabal of folks who can help get us where we need to go.  I call them Radical Intrapreneurs.

I know the word radical tends to make folks fret, so let’s try to uncoil that reaction with a few definitions.


“Whoa Nellie!”

“Children, avert thine eyes!”

Okay.  There’s the definition that can make folks a bit queasy.  Fair enough.  But that’s not the one I intended.  So let’s try the next one on and see how that fits.


How does that sound?  A bit more palatable?  I hope so.

If you’re still feeling a bit uncomfortable with the word, that’s okay.  It’s bound to be a long journey, so there’ll be plenty of time to get used to the idea.

The Framework

Being a Radical Intrapreneur is to accept the helm of change leadership.  And not just any kind of change, but the kind of changes that we need to get business to work in a way that benefits the bulk of humanity, while replenishing (instead of destroying) the planet.  The 2-by-2 graph below charts the path which I’ve tread and I think most who are in similar shoes have taken a similar journey.

[bctt tweet=”Being a Radical Intrapreneur is to accept the helm of change leadership.”]

The Passion/Capability Martrix

The Passion/Capability Martrix

We start out in the lower-left quadrant with little or no knowledge of csr/sustainability issues.  A sort of awakening occurs from there as we become aware of issues caused by extant business practices.  Our sense of justice is triggered.  We dive in looking to learn more.  What problems exist and what might we do about it?  We move into the advocate phase where we’re often driven more by a sense of injustice than by any specific knowledge.  We talk to anyone who will listen about the problems.  We might get a little preachy, but we’re trying to fix what’s broken, right?  As advocates, we’re good at getting these issues in front of others, but we might not yet have the skills and knowledge necessary for the next phase.

We need two sets of skills now: business and sustainability.  These two skills have often been seen as mutually exclusive.  Pin-striped suits off to one side and dirty hippies to the other; and never the twain should they meet… until recently that is.

[bctt tweet=”We need two sets of skills now: business and sustainability.”]

Times have changed.  Businesses can’t go on externalizing social and environmental ills forever and environmentalists can’t expect businesses to give up the ghost to save the whales.  There has to be a middle ground.

[bctt tweet=”Businesses can’t go on externalizing social and environmental ills forever.”]

And so there is.

Radical Intrapreneurs occupy this middle ground.  They work to gain the knowledge necessary to consider triple bottom line values and the business acumen necessary to design and implement solutions which optimize performance on a range of factors.  It’s not easy.  Honestly, it tends to be hard as hell.  But when you get it right, it’s a thing of beauty.  And we have to get it right.  We don’t have a choice.

I suppose I’ll be writing a lot on this topic in the coming years.  I hope you’ll join me in the conversation.  More importantly, if you’re not already there, I hope you’ll join me on this path.  All are welcome and in fact quite needed.  And if you’re out in front of me, all the better.  Be sure to light the way.  I’ll need all the help I can get.

See you there?


AndreaLearned · July 11, 2014 at 09:40

What is also helpful, as we all take our “radical” steps, Chris… is that there is a ton of support on the various social media channels. You and I are a great example – meeting on Twitter a few years back, and staying in touch/alerting one another to great research, powerful examples etc.

There is not choice, like you write – we’ve got to be radical at this point. But, it is pretty fun to do it in such a passionate and dedicated community of world-changers!

Chris Oestereich · July 11, 2014 at 11:21

Absolutely. Those who don’t see it this way will eventually be forced by reality to reorient their perspectives. Opportunities about to mitigate ills and enhance “goods.” Heady times.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Stephen Vasconcellos · July 21, 2014 at 02:05

Thanks for posting this Chris, we didn’t realize we were radical intrepreneurs, but now you’ve called us out, we have no option but to stick our heads out of the parapet. Thanks for a very insightful article! Looking forward to reading more from you – meanwhile, we’d like to invite you to guest blog sometime at Do check it out.


Chris Oestereich · August 1, 2014 at 17:40

I’m glad you found it useful. And you can count on me for a post in the near future. I’ll be in touch.

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