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Tips for ‘Intrapreneurs’ Leading NDIS Transformations

16 August 2016 at 9:51 am
Doug Taylor
The director of resilient communities at welfare provider Uniting, Doug Taylor, offers his top three tips on how to survive as an “intrapreneur” working on the transformational journey to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in a Not for Profit.

Doug Taylor | 16 August 2016 at 9:51 am


Tips for ‘Intrapreneurs’ Leading NDIS Transformations
16 August 2016 at 9:51 am

Hot TopicThe director of resilient communities at welfare provider Uniting, Doug Taylor, offers his top three tips on how to survive as an “intrapreneur” working on the transformational journey to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in a Not for Profit.

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I’m a little tired of all this talk and obsession about startups and entrepreneurs, even the prime minister talks about them ad nauseam with a glint in his eye.

I don’t think it’s because I wish I could have their funky bean bags and ping pong tables in my workplace (well, maybe a little). Rather my angst is that in being too focused on pursuing the shiny new opportunities of entrepreneurship we miss the hard, and arguably more important, work of reforming our current organisations through the power of “intrapreneurs” (now try and spell that yourself).  

Don’t get me wrong. Entrepreneurs are critical to our society and economy for the disruptive role they play. But I love intrapreneurs because of the potential they bring to organisations and believe they are critical to social change and the enormous challenges and opportunities that the NDIS presents to the Australian community. This was recently validated in a survey the School for Social Entrepreneurs (I declare an interest as a director of SSE) conducted with leaders of Australian Not for Profits who are making the transition to the brave new world of the NDIS. The survey showed that these leaders are greatly concerned about the plight of their intrapreneurs and keen to find ways to support and develop them.

For now, let me offer three tips for how to survive as an intrapreneur working on transformation journeys to the NDIS in a Not for Profit (because let’s face it, it’s not an easy gig).

  1. Work as if you can’t fail  

Plenty of people in your organisation will want you to run a risk assessment on your plan and it never hurts to have your eyes open to all the possible eventualities. But someone needs to have their eyes fixed on the dream and helping people to raise their gaze beyond business-as-usual into new opportunities. To help myself and others get beyond what’s in front of us, I’ve always found it helpful to ask the question: “What would we do if we knew we couldn’t fail?”

There will be loads of bumps in the road for you and your team so you will need to inspire others around you about the possibilities, even though your dream may only be embryonic. Thinking like this makes you hopeful but also dangerous to others because you challenge the status quo, which is why you need to be a little calculating and so to my next two tips.

  1.   Stay under the radar

Good organisations by their very nature are focused on performance which means operating efficiently by standardising and repeating practices. They might incrementally innovate but will resist the intrapreneurs who challenge the way the machine works. This is why it’s important to stay out of the spotlight for as long as possible and work underground until you are ready to make the compelling case to the organisation for real investment. As the overused saying goes (perhaps because there’s an element of truth in it) “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission”.                                                                                   

  1.   Make sure you have air cover

To push the military metaphor a little further, you will also need support from people in the right places. Not only do you need to have people around who are smarter than you and have complementary skills, you also need friends in the right places. This means people with formal power who can be your sponsor when you are looking for investment or cop some heat to provide you with some protection.

One of the best strategies is to find people like you. Intrapreneurs are a rare breed and the School for Social Entrepreneurs has the perfect program for intrapreneurs leading NDIS change in their organisation.

The New NDIS Marketplace: From Surviving to Thriving program is an opportunity to learn about how disability services can become more customer-centric and how organisations can successfully adapt to major sectoral change. It will be delivered in an interactive and practical format, with senior speakers from organisations such as NDIA, NDS, Life Without Barriers, Valmar Support Services, Cerebral Palsy Alliance and NRMA Motoring & Services.

Find out more about the program here.

About the author: Doug Taylor is the resilient communities director at Uniting. He has built a 20 year professional career in the social sector out of his passion for social change, as well as an active life in volunteering. His interests are manifest in membership on the boards of the School for Social Entrepreneurs, the Australian Centre for Social Innovation, the Centre for Social Impact Advisory Board and as a trustee of the Steve Lawrence Social Innovation Fund. He tweets at @dougtayloruw and writes a blog.

Doug Taylor  |  @ProBonoNews

Doug Taylor is CEO of The Smith Family. He was previously deputy executive director at Uniting NSW and ACT.

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