What is the biggest dilemma facing intrapreneurs? Unconscious behavior.  

Unconscious behavior impedes creativity, tenacity, agility, risk-taking, meaningful contribution and authentic collaboration in organizations.

We are wired to avoid change, so initiating change in a workplace is often met with resistance, stress and concern. Brain research suggests we rely on our usual patterns of behavior and our usual way of accomplishing tasks. Evolving how we think, perform and relate is fundamental to building intrapreneurial capacity and cultures.

Easier said than done? Not really, if we listen to Suzanne Lahl and Terri Egan. In preparation for their workshop during Intrapreneurship Conference Silicon Valley, we wanted to know more about the entrepreneurial mindset and how we can develop it.


You state that the biggest dilemma innovators face is unconscious behaviour. Why is that so and how does it play up?

Neuroscientists tell us that over 90% of our behavior comes from our unconscious (or the unconscious mind). 

Think of your unconscious as a reservoir (repository) of feelings, thoughts, patterns, memories and drives that influence your day to day life.  Sometimes the outcome of these unconscious influencers is great and sometimes not so much.

When might you be engaging in unconscious behavior?  Let’s use an innovation example:  You are going to bring a well thought out controversial idea to a group of stakeholders who are more vested in sameness than they are in change.  You are a bit anxious for the presentation before you enter the room.

As you engage with the stakeholder group, your brain’s prime directive for safety kicks in and now you are on autopilot.  When on autopilot vs. being in conscious awareness, our wise, courageous, strategic and inspired self gets derailed.  This can manifest much like a dark cloud coming over us where we lose track of main points, allow questions to interrupt our flow, get defensive and perhaps lose energy and confidence to handle challenges.  The meeting ends with you feeling unsupported and shot down.

What might the short and long term impacts of this experience be for you, the innovator?

Without mindset development practices that support you to closely examine the way you were thinking, feeling and behaving, your ability to learn from this experience, shape new responses and redirect your energy for sustainable innovation can be critically threatened.

Your resilience for innovating suffers.

Bottom line: Innovation and innovators too often challenge the status quo without preparing the soil because we lack understanding of automatic reaction to keep things steady, even when there is disruption all around.

Those of us who love innovation, novelty and change assume that everyone else does too.  That simply isn’t the case.  A mindset that embraces ambiguity and uncertainty is rare indeed.

So in fact, the mindsets that drive our behaviour are expired. Now what?

The good news is that we can rewire our brain – evolve, update our mindsets.  We need to bring neuroscience based mindset development (understanding our mind and our brain and how they influence behavior) into intrapreneur education.

The context that surrounds innovation is our belief that we can discover new and better ways to enhance our lives.  We must believe the same about ourselves.  We all have untapped potential. That belief fuels learning.

Engage experts who advocate mindset growth and action learning education to inspire and support behavior change over time. This creates new neural pathways.  Old depleting habits and automatic behavior have less influence when new neural pathways representing new practices get stronger and take over.

Understanding how to update your human operating system readily transfers to coaching, mentoring, leading, managing others.

It sounds like you’re advocating a complete re-do of how we work together within organizations and how we manage ourselves by rewiring our brains. Is that the key to innovation?

We keep our technology updated with the latest knowledge, but have ignored most of the developments in brain science.

Frankly, a lot of what happens in organizations is brain unfriendly …triggers  risk, fear, etc… qualities that get in the way of innovation WHILE ignoring brain friendly practices that support optimal thinking, performing and relating…all that could support innovation.

Our operating manual has new chapters – so let’s bring this information into our organizations via development.

How easy or difficult is that? As a manager of an innovation team, where should I start with this?

Start with yourself.  Experience mindset development.  Apply it to yourself – personally and professionally.  We’ll support you – DIVE right in:

  • DECIDE that you want to explore how optimizing your mind and brain impacts your performance. A recent Amazon search of neuroscience and innovation revealed 97 books on the subject.
  • INVESTIGATE –  Be your own lab rat. Choose one or two actions to put in place that you believe will optimize your brain’s ability to perform.  Put an action plan together for 2 weeks. This article (http://gbr.pepperdine.edu/tag/vuca/), our website (www.syncupleadership.com) – or our blogs on Entrepreneur.com (https://www.entrepreneur.com/author/terri-d-egan-and-suzanne-lahl will give you some ideas to get started.
  • VENTURE forward – Take a chance on yourself.  Choose a buddy who will engage with you. Support each other by sharing actions, outcomes and insights.
  • EVALUATE – Keep track of what happened, look for ways to iterate your experiment and keep going!

It’s not important that you add on lots of new actions – it’s important that you discover your inner change agent.  When you know that DIVING is doable – engage your team.

I guess you’ll be covering during Intrapreneurship Conference #8, Silicon Valley?

Exactly! In our workshop, we will examine the neuroscience behind the tendency to “go with what you know” and present methods for optimizing ways to introduce change in a fast-paced, complex environment.

By understanding what makes us and those around us fall into habit, and how to best manage that instinct, you can inspire, innovate and adapt to changes with more agility, insight and wisdom.  

Participants will leave the experience with practices they can immediately put in place at work and at home. If you join us (the session is on Friday morning, November 18th), you will understand:

  • The value proposition of mindset development for self and organization culture change
  • How being brain savvy impacts performance and well-being
  • How developing your whole self, we call this your SPINE power – spiritual, physical, intellectual, intuitive and emotional aspects – informs and sustains intrapreneurs
  • How to reduce automatic behaviors and patterns that derail healthy risk taking, engagement and strategic thinking, especially during change initiatives.
  • How the brain as a social organ influences our ability to create intrapreneurial cultures

And most importantly, you’ll leave with actions you can take on Monday morning to start rewiring!


Suzanne and Terri’s workshop is one of the 39+ sessions during Intrapreneurship Conference #8 Silicon Valley.

If you’re keen on developing your resilience and re-wiring your brain for change (as well as how you can support others in that), make sure you book your spot on time. With code IntraCnf-SyncUp, you’ll get a 15% discount on your ticket.

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