Passing the Technical Torch: "Intrepreneurs" are the New Entrepreneurs
Today more and more women are breaking out of the traditional corporate world to become entrepreneurs
These women are building companies-from the ground up-and finding new ways to innovate in technology. And as the number of women owned businesses increases, we see an influx of new companies entering the market which, thanks to old-fashioned competition for customers, drives innovation and creativity.
Recently, I spoke at a conference focused on preparing female scientists and engineers for successful transition into entrepreneurship. The conference held by the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine, offered a session to discuss the concept of "intrepreneurship" as an alternative to the traditional entrepreneurial thinking.
Simply put, intrepreneurs create businesses within existing companies. While this may seem far fetched, I speak from experience, because I consider my self an intrepreneur inside of IBM. The fact that Iím leading IBM's Big Green Innovations group - focused on water management, alternative energy and carbon management - isn't a coincidence. It's because I wanted to work on something I care deeply about, and I worked hard to raise awareness inside the company that this wasn't just a good idea - it was imperative.
Our Big Green Innovations initiative was started as part of a $100 million investment in 10 new businesses based on ideas generated during InnovationJame in 2006. IBM used Jams to enable broad collaboration, gain new perspectives on problems and challenges and find important patterns and themes - all with the goal of accelerating decision making and action. Jams are grounded in "crowdsourcing" also known as "wisdom of the crowds." And this particular "crowd" - hundreds of thousands of IBMers, their families and IBM customers - called resoundingly for an effort like Big Green Innovations. And so, it happened.
But my experience certainly isnít unique. Intrepreneurship continues to grow as companies expand and evolve in order to respond to new developments in technology and play in emerging markets. So bring your ideas to the table, keep your eyes on trends and keep your minds open-opportunities are everywhere, you just have to watch for them.
The biggest opportunities are in the white spaces, the gaps that often exist between existing solutions and client needs. I encourage you to find those gaps and figure out how to fill them, bridge them or move around and beyond them with innovation. And don't forget to create a business plan - no executive or venture capitalist will listen to your ideas if you don't have one. Your business plan is a key component of your ongoing success because there's always a budget and always a bottom line.
The next trick is to set your idea in motion. Before sharing your thoughts widely, I recommend bulletproofing your idea by discussing it with just one or two trusted colleagues and/or friends who are willing to give you real insight and feedback. While you're at is, begin brainstorming your "dream team" of people who could help make your idea a reality. If you consider yourself an idea person, surround yourself with finance and operations experts. And, if youíre one to execute, select visionary, analytical people. With careful consideration, these people will often help you gauge whether your idea is feasible within the walls of your company and help you put it in motion.
But even with this roadmap, understand that there will be challenges to overcome and critical skills to develop. The importance of reputation, your colleagues' confidence in you and hard work can never be underestimated - no matter the size of the company. There will also be challenges when it comes to managing your time, getting support for your ideas and gaining deep knowledge of the market opportunities around your new focus area. With all of these potential obstacles, self-confidence is more important than ever.
While intrepreneurship might seem like a pie-in-the-sky idea, if you have the passion and the confidence to put it in motion, you will very likely reap well-deserved benefits.
And the best thing about this new career is that it will be all of your own - all the way from concept to implementation to expansion, growth and success.
About the Author:
Sharon L. Nunes
Vice President, Big Green Innovations, IBM Research
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