IntrapreneurshipTo paraphrase Gump’s momma – life might be like a box of chocolates but, business is more like a Rubik’s Cube… and intrapreneurs are the ones to get all the colors lined up.

In a classic Rubik’s Cube, each of the six faces is covered by nine stickers to make up different solid colors. You can twist and turn the faces to mix up the colors and the aim is a simple one: for the puzzle to be solved, each face must consist of one color.

Easy, yes?

One of the ways to do the cube is simple – get a hammer, break it up into its component parts and rebuild it. But that doesn’t feel particularly satisfying does it?

Well the cube has over 40,000 ways to arrange the 8 corners – and over 200,000,000 ways to arrange the 12 edges. And the permutations to ‘do the cube’? A mere 43 quintillion (that’s 43 followed by 18 zeroes).

I remember first playing with the Cube back in 1980 – and I remember one guy in our class being able to get all the sides the right colors within ONE MINUTE…. ONE HANDED! Whilst, at the time, he garnered moderate plaudits from his schoolmates, I can confirm that being able to do a Rubik’s Cube one handed within 60 seconds is not a life skill that helps you in adult life unless you take part in one of the multi-million dollar cube competitions out there.

But what does the Cube teach us?

Well, for a start, it can be a complex thing – and, for most cases, you have to be prepared to make a small aspect (one side of the cube) temporarily worse for the sake of the big picture. That is where the first tricky thing happens – we have to be prepared to sacrifice our individual ‘ideal’ of having our own little world being safe (e.g. all nine pieces being the same color) in order to achieve the greater good (all six sides the right color).

The cube is a pretty good analogy for life: as infants, we are ‘complete’ – basically, fresh out of the box – no flaws, no failings, no prejudices, no fear – in fact we have none of the beliefs that inhibit us later in life. Life then messes the squares around – we develop problems physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Business is the same: we start with a blank sheet of paper and it is only over time that we introduce complexities (process, administration, organizational structure, bureaucracy, people with silos, politics and domains). Before we know it, we have an ‘organization’ where people are protecting their own side of the cube even if the rest of the business suffers along the way.
Killer Rabbit

And this is where the intrapreneur comes in – someone willing to disrupt the colors as long as it delivers something new to the business. And let’s be honest, the intrapreneur will also be asking “why be cube-shaped? Why not spherical? Why not be e-based and not actually a physical entity at all?”

Now if you care to check on the internet, there are many methods and suggestions on how to complete the cube – much the same as there are many (MANY!) sites out there offering advice on how to get / keep a business on track. Whether it is the Rubik’s Cube or your business, you benefit from a structure and a process.

So, I guess, you need to know what your ‘cube’ looks like – what your people, process, systems, customers, objectives, reputation, etc. are doing and is there an imbalance as you focus too much on one thing and let other parts (‘sides’) fall away. In business, the six sides may well be 8, 10, 12 or more – and they are all vying to be ‘complete’ even if it does not achieve the bigger picture. Mathematically… there may be more than 43 quintillion ways to reach your ideal.

In business, 43 quintillion ways to get your business on track is not a problem when you are enjoying it.

When you first buy the cube from a store, the pieces are already in place – inviting you to play with it, mess it up, and have fun – is your business ‘fun’ at the moment?

There is a certain sense of achievement that comes from working the permutations and slowly creating your ideal whole: taking pleasure in following the process, sticking to the goals and seeing what transpires. Sometimes, you need someone with no vested interest in any of the sides as they don’t have the element of protectionism that blocks business success.

Contact me for an informal chat about intrapreneurship.

Intrapreneurs break stuff