Colleen McCormick: What Am I Skating Towards? The New Public Servant

Here is Colleen McCormick's response to What are you skating towards in 2012?

The New Public Servant

I am skating towards unleashing the power of government's greatest asset – the intrapreneur.

The economic meltdown has crippled governments already challenged by climate change, healthcare crises, collapsing social structures, and growing public safety concerns.

Faced with such overwhelming challenges, government is tempted to hunker down and depend on well-established approaches to meet its objectives.

This is a mistake. To have any chance of success, government must become adept at developing and adopting new practices that will advance innovation.

If government wants to achieve better outcomes it needs to identify, develop and unleash a unique breed of public servants – the intrapreneurs, who will drive ideas, develop innovative approaches and deliver new models.

An intrapreneur has been described as the entrepreneur of the millennium. Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO (one of the world’s leading design companies), explains that “IDEO actively seeks out intrapreneurs because they are natural integrators, problem solvers and facilitators.” Brown describes such intrapreneurs as “likely to have honed less celebrated, but perhaps more reliable, characteristics of innovation such as political savvy, tact, teamwork and patience. Rather than getting their way via force of personality or charismatic zeal, these innovators learn how to bring projects to life through the deft manipulation of the latent intellectual and financial capital inside their organizations.”

SustainAbility‘s The Social Intrapreneur, A Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers highlights that intrapreneurs are often seen as “hybrid individuals, who persistently champion a vision of change in the face of frequent cynicism and resistance. They flourish when the organization provides them with an effective base from which to create and leverage innovative societal solutions and understand business process and priorities as well as sustainability imperatives.”

Intrapreneurs are willing and able to take risks in the name of an idea. They realize their vision by moving across organizations and sectors. Most important, “intrapreneurs compel their organizations to look outside their comfort zones — to see both the strategic risks and profound opportunities that exist beyond the purview of traditional business units,” co-author John Elkington asserts.

Intrapreneurs need acceptance, a support network of mentors, and good leadership to help master their skills and concepts. Given the ever-increasing rate of change before us, it is critical for government to tap into the expertise of this unique talent pool.

Intrapreneurs Are Government’s Gamechangers

Gamechangers are being sought after all over the world. Why? Gamechangers are not interested in incremental improvements; they are interested in facing our biggest challenges head-on and finding solutions that fundamentally shift the way we do things.  They are usually more ambitious for social change than for personal wealth and advancement. Gamechangers thrive on redesigning systems and are relentlessly in pursuit of the greater good. They are destined to lead transformational change.

The only answer to more problems is more problem-solvers. Intrapreneurs are government’s greatest asset. Yet, it continues to stifle this asset. To achieve transformational change, government needs to unleash the potential of the intrapreneur and let these real gamechangers get in the game.

Colleen McCormick is, not surprisingly, an intrapreneur. She has a degree in Political Science, an MBA in Executive Management specializing in Leadership, and is Director of Innovative Partnerships for the BC Government. She is also the National Chair of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada’s New Professionals, is the founder of the non-profit Social Innovators Network, and organizer for TEDxMileZero. Colleen’s motto: Relentless optimism.

Note: I am releasing individual essays from the collection, What are you skating towards in 2012?  on a regular basis. Upcoming contributions are by Kathy Bromley, Adam Kahane, Jacques Dufresne, John Stapleton, Cheryl Rose and Peter Deitz . You can access the accumulated essays here.

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BC Advisory Council on Social Entrepreneurship Releases Interim Report

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