Four Things Social Intrapreneurs Won’t Say

Posted By: Dr. Caron Sada NACCE Blog,

For the purposes of this article, we define a social intrapreneur as a person who thinks and behaves like an entrepreneur but rather than starting a business, works for an established organization. The primary motivation of the social intrapreneur is to make a positive difference in the lives of others – and not to make a profit. Social intrapreneurs are by nature more open and nimble, and many are at the heart of inspiring stories unfolding every day. To help familiarize yourself with this unique brand of entrepreneur, here are four things we probably won’t hear them say: 

  1. Let’s form a committee! A committee that is put together by a social intrapreneur is likely to differ from traditional committees in several ways:
  • A willingness by the leader- the social intrapreneur - to take ownership
  • An engaging purpose/vision with a sense of urgency
  • The ability and willingness to contribute and the potential to become a team member (e.g. participation isn’t limited by title)
  • A willilngness to complete responsibilities between meetings (attending meetings is not the main contribution)
  • A commitment to continued improvement and delivering results.

When social intrapreneurs seek people for collaboration, they would be more likely to say, “I’m putting together a team of talented doers.”

2. I can’t get started until someone gives me funding/a budget.

With entrepreneurial talent, the social intrapreneur is likely to see opportunities and resources that others don’t notice: passionate and talented students; engaged colleagues with high-value expertise; name recognition and credibility in the community; gathering spaces, technology, access to office supplies and printing; established relationships/partnerships, and systems to engage further to name just a few.  Social intrapreneurs also know that current resources can be leveraged into more. The social intrapreneur is more likely to say, “This is important; let’s start now!”

3. We’ve always done it this way (and I’m not changing).

While lifelong learning and critical and creative thinking are mantras in higher education, it is a normal human preference to stay comfortable with what is already known and familiar. But, the social intrapreneur tries new approaches. The social intrapreneur would be more likely to say, “I’m not sure how to do that yet, but I’ll figure it out as I go.”

4. Get off my turf!

While we often discuss ending silos and taking more integrative approaches to working toward our organizational visions, org charts of well-defined divisions and departments with established hierarchy can often stifle progress as people are careful to “stay in their lane” and … make sure that other people stay in theirs  too.  But, the social intrapreneur doesn’t see others as threats, nor do they wait for permission to make a positive difference. The social intrapreneur sees the power of collaboration and takes action. As a result, the social intrapreneur is more likely to say, “We can accomplish more together.”   

Extraordinary things are happening on college campuses around the country. And, there are some habits we may want to break as we strive to build more innovative, more entrepreneurial organizations of higher learning. Listening for the social intrapreneurs among gives us the opportunity to collaborate and innovate together like never before.


Dr. Caron Sada

Residential Faculty

Paradise Valley Community College