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José Pires: Intrapreneurship, Excellence & Innovation

My guest is Mr. José Pires. He has been an advisor and leader for companies ranging from startups to a Fortune 50, some of those include Sony, Nestle and Cymer, one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies.

He is an executive Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and he has a Bachelor's in Engineering Physics alongside an MBA in Investment Banking and Entrepreneurship. I am super excited to bring you this episode.

This is a very fascinating conversation around intrapreneurship, excellence, innovation and as either intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs or just everyday people, how we can be more innovative. How can we bring a fresh new perspective so that we can have different outcomes and experiences in life?

What I am super thrilled about is that the information you're about to know comes from a lot of research and being on the insides of billion-dollar companies. I believe that's a first here on The Get WealthFit Show.

This information primarily coming out of the corporate world but applied to entrepreneurs and achievers here for you.

Dustin
José, you work your tail off to graduate from the University of Kansas with a degree in Engineering Physics towards the top if not, the top of your class. Your work pays off and you land your dream job out of college, yet you felt you were going to get fired on the very first week. What was that dream job and why did you feel this way?
José
I grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My dad had an eighth-grade education and he used to grow flowers for a living. My mom wasn't so lucky. She had a third-grade education and she was yanked out of the farm she worked on to be working full-time on the job so that she could help support her family.
Although we grew up very poor, we had tremendous love for our parents. They work incredibly hard to provide us the basic education that they never had. That was a very important component for me growing up. I had a very modest upbringing, but very focused on education. I was very grateful for achieving a certain level of success in education.
I was born in Brazil.
I grew up there and then I was educated here in the United States. I have a background in engineering, investment bank and entrepreneurship.
My first job was working for a Japanese electronics giant, Sony. I was both incredibly excited and highly confused because I had been all over the place.
To put a little context, what Sony represented from a technological standpoint at that time was equivalent to you getting hired working for Google and Facebook R&D type of work now. At that time, it was the pinnacle of technology.
I was so excited. When I joined the organization, I thought, “I'm going to come in here and I'm going to get into some rotational program for technology and mentorship for how to develop to the next level.” That's what I thought would happen.
My boss, his name was Shigeo Hayashi. He’s a Japanese man who spoke very little English. My Japanese was pretty crappy. We communicate in this thing called Jinglish, which is these monosyllable types of communication.
I say, “Hayashi, what is my assignment?” He looks at me and he says, “José, you must identify 100 innovations.” I looked at him and I said, “Time out, Hayashi. I'm the new guy. I got a good academic background.
I did well in school, but I have zero experience on this stuff. It was designed by the best minds in the world. I have no chance.”
He looks at me undeterred and says, “You must do it.”
I was like, “Did I just wander and joined a Star Wars episode here and this New Order is saying, ‘Follow the force,’ and it's all going to come together for me?” I figured that he meant it so I had to go do it. That’s when panic settled in after two or three days walking around the place.
This is a very high-tech center with incredibly advanced manufacturing happening there as well. At that time, they're producing 30,000 displays, all done by robots. I felt completely inapt and let alone being able to identify 100 innovations. By the middle of the week, I had not come up with much.
I was panicking.
I thought that I'm an imposter. I don't belong here. They're going to find me out and I'm going to get fired by Friday.
To summarize that a bit, I did not sleep probably for the next three days. I probably got some sleep but very little. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. On Friday at around noon, he sits down with me and I had come up with a report with 100 items.
The reality is that I had probably twenty good ideas. I created 80 items that were fillers. The way I did my report is I put the best ten at the beginning and the best ten at the end and put all the fillers in the middle. You learn how to do reports in college.
I present it to him and I'm thinking he's going to look through this and he's going to say, "Great job. I have the next assignment for you.” He proceeds to go for my report and then he goes through every one of the items and starts asking me deeper questions about those items, questions that I wasn't prepared to answer most of the time.
That went on and it was like torture. Four hours later, without even a break, I'm in the middle of my report that he's reviewing. It's the crappy portion of my report. He stops, looks at me and says, “José how come you're so stupid?” There is clearly a language barrier there, but it doesn't matter. I felt like my whole identity had been tossed away.
The best highly educated answer I could come up with was like, “I don't know.” He says, “Your problem is you think too much like an engineer. You must learn to listen to the process.” For me, that didn't help me. It was like some Asian wisdom that I couldn't grasp. Now I'm in the Karate Kid movie and from Mr. Miyagi tells me that I should wax his car a certain way, I'm going to become a karate fighter by the end of the week.
I was very distraught by the whole thing. I thought that my job was at risk because I've had a complete failure in my very first week at work. I spent a horrible weekend trying to recover from that. I thought about quitting. On Sunday, I rationalize the whole thing and decided I would go back to work on Monday and face this again.
I went in there. I had a good attitude, a big smile on my face. I see him coming from the other side of the building with a big smile saying in Japanese, “Ohayo gozaimasu, José-san,” which is “Good morning, José. How are you?” I fake my smile and say, “Good morning. How are you?” He looks at me and said, “I have a new assignment for you.”
I was like, “Wonderful.” My whole spirit lifted. Now I'm going to go on my journey. I'm going to get the training that's needed and I'm going to get the introduction that's needed. He looks at me and says, “This week, you will identify 200 innovations.” I lower my shoulders. I thought about punching the man but I didn’t.
The reason I like to share that story is that if I fast forward that two and a half decades, Hayashi-san became one of the greatest mentors, father figure professionals that I've ever had. He leads that function for Sony in Tokyo. What he taught me is something that allowed myself and the teams I work with to become award-winning global innovators.
There are a couple of main lessons. One is that when it comes to real innovation, it doesn't matter what your race is, what your gender is, what your ethnicity is, your level of experience, how many certificates you have hanging on the “I love myself” wall. None of that matters.
What matters is certain human traits that true innovators have because you're going into unknown territory. They come down to having a sense of purpose about what you're doing, but then having the ability to execute on innovation. For your audience and the entrepreneurs that are reading this, I believe they can relate to that.
Successful entrepreneurs have these traits as well. It comes down to having passion about what you're doing, but then having incredible levels of discipline and resilience. We can talk about passion, discipline and resilience. It's not just falling in love with some things. It’s not just following a set of rules and being disciplined. There are very specific meanings for those words.
The second big lesson is that when you're looking for innovation specifically, you have to have the mind of the novice, because in the mind of an expert, there's only one way. It's the mind of the novice where there are many ways. That's where innovation comes from. Innovation fundamentally is a human ability to take a different perspective on a problem.
That comes from the mind of the novice.
The mind of an expert has to a certain extent lost that ability. The reason he did that to me, which was almost traumatic experience early on, was fundamental because I would only have the mind of the novice for a period of time. He knew I was going to develop expertise and then I would lose that ability. It was an emotional experience, but certainly one that carried on through my life.
Most of those emotional experiences that you can overcome the challenge become a big part of who you are. It became a big part of what innovation acceleration became.
Dustin
I love the mind of a novice. Do you think entrepreneurs have this baked in? They're looking to problem solve. There's no road map generally.
José
Yes. Most of what I have done has been accelerating excellence in innovation in corporate settings. It's what we call intrapreneurship versus entrepreneurship, but the models are very similar. It's whether or not you're doing that within an ecosystem or outside on your own.
When I use the word innovator, the innovators are entrepreneurs. If you think about the best entrepreneurs, they are much like the best innovators. They become obsessed with a problem.
What differentiates them from the others, at least the successful ones, is that they are so obsessed with the problem. They spend so much time with it. They look at it from many different perspectives that it's that different perspective of the problem that will allow for a noble solution to come through.
If it's the right one, it could become a new business model, a new approach to the problem that will generate value. Entrepreneurs don't look at problems and they just brainstorm solutions to the problem. That doesn't work. You're going to come up with the same solutions everybody else has. You have to look at the problem from many different perspectives. I believe entrepreneurs do that better than others.
Dustin
When you say perspective, it's easy to see people brainstorming and masterminding. If it's a customer challenge or opportunity to innovate, where do you insert that in getting their feedback into this loop?
José
Different business models have different paths. It depends on the business model you have and the evolution of the business model. A couple of key points come to mind. There is one where you don't even think about the customer. I think the entrepreneur is obsessed with the problem and the customer is the entrepreneur.
Dustin
There are people out there that say, “Go talk to the customer. They can feed you. They're going to supply you with everything.” I think of that story of Steve Jobs where he's like, “If you ask people about the iPhone or the iPod or an MP3 player, they're not going to give you the iPod. They're just going to say to make it bigger and make it faster.” He innovated and created what he did.
José
That’s the first model. If you think about what Steve did, it was innovation for simplification, about beautiful elegant design. You can do a focus group of a customer and he'll say, “Let's do an iPod.” Unlikely, that's going to happen.
He had an obsession with the problem, which is the unnecessary complexity that we had on design on certain things. He narrowed the focus to certain markets and saw where there was something that he could apply to focus. That obsession with the problem itself allows him to identify potential paths, then you have to think, “What customers can benefit from this path that I’m taking here with the business?”
The customer comes later. There is the other side, which is maybe a more traditional approach where you're going to lay out what your customers are, what their needs are and what the segments look like. You reverse engineer it to some problem.
I don't know what the percentages are, the breakdown between one versus the other approach. My personal experience has been I don't even know who the customer is early on. I'm just obsessed with this problem. Entrepreneurs very often are solving problems for themselves.
They are the first customer.
They realize, “There are more people like me out there.” That may be true or not depending on the individual, but a lot of them take that path. They go test the market to find out what's out there and if the market has the same response that they had, both approaches will work. You bring the customer in at different stages.
Dustin
I’m thinking through the direction of where we're headed, I hear innovation. Knowing you come from a corporate background, I could see people, even my younger self saying, “This sounds great. I would love to innovate all day.” However, people that innovate have big budgets. My question for you is how does the small guy or gal entrepreneur, they're innovating because they're problem-solving. Generally, when we think of these big innovations, here's a classic. If you think of Uber, they're trying to figure out autonomous cars. They're not going to monetize that for a little bit. There are tons of investment in innovation going in there, but I don't have an Uber-like budget. What do I do?
José
I think that's at the heart of the innovation and something that's going to transcends our time. There's an eternal concept that a lot of people don't understand.
We need to demystify what innovation is.
One of the things that I like to say is that if we want to have extraordinary innovation from entrepreneurs to larger organizations, through society in general, we need to make the extraordinary innovation ordinary. That requires that you start by defining what innovation is.
There is a lot of confusion about innovation.
The media will pound certain aspects of innovation on us and we start believing that that's what innovation is. Let’s start with the very basics here. For context, I have personally trained more than 30,000 innovation leaders in more than 100 organizations in over twenty countries, so I've seen a lot.
Initially, most people think of innovation based on what they see on the media, “If I'm not working on maybe the R&D for Google, Facebook, Uber and you pick a technological company, I'm not an innovator.” That's not true. First of all is to understand what innovation means. I’ll play you a little bit. What do you think innovation is? Give me a gut feeling. There's no right or wrong.
Dustin
I think cutting edge, R&D, big budgets, people in different buildings and renegades.
José
You're an entrepreneur. You have to give a definition of innovation to someone else. What words do you use to define what innovation is to them?
Dustin
What immediately comes to mind is creative, problem-solver, solutions-focused.
José
Those are good thoughts, but we're still not there in a very sharp definition. It should be done in a way that the CEO of the organization and the lowest level in the organization all can understand and they can something about it. What do you think of the word innovation relates to?
Dustin
To bring new light.
José
The root word for innovation, “inno” is a new idea. Do you think that a new idea is an innovation, yes or no?
Dustin
It could be.
José
It could be but not necessarily. I have lots of new ideas. Most of them are not so good. A new idea is a byproduct of perhaps a creative process and you can come up with lots of new ideas. That by itself is not an innovation. What do you think a new idea needs to deliver to be considered an innovation?
Dustin
It needs to create a spark, a new way of thinking or a new path, an alternative solution.
José
That is still very much of the core concept of what a new idea is. To call it an innovation, a new idea needs to create what?
Dustin
New ways of being and operating.
José
Those new ways of being and operating ultimately, do you agree that they will have to create value?
Dustin
Yes.
José
Innovation is new ideas that create value. That's more than just creativity. Now we have a subset of new ideas that create value. Do you think we got it that innovation is new ideas that create value?
Dustin
I'm going to say no. I would stop there but I feel like there's more.
José
I love that because most people stop there and they say, “I'm an innovator because I have new ideas that create value.” Unfortunately, that means nothing.
Dustin
You’ve got to execute.
José
95% of innovation is the execution and entrepreneurs know that. At least the entrepreneurs who have been on the journey, they realize that. Ideas are everywhere. What are uncommon are people willing to put their reputation behind ideas.
New ideas that create value are fewer, but you still need people who are willing to put their reputation behind those ideas. People with the traits of passion, discipline and resilience to make it work. The ultimate definition is that to make the extraordinary innovation ordinary and to define it in ordinary terms, innovation is the implementation of new ideas that create that. Because I work with lots of organizations, small and large. Every one of them has a large cemetery of new ideas that create value. They're good ideas.
Nobody is willing to take the risk and put their reputation behind them to see them through.
This doesn't matter if you're an independent entrepreneur or if you're in a large corporation as an intrapreneur. This dynamic is pretty much the same other than you have more of a safety net when you're doing that within the organizations, but the implementation of new ideas that create value.
Everybody in the organization realizes that, “I can do that. I can implement new ideas that create value at different scales, for sure.” This leads to the next point you mentioned. Notice that there is no word about technology and this definition about doing R&D type of work because the next level is that there are different levels of innovation.
If I use organizations, there's some great work done on this research around innovative organizations. One of them talks about this golden ratio of innovation. It’s that when you look at the most innovative organizations in the world, these are approximations across all industries.
There are three levels of innovation.
There is core innovation, adjacent innovation and disruptive or transformational innovation. Across all industries, you are going to see that there are about 70% of all innovations happening at the core.
20% may happen as adjacencies and you're going to have only 5% to 10% who are disruptive or transformational. It has nothing to do with technology. It has to do about the disruption of the business model. Technology is a tool for that. This is important because people don't feel they’re innovative because the benchmark that they use is what's covering the media and what's covering the media 100% of the time is the 5% or 10% transformational and disruptive stuff. This causes, in my opinion, a tremendous loss in both the organizations and society because people start thinking of themselves as not the innovative type. Thinking of yourself as the innovative type is a prerequisite to be an innovator. There's a connection in there.
For the audience to have a little bit more clarity, core is when you're doing innovations to the core of your business, the performance engine of your business. You're finding better ways of implementing new ideas that create value. Adjacencies are extensions of the core. They could be a new market, a new technology, new geography, a new business model. You have disruptive or transformational and this is then different. I am disrupting perhaps the business model of the core. This is a very important separation because the mechanisms for core, adjacent and disruptive innovation are different. Without going into too many details, in core and adjacent, you'll still survive within the core business, your building innovations and implementing them.
When you're talking about disruptive and transformational, you're talking about people who are threatening the existence of the business. If you leave them linking around in the building, the culture is going to eat them up for breakfast and chew them up. You got to move these people away because their mission is to destroy the mothership. The mothership is not going to take that kindly. If they do not have physical separation, if they do not have an executive shield in a larger organization that protects them from the core, they're going to die. That's why it's hard often for larger organizations to do disruptive and transformational innovations. That's why you have a lot of independent entrepreneurs who ended up doing that because they cannot survive in the current ecosystem of the organization because the organization ultimately does not allow that to happen. There is a lot of work being done on that where organizations are more cognizant of this dynamic. They’re setting up the structures that allow entrepreneurs to be in the business still but separate.
Dustin
I feel like I’ve been reading articles or at least maybe it's because it's what's put in front of me. You could speak to that. I feel like companies are starting to catch onto this and you catch some of these news stories where they're trying to disrupt.
A key takeaway for those big companies or anyone is if they truly want to do this, being in a different location is key because you get sucked in it. Our dynamic here at WealthFit and FortuneBuilders is very interesting. You describing this is spot on a picture of this and I can see it and feel it. A big takeaway is either that shield or the physical location. I think of Steve Jobs when he recruited people within Apple and then they flew the flag. They were rebels and he put them in one location.
José
It's interesting how certain entrepreneurs like Steve have that intuitive sense for it. Perhaps because we have studied a lot of people like him and others that we have discovered that there are certain patterns and systems. They're a part of that so that we can have more of the average person who can learn from that and leverage that. The other important thing that I would like to share may be helpful for entrepreneurs. The most innovative companies in the world are not the great enduring companies in the world. If you look over a long period of time and the companies who achieve greatness, which is hard to do, and the ones who achieve enduring greatness, which is even harder to do, they are not the most innovative.
It's interesting because a lot of people say like, “I can't believe you're saying that because you're supposed to be bumping innovation.” The reason they're not is that if you continuously innovate but you don't have a very clear purpose, you are scattered. A lot of entrepreneurs and a lot of innovators have that tendency because they fall in love with innovation for its own sake. It's a very important trap not to fall into. What does it require to achieve in this enduring greatness? That's a key point. First of all, the world of greatness is filled with contradictions and it makes it very difficult. We are going to have things like, “You need to have purpose and discipline. You need to have linear thinking and nonlinear thinking. You need to have high technology deployment and human values of empathy, trust and vulnerability. You need to have excellence and innovation.”
That goes back to the main theme of what we have been doing for many years. Excellence and innovation are forces pulling in very different directions. Excellence and innovation despise each other. Mediocrity, when you look at those contradictions, tries to make a choice one or the other. The world of greatness is an and world, not an or world. It's not a balance between those forces. It's a blend that depends on context. To pick excellence in innovation a little bit further, excellence is about making the best out of the systems that you have. It’s squeezing efficiencies out of those systems and getting higher productivity and higher profitability.
Innovation looks at that and says, “There's got to be a better way. You just got to change the system. There's got to be a completely different way.” In the world of innovation, they will continuously think about better ways and then come up with better ways and then disrupt themselves again. Both are bad because if you just operate in the world of excellence, you're going to fine-tune the system and eventually becomes obsolete. They will say, “I told you, the solution is innovation.” That's not what the research shows. The research shows that the most innovative companies actually will die because they continuously innovate, they disrupt themselves continuously and they scatter because they do not have consistency with their purpose. What is the solution then? The solution is the blend.
First of all, if you're in the horse business, you want to squeeze efficiency out of those horses. You want them to be faster, stronger and healthier. That's wonderful, but the world of innovation is looking at that and say, “I cannot design cars by squeezing efficiencies out of horses. I'm going to have a new paradigm, a new perspective of the transportation problem.” New ideas will come up and maybe a car would be the solution. Excellence eventually becomes obsolete. Innovation is good in the beginning, but the problem is that most organizations and individuals are unable to scale the innovation they got. Great enduring organizations are operationally excellent. When I say operations, I'm not just talking about the direct operations of the business. I'm thinking of the entire business broadly, finance, accounting, HR and operations.
You're optimizing that system and you are looking at parts of it or even the whole and say, “There's got to be a better way.” Not a 10% or 20% better way, maybe a 500% better way. Excellence requires innovation to continue its progress, but once you have the innovation, you don't become the great enduring organization by continuously innovating. You become that organization by scaling the innovation that you have. Do you know how you scale innovation with a clear purpose? It’s with excellence. Even though excellence and innovations don’t like each other, they are absolutely complementary and necessary for achieving and doing greatness.
This applies to organizations and businesses of all sizes. It's one of those fundamental truths that we have learned through experience. It's important that I highlight that you. I have zero visionary capabilities for predicting the future. I think you learned that from the innovators as well and I've learned that from all these wonderful innovators I've worked with. They don't have that ability. Steve Jobs did not have an ability to predict the future better than you and I do. They have new ideas, they have fresh perspectives, but they're highly empirical. They test to see what works. Once something works, they try to understand why it works and they will either replicate or scale that. From the outside looking in, they look like geniuses, but they just have a very specific thought process on how you actually scale innovation. That's important because it democratizes innovation for all of us. We all can do this. We’re all innovators. We all have the inherent ability to take a different perspective on a problem. One level or the other, we have the capacity to innovate.
Dustin
I may come from the world where we often package things and sell them as the solution. Often everyone's looking for that. If you think of weight loss, we’re thinking of magic pill or the machine that gives you abs, or instant riches if you come from that world. I love that you spoke to the duality of it.
You were talking about innovation and excellence, but isn't life duality?
It's our blending of it. Obviously, you apply that here but I feel like that is life. It's our ability to blend it, which people don't want to hear generally because it's not, “Follow this system step by step.” There is some nuance of, “You’ve got to do this, but at the complete end of the spectrum, you've got to do the other thing.” I think that's very telling.
José
I've spent a lot of time looking at excellence. As a result, I have to look at the flip side of that, which is mediocrity, which is most of what all of us and organizations we ever achieve is that mediocrity level. Greatness and excellence are very hard to achieve. Dealing with that duality that you talked about, those forces pulling in very different directions is very important. I'll say something that may sound a bit controversial. Work-life balance is the signature of mediocrity. It was like, “I can't believe that. We want to have work-life balance.” No, you don't.
Dustin
What is balance?
José
If you strive for work-life balance, I don’t know what that is, what is the right thing. It's different from Dustin than it is from José for sure. It's very personal because we have different lives and we have different works. What does that look like for everybody? It’s what I've seen by looking at not only by looking at enduring greatness, not only for organizations but also for individuals and the ones who achieved a higher level of fulfillment. I'm not talking just performance. They do achieve that as well, but they are more fulfilled individuals. First of all, it’s what we have done in the corporate world and this is a very large sample size of what we have seen. There is research that supports this as well. After you've made a certain level of money, there is zero correlation between the level of fulfillment you have in your life and work and how much more money you make.
There's a certain threshold that you have to clear. If you're below that you'll feel that you need more money. I think a nice stage is $75,000 and more. That’s true, I’ve seen that. I work with organizations that are very well to do people who are miserable. It's the majority. To talk about work-life balance, if I look at the few that achieved a high level of fulfillment in their lives, they do not have a work-life balance. They have a work-life blend. It is not a balance. It is a blend. The blend is different for different individuals, “I need to spend time with my family.” Of course, you do. That's a matter of priority. You have to make the priorities that you need to make.
If my wife calls me and says, “José, I need you because something happened,” I will leave immediately. That has nothing to do with work-life balance. That's priority. It’s a blend and the blend is difficult. This is one of the key things that we have found to find that blend. If I look at that small group that has found the perfect blend for them, what I've seen them is that they have found an alignment of their personal purpose and values with the professional purpose and values in that organization. Largely a lot of the systems that we have in organizations is to allow for a greater alignment of personal purpose with organizational purpose because that's very important.
The whole journey of innovation and greatness starts with purpose. When that purpose is misaligned, you’re going to get all sorts of financial compensation and it's not going to make you fulfilled. If you want to be at your best, you need to have that alignment. Organizations are typically not set up for that. We create subsystems in organizations that allow through specific actions, activities and projects that people do to experiment a bit within organizations to try to align their personal purposes with the purpose of the organization.
There are a lot of difficulties with that. A lot of organizations don't have clear purposes to start. What do you align with? I understand it. If it wasn't easy, we would have a whole lot more people who are operating at this highest level of self-actualization that people should strive for if they are aware of it. It's not easy, but there are mechanisms to help facilitate that alignment. My message here is that whatever you're working on, do a self-assessment. What is your purpose as an individual and does that work aligned with that purpose?
Dustin
Organizations that are knowing this for the first time, you have to work to get to this point. What I'm thinking is do you do this in hiring? Is that critical in the hiring process? What's your purpose? Try to get that applicant that you're interviewing to share that.
José
It's complex. I'm not going to pretend that it's easy because a lot of organizations have not made a clear purpose beyond making money. You have to know what the purpose is. If the organization knows that, you certainly want to identify candidates who fit in that purpose. You can talk about feeding the culture. The purpose is the ultimate guide for the culture of the organization. It starts with purpose and values. When people talk about, “I want to do culture alignment," how do you do that if not through the purpose alignment and through the alignment of values that individuals have with an organization? One statistic that I have looked at is that the average CEO in the United States has a tenure of three years. There is no doubt that the purpose of organizations and the values of organizations are somewhat shaped by the senior leader.
There are a lot of organizations out there who have not thought about that and they have not dealt with it. They inherit purposes and values from previous years. Purpose and values do not come from the mind, it should come from the heart. It's very hard to do that if it was not your purpose and value, if your purpose does not align with your predecessors. This is a difficult dynamic for organizations. This sounds like a bit fluffy but the reality is it’s incredibly important. If you're an entrepreneur, I would like you to take some time to think about whatever you're working on. What is the purpose of that? Does it align with your own purpose? What are the values that you have? Do those values align with that purpose? As you bring people in, make sure that they have values and purposes that are aligned with that. That will save you a lot of headaches and heartaches.
Dustin
As I go through the seasons of life, I embrace this more and more. I know when I was younger it was all about the money and the accolades. To know something like this, it would be like, “That better work for him.” That's very short-term thinking is what I found in my career.
If you truly want to build greatness and excellence, something that lasts and something that makes a difference, these are the fundamental ingredients for sure. I want to talk about intrapreneurs.
José, you say innovation and excellence. What if I'm working at a company that necessarily doesn't embrace this, that doesn't have programs? How do I be more intrapreneurial because at the heart that's who I am. How do I be a change agent? How do I bring innovation and excellence to companies that aren't embracing it yet?
José
The difference between entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship is that you're an entrepreneur within an organization. There are pros and cons to that. Some of the obvious pros are that you have a safety net, you're getting paid and then you're looking for opportunities to create value in the organization for innovation. If there is a system for that, that's wonderful. Even if there isn’t a system in place, you can still have the mindset of, “I'm going to create value through innovation and people will recognize the value.” You have a safety net. If that doesn't work, you’re not without your house, your car and all your assets are gone. You're still getting a paycheck to do them.
Some of the downsides include the fact that it limits your upside as well because if you come up with a multimillion-dollar innovation, it doesn't belong to you. It belongs to the organization. Some organizations are setting up systems that we have some equity stake on big innovations. That’s not uniform across the industries. Intrapreneurship is innovation and building businesses within the business. One very large bank, which is $100 billion-plus organization in discussing with their senior leaders. I talked about intrapreneurship with them. One insight that I thought was very valid is that this is a $100 billion organization, which means that we have 100 $1-billion-organizations in here. We all are under the same umbrella. These are businesses that grew on their own and then they just added up to this whole thing.
When you look at a very large organization, quite often it's a sum of several small businesses that grew over time in that organization. Intrapreneurship is definitely a part of corporations one way or the other. Some organizations have systems and there are better or worse. They're fostering innovation within the organization. They are identifying ideas and prioritizing those ideas that create value and they have mechanisms for executing those ideas and then providing recognition or rewards for the people who achieve the greater level of performance and create value for the organization. What if my organization doesn't have that? That's the majority. It doesn't have anything like that.
There are a couple of things. One is that you can do it still. You can still get the concepts and say, “I have my job. What if I don't just execute whatever I'm doing here?” That's the excellence piece. You have to execute what you're told to do it. By all means, if you have to have excellence, get your work done and then become more efficient in doing that work. Free up some time so that you can explore some other things. If you do a good job in your core job, you'll get more leeway from your supervisors to attempt other things, to interact with other parts of the business, to do some additional things, including trying to innovate your own job. I've worked with people who had certain work that they were supposed to do.
They hire individuals who had incredible programming skills and the corporations are funding it and all of a sudden, the guy who's working on pretty much what is a data entry position. He’s doing the work and what did he do? Because he had programming skills, he automated his job. The organization didn't ask for it. He'd just automate it. Literally, he took an eight hour a day and created an automation that can do his job in 30 minutes. What do you think an organization will do with someone like that? Some organizations are bad and they'll not do anything, but most organizations will be like, “That is amazing.” They will recognize that individual and you start building the capital to try new things. Sometimes people are like, “There's nobody here that inspires me in this organization.” Become the person who inspires other people to achieve greater heights. Some of it is accountability. Get your work done and then think about ways of improving, innovating the way you do your work because it's interesting, because it will create a new dynamic for what you do. We all get bored if we keep doing the same thing.
Dustin
It's like a muscle, I would say.
José
That's a great analogy because the more you exercise that muscle, the more capable you'll feel. This is a very important thing about intrapreneurship because it allows you a safety zone to try and learn and build this muscle. A lot of people first will be intrapreneurs and then they decide, “I don't need this big company anymore. I can do this on my own now.” They wouldn't have had that level of confidence before because if they had gone straight to the marketplace, they would be like, “This is wild.” You will still get bruised inside of organizations, but the band-aids are there and you'll get a little love and care. Become more efficient about what you do, free up some time to improve and innovate, start showing to people what that looks like. In most organizations, that's going to get recognized because you're implementing new ideas that create value.
The other situation is that sometimes you're stuck with a bad supervisor in an organization whose values are not aligned with yours. I'll say, move and go do something else. I understand if you're stuck because of family reasons and mortgage reasons. Do what you got to do. You got to survive. You have lots of options. I'm amazed sometimes on how people feel stuck in certain positions where they can go do other things. If you look at the US, there are a lot of things that you can be doing and there are a lot of opportunities out there. Start looking for those opportunities in the cases where there is a supervisor or a culture that is antagonistic to what you're trying to do to your own growth.
Dustin
Life is too short. I was this way, not necessarily. The reason why I was stuck in a venture that I created was that fear. I was comfortable. I didn't see the options until I mentally made the decision, “Let's go looking for options,” and then they were there.
I’m 100% with you.
I've truly enjoyed our conversation. If people want to continue this conversation, they want to go deeper with innovation, excellence, maybe someone running a large organization or department is reading this and wants to embrace this a whole lot further. Where is the best place to continue the conversation with you?
José
For me, I feel very blessed and grateful for things that happened in my life and I feel a tremendous need to give back. As a result of that, I develop a very strong community through LinkedIn, specifically where I mentor through LinkedIn. I share my journey. We have some mentorship pieces in there as well. Go to LinkedIn and look up my name is José Pires or under LinkedIn is Excellence and Innovation. You can look at our website, ExcellenceAndInnovation.com. Those are probably the main channels. I also have a Twitter account and an Instagram account, but I don't use that very much because I've been busy executing but in LinkedIn, I keep it up more often.
Dustin
If you want to connect, I definitely recommend LinkedIn. LinkedIn is becoming my favorite as well.
José
It happened because I evolved the excellence, innovation and acceleration through the corporate world. LinkedIn became an obvious choice for that. The cool thing is that a lot of the people who I was both a leader for or a mentor for connected with me on LinkedIn. It became a wonderful channel for mentorship and both ways. When I say mentorship, it’s learning as much from them than I'm teaching them. It’s awesome to be able to keep that connection, especially with the international work that I've done in multiple countries. It's a wonderful time that we live in.
Dustin
I appreciate you being on the show and coming on and speaking to our tribe to inspire, to get access to some of these ideas typically as entrepreneurs. There are lots of research and lots of funding going into this. To bring this into our world and challenge our world is amazing and a real treat.
José
It's a real pleasure. Congratulations on everything that you're doing with WealthFit. It's a pleasure to meet you. I'll say one last thing and parting words. People ask me how do I get to the next level, to this enduring greatness and ultimately the fulfillment in my life and work. I have been doing a lot of research on the topic because of my empirical experience, but also looking at some theoretical research that supports or not some of the things that I've learned. I'm writing my book and as I'm doing that, one of the things that stood out is this research done by Abraham Maslow way back in the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We all need the safety and basic needs to fulfill. If you look at what he's done, at the highest level in the Hierarchy of Needs is called self-actualization. Self-actualization is probably where you see the best innovators at their best. You're transcending yourself and you're in flow. You found the purpose of your life and you're aligned with the purpose of your work.
Empirically, I learned that you need purpose, passion, discipline, which is consistency with purpose, and you need resilience to overcome the challenges. I thought, “That's cool that empirically I've found that.” Only to find out that if I research what Maslow did several decades ago, he already had figured it out. The quote that he had on that I think is very good. He summarized in this quote what self-actualization means for an individual and how you achieve this highest level of fulfillment in your life. What he says is, “Discover what you're meant to do and commit to the ardor of pursuing it with excellence.” Discovering what you're meant to do is purpose. Committing to the ardor of pursuing excellence is passion, discipline and resilience. It’s a quote that is very meaningful to me and to the people who are looking to achieve that level.
Dustin
Thanks for putting the cherry on top because that was definitely worth it. This is quite a fascinating conversation. I want to say great gratitude for you making the time for us coming on the show and sharing your wisdom.
José
Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody.

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