“People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.”
— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Over the last two years or so, the term innerpreneur has cropped up to describe a type of business owner who has existed without label. What they all share is the common desire to start a business designed to make a difference in the world, and one that emphasizes the personal growth of the employees who work within it.
Tara Joyce, a prominent innerpreneur herself, sums the term up as “An entrepreneur who starts a business to find personal fulfillment (spiritually, emotionally, creatively) and wants to make a positive difference.
“Basically, it’s meaningful capitalism — business as a means to improve yourself and the world.”
This is a radical departure from the paycheck/profit grind; in this new model, people choose to work for the intrinsic happiness and fulfillment that comes with growing themselves.
The term first appeared in a book by Ron Rentel to describe those who are working to constantly learn and evolve, realize their full potential, and make a difference in the world. Let’s take a slightly closer look the opportunities for innerpreneurs, and why it may be a worthwhile path for you.
• Inner work
Innerpreneurs typically have a daily practice such as meditation or prayer, which has the dual purpose of providing greater context to the work they perform while offering insights into their own nature. They also view every action in their business as an opportunity to grow personally. Whether it’s answering the phone, dealing with a challenge, or hiring new people, an innerpreneur is constantly striving to be aware of how they act and react in an ever-changing business environment.
• The New Economy
As the economy shifts, our societal values shift accordingly, as we begin to redefine and answer questions like: “What’s important? What’s worth spending money on? Is there something more valuable?”
That creates exactly the right environment for innerpreneurship to flourish. Big business jobs are on the decline, and micro-enterprise is on the rise, creating a plethora of work options that offer more than “a one size fits all” work environment. Also, recent research confirms that values-centered organizations outperform organizations that simply focus on the bottom line.
• It’s not just for hippies
You may be looking at this and considering innerpreneurship as a clever way to escape inward and avoid the day-to-day business life. On the contrary, innerpreneurship is deep and full engagement in the business and its success. It is vital that an innerpreneur fully engage to get the best benefits both internally (happy, productive employees and healthy revenue streams) and externally (a planet populated by more nurturing, values-centered individuals.)
• How to be an innerpreneur
It all begins with re-evaluating context, or looking at old problems as new opportunities.
First, begin by shifting your perception, viewing work as the means to grow, rather than simply the means by which to make a profit.
Second, adopt a daily practice to cultivate awareness and equipoise. We can’t learn and grow in a state of reactivity — only when one is self-aware can growth happen, and that takes looking inside on a sustained basis.
Finally, consider continuity. We’ll forget from time to time that we are an innerpreneur, and slip into old habits or patterns. It takes constant effort to bring our business mind back into perspective and consider decisions from an innerpreneurship mode.
Why is all this important? Simply because a new leadership paradigm is afoot — one that requires leaders, entrepreneurs and those atop their organizations to walk their talk and cultivate a sense of inner understanding to be most effective as leaders. You’ve likely heard a version of this already, but it’s been proven true: You have to be able to lead yourself before you can effectively lead others.
Are you ready to be an innerpreneur? Your employees, and the planet, certainly are.
This article was published in the December 5, 2010 issue of the Asheville Citizen-Times. You can view the article online at: http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2010312050035
John Miles is CEO/Chief of What’s Next at Integritive, an Asheville firm specializing in web design & development, strategic planning, social media and e-marketing. For more information: www.integritive.com on twitter www.twitter.com/integritiveJM
At first blush, building a high-tech company on a game plan of “love, and be happy” doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for booming business success.
But when John Miles tells the story of Integritive, his Asheville-based web development/mobile marketing/interactive advertising company, it makes you wonder why every business doesn’t do it his way.
Miles grew up in a small business family. His parents owned businesses, and what he remembers most from his childhood was how unhappy they were about their chosen work. Years later, when the “start your own business” bug hit him, Miles was determined not to repeat his parents’ experience. “Love, and be happy” became the founding principle for his company.
Love and be happy for him meant a couple of things. Love the work you do and the people you do it with. Create a workplace with lots of room for fun and lightheartedness. See work as a strategy for learning and personal growth, a path for reaching your highest potential. Cultivate a daily practice — exercise, yoga, running, meditation, prayer — whatever helps maintain a healthy balance between your life and your work.
Miles was certain that if he built a team that subscribed to those principles, success would follow. After all, if you built your company around great people, made sure that they really liked their teammates and loved their work, and if you gave them lots of opportunity to grow, you probably couldn’t help but turn out great work and a growing string of satisfied customers.
It seems to have worked out that way. Integritive, which was founded in 2001, has enjoyed considerable growth every year, even through the recent economic slump. The company recently announced the addition of Integritive2, a group set up to help clients do a better job of weaving sustainability into their advertising and branding. The hope is that talking about sustainability in this
way will also encourage clients to become more sustainable. The new division not only moves the company closer to its goal of being the first full-service, under-one-roof agency in Asheville, but it also promotes the fact that sustainability is a core value.
John Miles is committed to continued growth of revenues and profits for his company, but even there his framework is different than most. He doesn’t measure the success of his company by profits, but by a matrix of goals of which profitability is one piece. He ticks through the list: “Are we happy? Are we growing as people and as a company? Are we viable, sustainable and abundant?”
For Miles, growth also means that the Integritive philosophy will touch more people and perhaps have a greater impact on its corner of the business
world. He speaks of a growing connection with other CEOs around the country who also believe in the potential of a more conscious style of business
to help reshape the world.
There has been, it seems to me, a kind of tectonic shift of business attitudes and values over the last half-century. The old business establishment had a kind of patrician sense of responsibility to its employees and to the larger world. By contrast, the new business establishment seems unduly self-centered, more avid in pursuit of their own interests, more willing to leave the fate of others — and the planet — to the frosty whims of the
marketplace. Perhaps we all are. Whatever the reasons, the marketplace and the workplace seem decidedly more Darwinian than they were just a couple of decades ago.
But perhaps, as they say, every movement carries with it the seeds of its opposites. If so, leadership styles like those that John Miles has embedded into Integritive may be the early signs of a holistic reintegration of business and the society it serves.
One can almost hear a familiar voice in the background: “Are we happy? Are we growing ourselves? Are we growing our company? Are we building a better world?”
I would bet a lot of money that it is.
Terry O’Keefe is an Asheville-based writer and technology consultant, and a not-quite-reformed entrepreneur. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally printed in the November 28, 2010 Asheville Citizen-Times