Liberating Leadership, Innovation and Creativity

David Gram: BECOMING A DIPLOMATIC REBEL

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Entrepreneurs often face an uphill battle. It’s difficult enough to come up with a product, service, or system that’s innovative, useful, and effective. When you add in hours of solo work and trying to gain funding, it’s no wonder entrepreneurs seem stressed.

That’s where intrapreneurs have it easy, right? They are already employed within an established company, with resources and budgeting. Well, that notion is incorrect. Intrapraneurs don’t walk a path of leisure. Deriving new thinking and strategies within a business is notoriously difficult, and it’s especially difficult to be an intrapreneur within a legacy company. The bigger and older the organization, the more difficult the task. That being said, change is constant, and businesses have to adapt. The result? Intrapreneurs are becoming more important.

David Gram worked as an intrapreneur within companies for 15 years, including LEGO, before starting his own company, Diplomatic Rebels. Growing up with two artist parents, Gram had always been drawn to creativity. His career started as a semi-pro drummer before he ventured into the realm of music management. There, he found he was really good at management and began to realize there needed to be a balance between the creative and business mind, which the skill intrapreneurs often excel with.

…On Being an Intrapreneur at LEGO

Although ‘Intrapreneur in Residence’ isn’t Gram’s official title, it is a good representation of what he does at LEGO. By working at LEGO as his own company, he isn’t forced to follow the organization hierarchy. Instead, he has the opportunity to follow the project. He is able to work to solve the big challenges, build the structure or procedure, ensure the challenge is solved, and move on to the next project.

And more and more businesses are pulling in intrapreneurs for these types of positions. Similar to freelance contractors, these interim intrapreneurs are able to move freely and strategically within a company, solving problems and driving radical innovation within an organization without having to worry about the otherwise mundane tasks of the org’s employees and managers.

There’s no question that there’s an influx of employees operating with an intrapreneurial mindset, and when businesses employ this forward way of thinking, it appeals to those intrapreneurial individuals. They care more about the project and less about their position. They’re less interested in managing than they are in problem solving.

This is why employees like Gram thrive in free positions like resident intrapreneurs. At LEGO, he is able to engage in digital transformation, launching pilot programs, and propelling a legacy company forward. He explained his role as questioning “How do you merge digital and play in a way that doesn’t compromise the creativity of the child?”

…On Being a Diplomatic Rebel

Questioning how to transform and add value to a company/system without compromising the integrity is the job of an intrapreneur. However, creativity and project management can be difficult to balance, especially within a legacy company that is set in its ways.

This is why Gram started Diplomatic Rebels, to teach intrapreneurs the skills required to work within an established company. The key, according to gram is to be both a rebel, who can challenge the system and ask why, and a diplomat, who can be strategic and business minded enough to get the
corporation on board.