How Intrapreneurs Bridge the Innovation Gap in Traditional Business
Creativity Marketing Transformation

How Intrapreneurs Bridge the Innovation Gap in Traditional Business

My morning commute starts in Boston’s North End and ends in the city’s newly named Innovation District. About halfway through my walk to work, I reach the bridge that connects downtown Boston to this new neighborhood. It arches slightly to allow for smaller boats to pass beneath the steel and bolts holding it up; atop the peak, I can look down the alleyway of Fort Point Channel and see all the way to the ocean.

Toward the Ocean
I walk this route every day, but I only recently realized its unique vantage point. If I look at downtown Boston as the more traditional business world and the Innovation District as a place where intrapreneurs blossom, then the bridge is what connects the two. And when you look at this scene as a symbol for modern-day marketing, the bridge represents the intrapreneur who is enacting change within his or her organization. Fort Point Channel becomes the mental clarity that allows you to see the ocean, or the end goal.

What does it take to become the intrapreneurs, or bridges, who connect legacy businesses to the world of innovation? At the core, you have to dare to think differently, but a true forward-thinking professional recognizes that change only occurs as the result of a culture shift or movement. The bridge guides two sides to a center point where clarity and goals collide.

Fort Point Channel
To do this, you have to develop new frameworks for team development. You can’t look so far down the channel that you forget to first build trust with your colleagues. Imagine your team as the bolts that hold your ideas together. The weaker the trust between you and your team, the less stable your framework for change becomes.

Today’s leaders have an obligation to look beyond KPIs and hard metrics. By focusing on self-care, learning patterns, and empowerment, marketing leaders build stronger relationships with their team members. And strength in numbers often leads to greater success in the business world. Here’s how.


Most good ideas were once bad ideas. To become good ideas, they went through iterations. People came together and teased out the parts that were good. And it took time, emotional investment, and sometimes money before landing on an idea that could change the world.

As a manager or decision maker, you need to give your team time to discover the good ideas right under their noses. A 2012 study from Gallup found that 42 percent of the general American workforce reports feeling stressed on a daily basis.

Gallup Poll About Stress
A study submitted to Management Science suggests that “the association between employer actions and health care outcomes and costs is strong.” Medical News Today reported recently that working long hours is associated with “risky alcohol use.”

As a manager, part of your job is about putting your team in the best position for success. Despite looming deadlines, ensure your biggest assets are well, and give them the space they need to innovate.

Learning Patterns

It’s not always what you say, but how you say it. This is a big lesson I learned in the past year. I not only learned that words I use sometimes come off as harsh, but also that showing people good ideas, rather than telling them about them, is a better strategy. Science backs me up here:

  • The brain uses 50 percent of its resources on vision
  • Seventy percent of your sensory receptors are in your eyes
  • It takes 100 milliseconds before you comprehend a visual scene

How the brain works
Our brains are hardwired to hang on to big-picture ideas, not the granular steps in between. When you’re first introducing an idea to your team, it’s only natural to want to outline every aspect of the plan so you seem more organized and in control. Science suggests that this approach actually leads to the opposite effect: boredom.

When selling your ideas internally, start with the big idea and scale downward as people grow more interested. As people buy into your framework, work individually with stakeholders to ensure their opinions and feedback are implemented into your program. Remember, earning your team’s trust is more important than the idea itself at the beginning.


You can’t be the tyrant who issues orders and doesn’t take advice from peers. In fact, empowering your team to pull its weight often leads to greater success rates.

A recent study divided a room in half, telling one group that they would be tested on the information they’d be learning, and the other half that they’d have to teach the information to the other group. Both groups were tested, but the half who thought they’d later have to go on and teach the information scored much higher.

If we go back to the bridge metaphor, each bolt and steel rod needs to hold its weight or the entire structure will crumble to the ground. The same goes for your marketing team: If you don’t trust your staff enough to empower them and allow them to own different projects, then your big ideas will never be fully realized.

Why the Bridge Is Crucial

We know that high-pressure situations don’t often lead to creativity and productivity. As a marketing leader, you have to commit to cultivating your team’s true talents. Sometimes that means sacrificing your old modes of operation in favor of systems that promote self-care and creative thinking.

You’re the bridge connecting old ideas to new business innovation. Are you focusing on the right managerial practices to help your team see company goals more clearly?

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