BrAIN Story: Chapter 2

3 – 5 minute read

Introductions to CHACR and Intrapreneurship

The day after RUSI LWC I received an email from the Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research (CHACR) asking if I would like to assist them in designing a Young Officers Forum event they were looking to run in the Autumn. The event hoped to address some of the retention challenges I had alluded to in my question at RUSI and the intention was to perhaps repeat the event with other rank ranges if this one proved successful. The email asked if I could come to CHACR to discuss my potential involvement.

Obviously I was over the moon! What an opportunity just from asking a question.

However at the same time in my day-to-day work I was experiencing a very different style of leadership to what I had been used to.

I was told off for speaking directly to CHACR and saying that I would be interested in helping run the event. I was told my duties as a Learning Development Officer needed to take precedence over helping CHACR and at one point I was told I wouldn’t be able to help with the Young Officers Forum at all.

But, as with anything you’re “not allowed” to do, this only served to make me more passionate about the need for the Young Officers Forum.

(Eventually it turned out that the Chief of the General Staff had spoken to CHACR about running the YO Forum and the Head of the ETS had given them my name and permission for them to contact me so funnily enough I was allowed to help in the end).

But the daily experience also prompted me to start looking at options outside of the Army. (Bear in mind that at this stage I had only been commissioned for about 15 months).

I had been told I had too much initiative and was too enthusiastic about changing things and I was getting almost daily evidence that made me think those at RUSI who had encouraged me to go elsewhere were probably right.

I’ve always wanted to choose when and where I work and I wanted to work on things I was really passionate about so I started looking at how to be an entrepreneur.

At some point during these long evenings of internet searches I stumbled upon the term “intrapreneur” – someone who thinks and acts like an entrepreneur inside an existing organisation.
This is what I was looking for!

I started to feel like I may not need to leave the Army after all. Maybe I could be an intrapreneur inside the Army.

I then found 2 organisations that would light a fire in my belly:

The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF) and The League of Intrapreneurs (LoI).

For more information on both of these organisations please follow the links but essentially DEF is a Defence focused organisation (obviously!) that originated in the USA; LoI has a civilian focus with a global presence.

I felt like I had found my people.

At the time DEF did have a UK presence but it was fairly small at that stage so I wanted to offer an Army specific organisation that could eventually help to feed DEF. Initially I was a bit gutted that someone was already doing something similar to “my idea” but I then spoke to the person running DEF UK and we agreed we wanted similar things but there was a space for BrAIN and we could help each other.

I had an A3 pad of paper in my room and on evenings and weekends I would map out my thinking so I could get it out of my head. Eventually this all built up over time and I started to gain some clarity.

Eventually all of the researching and reflection came together and BAEN became BRAIN became BrAIN.

But you can’t have a network if it’s just you…

If only I had an event coming up where I could pitch BrAIN as an idea…

The first evidence of what I wanted BrAIN to be. Sorry about the yellow pen!

Reflections:

  • Sometimes when people are new to a leadership role they may feel the need to exhibit their authority – be cautious of this because you may say something to your subordinates that you may later regret but that they will remember.
  • If you are junior in your military career be aware that some people will expect all communications to go via the Chain of Command. If you aren’t sure on people’s preferred etiquette, ask someone else for advice. Otherwise I’ve sometimes started with “apologies if I should not be emailing you directly” or “If it is more appropriate for me to liaise with someone else then please let me know” – politeness usually prevents backlash.
  • When you start researching on the internet about something you are passionate about you will more than likely find other people already doing it, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from pursuing your goal. The way you do it may well be unique and you can treat these other people as your allies rather than your competition. You can help each other grow.

Recommended Resources:

One thought

  1. Kirsty, Reading this I was once again reminded (almost a daily occurrence at the moment sad to say) of the analogy of trying to turn a supertanker. Organisational culture takes huge time and effort to change and is rarely achieved by any one of us working alone. Likewise, the old adage ‘There is only one thing harder than getting a new idea into a military mind, and that is getting an old idea out’ A well used phrase that is nonetheless true.

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