Last Friday, CSE advisory board member Charlie MacCormack spoke on the importance of “intrapreneurship,” the process of rolling out an innovative concept within the framework of an existing organization.
MacCormack, a ’63 Middlebury graduate, currently serves as the College’s Executive in Residence. Previously, MacCormack was president and CEO of Save the Children from 1993 until 2011. Save the Children is an independent nonprofit humanitarian child assistance organization with programs in the U.S. and more than 50 other countries, an annual budget of $550 million, and more than 6,000 staffers. In his leadership roles at Save the Children, MacCormack says he often assumed the role of intrapreneur, using the organization’s existing platform to launch new programs that addressed children’s needs in innovative ways.
While entrepreneurs are often seen as the new rock stars of business culture, becoming an intrapreneur is a way to capitalize on your entrepreneurial streak minus the risks associated with building something from scratch. According to MacCormack, taking an original idea and leveraging the assets of an existing organization — an established revenue stream, credibility, existing governance and systems — can ensure the success and even enhance the impact of your big idea.
“Consciously and unconsciously, people recognize stability, organization, trustworthiness,” Said MacCormack. “The benefits of an established reputable name for an organization and its revenue generation are huge. It makes it a thousand times easier to scale a successful innovation if you already have global reach – it would take forever to produce that from scratch.”
MacCormack added that liberal arts graduates already hold the qualities necessary to become a successful intrapreneur. “The liberal arts and all its insights — curiosity, cross-cultural interest, openness, innovative thinking — produces these people who will be dramatically more successful than those that pursue linear educations and careers when it comes to bringing value and innovation to organizations.”
“I would argue that there is no alternative but entrepreneurship, both for corporations and for individuals,” MacCormack told his audience. “The pace of change has become so pervasive and rapid that to fail to adapt is to be left behind, in one form or another. And I would hypothesize that the survival rates of big ideas that are housed in the right organization with the right elements is dramatically better than startups and small team efforts.”