Intrapreneurship Clinic: How can we build the personal resilience of intrapreneurs?

Intrapreneur, or not, spending 40+ hours as an employee surrounded by people who have different personalities, different ways of sharing feedback, different ideas about what it means to be professional, etc can be mentally tough, emotionally draining, and may even have you day-dreaming about working at the company across the street where everyone appears to be spending their 40+ hours smiling, laughing, and giving each other high-fives.

If you’re an intrapreneur, add to this the fact that you’re working on a project that may be meeting significant resistance from colleagues entrenched in the system and leaders who don’t really get its value, and don’t care to either.

At The League of Intrapreneurs, we’ve seen so many intrapreneurs suffer in silence. Internal corporate cultures haven’t yet given people permission to speak openly about how events at work are impacting their employees personally. Therefore support for employees has been minimal.

This is how come we've dedicated one of our Cubicle Warrior Tools to Fostering Personal Resilience. Read this free tool and you’ll learn tips and tricks used by successful social intrapreneurs on how they learn to not only survive, but thrive inside their companies.

What they've done is adopt strategies that give them the mental, emotional, and physical strength needed to handle challenging events in productive ways. They've learned to bounce back quickly.

It’s time we bring more attention to this issue. Too many intrapreneurs are giving up their missions to drive positive change from the inside out. We are thankful to Business Fights Poverty for giving us the fantastic forum to speak openly about the challenges we face, and the strategies we can adopt in order to strengthen our personal resilience.

Here are a few questions to help get our conversation started. We look forward to learning from your experience and wisdom.

  1. What does resilience mean to you?
  2. How come resilience is so important for intrapreneurs?
  3. What is your secret to staying resilient?
  4. What resilience strategy have you learned from someone you admire?

Editor's Note:

This Intrapreneurship Clinic is the fourth in a 5-part series with the League of Intrapreneurs. In each Clinic, members of Business Fights Poverty will have the opportunity to engage with the authors of the new Cubicle Warriors Toolkit, and other invited panelists. Each time, we will focus on a different element of the Tooklit.

Visit previous Intrapreneurship Clinics - on Making the Business Case for Social Innovation (, Navigating the Politics of Your Corporate Ecosystem ( and How can we rally communities of support for game-changing innovation? (

To post comments you will need to sign in / sign up to Business Fights Poverty. A list of recent comments is shown in the right-hand side bar and will refresh every 5 minutes. To refresh more often, please click on the refresh icon in your browser.

I have been an Intrapreneur for as long as I was with Nestle Philippines, from Day One. In my 18 years of championing radical initiatives, the most helpful go around the "barriers" has always been by moving according to the sun tzu principle which states:

"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win."

Simply put, preparation. If you are proposing a program to implement, be ready to conduct a pilot asap. Powerpoint presentations are good if you "epilogue" them with a pilot waiting to be launched in the blink of an eye. Prepare to pilot on your own and video, photograph every phase of the pilot for a fail safe presentation. It's worked for me thus far...

Hi David. This is really helpful advice. Thank you for sharing. I hope you can join us next week.

I really like the Sun Tzu principle you shared. I wonder... I also understand it to mean 'win your internal war first'... what are you thoughts on that?

Hi Heidi, if by internal war you mean full commitment from you team, that is a definite imperative and a huge part of the preparation.

"Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys.
Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death!"-Sun tzu

If you mean personal commitment to the project, that is also a "mega yes".

"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."-sun tzu

This means knowing one's limits to action while taking calculated risks, and finally "gritting your teeth" to carry the initiative to the farthest point..

Hi David, These are brilliant. Thank you so much for sharing! I haven't actually read the Art of War, but you've certainly inspired me to pick up a copy! Thank you! Hope to hear more from you on Wednesday.

Awesome, Heidi. So now I have a fellow "warrior" on line. I do hope you get many insights from the War Arts. Yes, even today when so many of us tend to depend on technology for advantages and eventually fall into complacency, there is nothing like "detoxification" from "in the box thinking" or "one size fits all" attitudes, through gems of thought from sun tzu, in order to get a clearer perspective of the problem to be able to arrive at the best strategy/solution.

Well, not to worry... looks like Sun Tzu is standing the test of time. Even these young entrepreneurs are beating Mark Zuckerberg by applying it:

Hi Heidi, thank you for the link from Forbes. Nice to know that Murphy is of Filipino descent. You might be interested in this slide share:

I look forward to this discussion and learning something about an area that I have little knowledge about.

Thanks for sharing David. I'll check it out! Hope you are able to join us in 15 minutes. Would love to hear more!

Wonderful - Cam, you're going to surprise yourself... you know way more than you think. We all have our own little tricks we use to stay resilient. Would love to hear what yours are!

Welcome to this Intrapreneurship Clinic! We're fortunate to be joined by a great panel to explore the question of how to build the personal resilience of intrapreneurs.

Let's start with the first question - What does resilience mean to you?

Thank you for inviting us to join you today!

I'm looking forward to hearing what the other panelists have to share, and to hear how everyone else who has joined the discussion would answer these questions!

Resilience is a very personal thing, about you & your environment. Specifically what you do with the barriers, blocks or just mis-understandings and how you respond to them. Importantly its also what you do when things are going really well, how you move forward. People tend to focus on bouncing back, for me how you learn from and deal with success is as important.

To me, resilience in general means the ability to absorb a shock or disturbance while still being able to retain essentially the same structure, function, or identity.

In the context of social intrapreneurs, resilience to me means being able to embrace the skepticism of colleagues, project failures, self-doubt and loneliness, and the other unexpected twists WHILE maintaining a positive sense of self and trust in one’s own mind.

To me personally, resilience is a feeling. It stems from having the self-belief that the path I’m headed on is the right one for me, which then turns itself into the self-confidence I need to forge ahead.

If I look at my overall career, it has involved 1 failed business, 2 redundancies, 1 tough road as an intrapreneur, 3 other roles that just didn’t feel right, plus studies at 2 top universities, and living in 5 countries on 3 continents.

My resilience has given me the courage to embrace change and live my life looking forward, and not backwards with regrets.

interesting - do you connect with gifford-pinchot - he and my father started this curriculum 33 years ago in The Economist but its been on a very slow exponential of awareness

To me, resilience means dancing. Dancing implies knowing enough steps and moves so you can enter the dancefloor and be able to improvise on any given rythm that is given to you. A good swing dancer can make something beautiful in any context. Along the same idea, resilience implies knowing different tools and how to use them to move your Change Project forward. This begins by knowing which Change Project you want to drive -which dance that you want to do-, and then adapt to any situation that you will face in the workplace as your Change Project evolves.

I remember Adrian Ristow from Coca-Cola (intrapreneur behind Project Last Mile) saying to me once, 'you have to come to know that road-blocks are not always road-blocks..sometimes they're just speed-bumps'. I think resilience is tied to this...and I think it finds its root in a core belief in one's work and its purpose.