Confessions of a Corporate Insurgent with Gib Bulloch

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So, with me today is Gib Bulloch. Nice to see you, Gib.

Nice to see you, Mark. 

So, we have a shared biography. We both started our careers at British Petroleum back in the late eighties, early nineties.

I’m afraid it is that long ago.

We’re very close in age as well. Then, we both went from the client side to consultancy. You went to Andersen which then became Accenture.


I went to the Hay Group, and we both, I think, we very quickly realized that we wanted to change the world of consulting. I did that by trying to put Hay Group online. You did something far more significant, in a sense, you created a business unit called ADP, and you’ve written a book about it called The Intrapreneur: The Confessions of a Corporate Insurgent. So, what are you confessing?

The title is something of a play a bit on the sort of seventies Confessions of a Window Cleaner, those kinds of B movie things, I suppose. The book is really a story of a personal journey and confessing somewhat to being idealistic, to being somebody who has believed in the power of business to change the world, it sounds like you have as well, but more importantly, I think, about the power of the individual to change the world of business, and that’s what’s really needed, and so this is a memoir of someone who grew up in a small Scottish island, went into the traditional rat race, ended up having a bit of an epiphany through a volunteering experience, and I found myself trying to start this nonprofit group within a for profit against the odds somewhat, and there were successes, the thing grew against the odds, I was delighted, there was no other job I actually wanted, there were some awards, there were some promotions, life was looking pretty sweet, and then crisis hit, and I found myself actually somewhat unexpectedly the resident of a psychiatric ward in Glasgow in my native Scotland, and yeah, one minute you’re in the fast lane and shaking hands with President Clinton in a New York hotel room, and the next minute you’re playing a cameo role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or something like that, it’s a strange feeling, and I was left really asking myself the question, ‘Did I go nuts or is it actually the system I was trying to change that’s crazy?’ and that’s really the underlying theme of the book. It’s a business book, yes, but it’s not your traditional business book. It’s set in the context of a businessman finding himself in this unlikely psychiatric ward, and it is a mixture of conversations with patients and staff combined with a sort of memoir of different stages of the career, from the rat race, and thinking that everything’s going well as I was earning a lot of money and driving fast cars, and things going well in London-

As you say you were ‘turning bullshit into air miles’.

That’s my favorite definition of a management consultant. I was enjoying that life in the fast lane, and then this kind of epiphany around about the 1999/2000 mark which led me to volunteer as a business volunteer in the Balkans and that really changed my mind, it changed my career, it’s changed my life since, and I came back and scaled up ADP which I think we’ll talk a bit about, and then ultimately, it talks about ‘Was it a burnout? Was it a breakdown? Was it actually more of a breakthrough that I experienced then?’ and overall, I would say the book is something of a call to action for millennials and people within business to really stand up and change business and drive change bottom-up, and also for leaders to embrace that change and why it’s actually in their interest to do so.

OK, and I think you’ve always, and we talked about it over lunch, you’ve always characterized yourself as a little bit of an outsider, and when you came back from this experience in Central Europe, the company had just gone public and that’s the point at which you set up ADP, right?

That’s correct. Probably, an outsider’s insider, if you think, and this is where this intrapreneurship concept comes from. The triggers for this idea really came from the experience of living in the Balkans. I didn’t set off to do this, it wasn’t something that was on my radar. I read about the opportunity to go and volunteer with VSO. I thought VSO was always for doctors, and nurses, and teachers-

And VSO is Voluntary Service Organization, right?

Voluntary Services Overseas, actually. It’s a well known British charity but maybe less well known elsewhere, but it was a volunteering group who were looking not for money from corporates, which is the usual thing that charities are looking for, but they wanted people and skills, and they needed business skills like consulting skills, like accounting skills, like management skills, and the supply just wasn’t there, so they came up with what was a very innovative partnership for its time to partner with large corporations and borrow their people for six to twelve months and give them back, and it was really in the cold winter nights in Macedonia thinking about what impact am I having as a little volunteer here for a while. I was on a 90%+ salary reduction and had never been more motivated in my life in terms of the work I was doing, helping small businesses get access to credit, things like that, but the nagging thing in my mind was, ‘How can we industrialize this? How much more could I get done if I had my normal team of people around about me? How could we make a business model around this?’ At the time, and still very much to this day, big consultancies will do pro bono work, they will set aside a budget, they will do some bits and pieces of support to charities and other nontraditional clients when they have the people available, and it is relatively small scale. It doesn’t get to the Balkans very often, it doesn’t get to Kigali and these other places in Africa and where it’s most needed, so how could we solve the problem of getting business skills to where they were most needed and where there’s least access, and that was the idea around ADP and the business model for ADP.

Yeah, and the business model for ADP was, if I get it correct, people cut their salary in half, the firm reduced their overhead charges and waived their profit. Were those the main areas of the business model?

There was really three. It was a tripartite business model whereas, you’re right, there’s a contribution, or investment I called it, from the employees from the company, but most importantly from the client as well. So, yes, the employees gave up to 50% percent of their salary, there were some nuances in that, the firm gave up profit and some of the overhead allocations, but we covered marginal cost for the business, for the shareholders of the business as it came, but the clients, the NGOs initially that we were working with would also pay, but they would pay maybe twenty cents on the dollar, twenty pence on the pound on normal market rates, so a deep reduction, and my job as heading this up was to try to make this be break even, so I prefer to call it a ‘not for loss’ business model rather than a not for profit. It was trying to actually be cost neutral to shareholders and have this impact on their business skills in teams on the ground working to solve a client’s problem.

So, I can imagine that coming up with this idea and selling it into a freshly IPO’d organization which was driven by very clear metrics of sales and delivery wasn’t straightforward. So, how did you go about making that sale internally?

It’s funny actually because the traditional view is you develop a Powerpoint presentation or a fantastic, complex spreadsheet with all the numbers in it. I found myself instead just scribbling on my way home in a café in Thessaloniki, actually, on my way home from Macedonia, scribbling a press article, a fake press article two years into the future of Accenture’s chairman launching this concept, this new business at Davos at the World Economic Forum two years in the future, and then through, I suppose, guerilla tactics to a certain extent, I managed to get it to him and that led to a breakfast, a discussion, and he said in hindsight that someone coming to him and saying, ‘I actually want to halve my salary, and these other people do too,’ when he was used to having people coming in and asking for promotions, or raises, or bonuses and things like that, certainly caught his attention, and the business cases, and the spreadsheets, and power points came afterwards, but just to get that initial hook, the press release worked and it worked well.

And clearly, you’re very passionate. You come across, I guess, with your eyes burning with enthusiasm, what else was it? In the book you mention that you’d given him a knighthood in the article as well, but was there anything else that you really think, because there’s an emotional side but there’s also a deeply rational side which, I guess, you appeal to? 

The chairman did get a knighthood about ten years later, so it was somewhat prophetic, but I don’t believe that in any of these things you can really appeal to the heartstrings of business leaders. You need to appeal to their business instincts, so there was a business case there which was really, initially, around the recruitment, the retention, and the development of talent which is something that’s very hot on the agenda, I think, for many companies at the moment, particularly if millennials are going to make up three quarters of the workforce in the next couple of years, so that was largely – yes, there might be some good PR around it as well, but it wasn’t a PR initiative. It had to be driven with a business case, it had to have a P and L that would be, yes, cost neutral, but it would deliver these other benefits to the business. Having said that, that got us in. When we started to pilot and get the things going, we started to come up against what I often describe as a sort of corporate immune system. So, you can get a leader to support it, you can get some secret money, you can get going, but we were, frankly, flying really against the flow of where business was actually going. Big consultancies at the time, they do their pro bono on the side, but their main business was working for large successful companies in developed mature markets selling well-proven approaches and methodologies and paying good people a lot of money to get the best results, and here was this idea that said, ‘We’re going 180 degrees opposite from that. We’re going to work in developing countries where there is no proven market. We’re going to work for charities that can’t be big commercial clients of ours. We’re going to pay our people half of what we normally pay them,’ and the irony is actually you halve someone’s salary, but in this context we found that actually, they would step up a gear or two in terms of their output, and when I last spoke I think the latest number is over forty-thousand people now on the waiting list, the interest list to do this with Accenture which is, you know, show me another company that’s got forty thousand people lining up to halve their salary. It’s unusual, it’s counterintuitive.

And so, the immune system, what were some of the biases at work that you were bumping up against? Any in particular?

I need to be, I need to sort of slightly-


Well, slightly diplomatic. I don’t have to be as diplomatic as I did when – you know, it’s very liberating when you leave a company, you’ve probably found this too, you can say what you want unfiltered by corporate corpus, but I would say that a lot of support from leadership, that’s my caveat, really at all levels. Initially, it was air cover while we got off the ground and did this unusual thing, then we had leaders to help us take it forward, to help us celebrate our successes, so with that caveat the challenges weren’t probably at the most senior levels of leadership, I think it’s more at the ‘n-minus-a few’, middle to senior management I’d say, doing their jobs, executing on their objectives, enforcing a policy whether that’s a policy around compliance with legal and commercial arrangements, or compliance on risk management arrangements, or profit targets, or whatever it happens to be. If we take the processes and technology that makes large multinationals very successful and scale hugely and try to apply that to a start-up effectively then it starts to kill it, and that’s what I describe. The immune system is really an invisible thing, it’s cultures, it’s norms, it’s attitudes, it’s performance appraisals, it’s traditional KPIs, all of which somewhat invisibly conspire to snuff out innovation.

Yeah, because as you say they’re doing their job, they’re doing what they’re paid to do. Presumably, the incentives were in line with the old model versus the new model for example?

Correct. Exactly it. Paid what they’re supposed to do and delivering what they’re supposed to whereas at the highest level you can say, ‘Look, this particular rule or this particular decision is wholly inappropriate in this particular context,’ but that’s not able to be done unless you’re at the very top of the business.

So, why don’t we get into some of the work that you were doing, and I loved, before we get into this example I just want to quote, ‘If purpose was a drug, I was an addict and a drug dealer.’ So, you were quite excited about what you were doing?

I absolutely loved what I was doing. I genuinely felt like I had the best job in the company. There was no other job I wanted outside of the company and it wasn’t just me, this was a lightning rod for talent. We’ve got some internal research that showed that it was a disproportionate number of our best performers who were most interested in this kind of work, who were most interested in feeling that their logistics or supply chain expertise could be applied not just to getting soap powder into a supermarket more efficiently and at lower cost, but actually to getting medicines or vaccines the last mile in the distribution.

Yes, yes.

That gets people out of bed and they don’t need to be paid top salaries to do that, they are prepared to be paid less than they would normally be paid to do that.

And, I’m curious, were people at a certain stage in their career where they were just tired of the same old same old and wanted a break or was it something more substantive, do you think?

I’d say it was a whole mixture of motivations we discovered over that time. Some of it would be people getting a bit disengaged and would come back more engaged to the company, some people saying, ‘I’m about to leave, I’ll do this is as my swan song,’ and then deciding, ‘Actually, I no longer want to leave, I’m really reinvigorated,’ and some people wanted a good story to tell in an MBA application, frankly, all of these things, and we do a little bit of screening, we do a little bit of training, we wanted people to be there for the right reasons, and mostly they were there for the right reasons because they wanted to make a difference with their core skills and to see that difference more tangibly than twenty basis points on a share price or a cost budget.

Yeah, yeah. So, let’s get into an example just to bring it to life, and I think you touched on it, but you talk about it in the book Project Last Mile. Can you just talk a little bit about that project just to give a sense of the kind of work you were doing?

Sure. So, the work we were doing I would say was almost like three phases during the thirteen, fourteen years that I was heading up this group, a long time. In the first 1.0 version, we were really just working with NGOs, quite binary. Accenture worked with big businesses. We’d work with nonprofits and we’d do everything from their technology, their back-office systems and processes, strategy, knowledge management, change management, it was all relevant to NGOs. The second iteration, probably five years in, was where we started to get into partnerships with businesses and the Gates foundation, or other foundations, or donors, so we’d have these cross sector partnerships they would be called, more coalitions around a particular problem, and then the more emerging and more interesting thing which comes to Project Last Mile was where we really get into systems solutions, to big problems, where we almost play a brokering in a convening role around big problems, and so I like this Project Last Mile because it’s something that everyone can relate to whether they’re in business or not. Why is it that Coca-Cola can get fizzy drinks to, what’s their marketing phrase, ‘within an arm’s length of desire’ or whatever, anywhere in the world, and we cannot get vital medicines to where they need to go in developing countries? Why is that?

It’s a sobering question, isn’t it?

It’s a sobering question and Coke have been probably asked that ad nauseam over the years and they’ve kind of said, ‘Well, you know, the answer is probably not to stick vials of chilled vaccine on a bumpy road in the back of a Coke lorry.’ The answer is really technology transfer and knowledge transfer, and so conversations took place between the Global Fund which is the big fund for HIV, and TB, and malaria, the government of Tanzania, initially their health system, Coca-Cola offering the expertise of the local bottlers, and that’s expertise in things like inventory management and even their routines were very innovative, and we’d provide the glue, we’d have about, let’s say, half a dozen of our smart technology/supply chain people integrating across these different players to see where efficiencies could be made, where Coke’s best practices could be applied to the health system, and you’d see things like the lead time of essential medicines could be brought down, costs could be could be brought down quite significantly, and latterly, the US government has come in, the Gates Foundation has come in, and they’re scaling that to many countries in Africa. It’s a project that’s still going. I don’t believe ADP is involved anymore but it’s been scaled up quite significantly, so it’s a system solution to an age-old problem.

Interesting, interesting. And that kind of thing I get, just out of interest, how did ADP, I mean there were lots of good positive marketing, I guess, for all the players in that kind of program?

Well, there would be marketing, but again, we almost underplayed ADP. Some people would say it was Accenture’s best-kept secret, why didn’t we do more about it? We marketed it a lot in the recruitment campuses at MBA schools where people were taking internships with us and wanting to join Accenture maybe rather than a competitor because of this opportunity, but I would say, yeah, there were some academics did some research around it and publicized it. What I think it was good for, Accenture, and this was where the business case, the original business case that I described to you about people was enhanced in this 2.0 model which I can tell you was not something that was on my radar back in the Balkans on those kinds of winter evenings. We were able to extend and enhance the relationship with our commercial clients via ADP.


The client partner for Coca-Cola who would own the relationship globally was only too delighted to speak to the chief executive. The chief executive of Coca-Cola would talk about this project a lot and it was difficult to measure in a business case what difference that made to our work, but it definitely enhanced the relationship and deepened the relationship with our commercial clients and that was something that was unforeseen.

Because I presume that Coca-Cola had got the same issue that Accenture had which is people asking the question, ‘How can we actually, if we can get a Coca-Cola bottle this far into the marketplace why can’t we do it for other things?’ so there’s a sense of purpose, I guess, for the employees as well within those kind of organizations?

There would be, I’m sure there would be, and I’m not close to exactly how much they marketed that internally, but you’ll see it as well with the drugs companies in terms of them looking at ways of getting their employees more involved. I know GSK, for example, was an organization that set up a similar volunteering program for its employees to get them to go out and use their skills in different countries and that was a big recruitment differentiator, and someone said, it’s not an original quote, I wish it was, but ‘If you want to think out of the box then you first have to live out of the box’, and it’s amazing the correlation between innovation coming and when you get people out of their cocoons, their daily lives, they go to a different context, apply their skills in that context, they will see quite obvious innovations or innovations that appear obvious to them that are not in the least bit obvious, and then if they can bring them back into the parent company. We found that to a certain extent and I believe other companies have found that too.

Yeah, because, I guess, what you’re doing is as you say you’re exposing them to a completely different marketplace way of doing business which they wouldn’t be exposed to if they were normally on the traditional sales and delivery model in the core business.

Well, every company talks about giving its employees international experience and we were doing that, but it was also cross-sectoral experience working at the nexus between government offices often and NGOs, but also across cultural as well, and I think we get into these cultural tram lines, if you will, and it’s great to be exposed to people who think differently from you, and act differently, and have a very, very different upbringing, I think it’s very positive. 

Yeah. The other thing, so there is the innovation piece then, of course, there’s the ecosystem piece which is as you say working with partners or clients in different ways and extending through these partnerships which is a 2.0  model.

Yeah, and a 3.0 model. Absolutely. People would often be given more responsibility as well than they would maybe get if they were in a hundred-person team at a big traditional client project. They would be working at the C-Suite, dare I say that term, level often, and they would step up a gear in their performance, they would see very directly the impact, so it was yeah, it was a very enjoyable journey, let’s say.

And then the journey came to an end?


Or pause?

I have to say that ADP is still continuing.

Yeah, OK.

For me, the journey with Accenture came to an end rather an abrupt one, if you will. It wasn’t as abrupt as sounds. I had this experience that was a bit of a wake-up call to me, and yeah, when you find yourself in the unusual situation of being in a hospital and actually wondering, ‘Was this a breakdown or more of a breakthrough? How can I use this crisis as an opportunity for change?’ and that’s where the idea to write the book came about. ‘Can I talk about this journey? Can I be quite frank and open about where we had some successes?’ and there were plenty through the team. I’m very proud of what’s been going on, and also some setbacks and yeah, and the book goes into that. I also do feel that it’s an opportunity to fly some kites a bit about where business could go and where it is going-

Well, let’s talk a little bit about that because you talk a little bit about the perfect storm a little bit in the book, don’t you?

Yeah, I describe this is really where the business context is changing a great deal, and I think there are a lot of new strategic drivers that are going to shape business strategy over the next five or ten years quite fundamentally. One is around societal expectations changing, employee aspirations are definitely changing even from the time that this happened to me, and also, I believe that there is a business case for businesses to engage in social issues, so if I unpack each of these. The societal expectations, well, recently earlier on this year we’ve seen what Black Rock’s CEO, Larry Fink, is saying about businesses in the firms that he and his fund invest in need to have a stronger story than just making short term profit, there needs to be an embedded purpose, and that’s, you know, leopards may well be changing their spots in some way, eyebrows were raised, people listen when they say that, but that I think is a bellwether for where society is going, and if in a world where we’ve got 70% of the largest economies in the world being businesses then that economic cloud is huge and with that power comes responsibility. They are undemocratic at the moment. They’re controlled by the few, impacting the many, that, I don’t think, can go on, and so there’s something in the book about how we bring greater democracy to the corporation. The employee aspirations, and there are some great surveys around what millennials want, but they definitely want different things than, let’s say, from when you and I were coming out of university, going into our first jobs. I measured my success on my headline salary, and I would be happy if I got a grand more than the next person and I would pat myself on the back-

And I noticed you’re starting salary was five hundred pounds more than me I noticed.

Well, there you go, I was obviously much better than you then, Mark. Clearly, I’ve sort of moved on in that, and clearly, I think the people behind us, the salary as I’ve explained doesn’t seem to be headline. They want to feel that they can be making a difference of some kind in their jobs, and the companies that can accommodate that, and can harness that, and embrace that kind of innovative potential in employees, that’s really what this intrapreneurship movement is about, is harnessing it, it’s good news for you. The answers lie within your organization and you will be able to attract and retain this new generation of employee that doesn’t respond to the traditional levers of, ‘I’ll give you a bonus,’ or ‘I was earning five hundred more than you.’ And the third area is really around the fact that I’m not preaching corporate social responsibility, or ‘Put more money into the foundation’, or ‘Business needs to do some good’. We can no longer have, on one hand, ‘Here’s where we do our business,’ and on the other hand, ‘Here’s where we do our good and we give some money into these responsibility programs.’ These things are converging. I believe there is a convergence taking place across the sectors where some of the challenges that we normally consider to be an issue for Oxfam, or Save the Children, or the United Nations, are becoming strategic business issues, so social is becoming strategic for business, and business can actually see, call it the sustainable development goals, these big goals, these big lists of challenges, these are actually business opportunities in disguise if we reframe the problem, and if we change our business model, and if we’re not necessarily pursuing maximizing profit next quarter. 

And which companies are really going after this? Which ones in the public domain have taken this logic and embedded it in their strategy, their raison d’être? Any that stand out?

Well, the names of CEOs that come to mind are obviously Paul Polman in Unilever gets credited, DSM’s Chief Executive, Feike Sijbesma, I’ve probably said his name wrong, but also a Dutch company that came second in the Forbes Sustainability Top 100, I believe. They’re great, Dutch, they seem to be. The Dutch are probably head and shoulders above the others both literally and metaphorically, I guess, but not only Dutch, you’ve got other companies, I think GSK I’ve mentioned before, Barclays from an intrapreneurship perspective. Barclays is doing a lot with its employees and trying to sort of nurture and do training that will allow them to drive change. Danone, I think, is another one you could single out, but my point in the book is that these are almost the exceptions that prove the rule. I am not seeing the necessary change being driven top-down from the CEOs, so the message really is about the power of bottom-up change, about the power of millennials just taking that step individually and collectively to bring change into their organizations and to shift the supertankers maybe one degree in that direction or one degree in the other direction. For CEOs, it shouldn’t be a threat. The message is embrace this change, embrace the innovation potential from within because your stakeholders are going to demand it. Society is going to demand it.

Yes, yes. Brilliant. So, let’s begin to wrap this up. One of my questions, well, firstly, I sent three questions across to you at the beginning before we met, and the first one is what have you changed your mind about recently?

I think it’s a really, really good question because I think there’s one trait of intrapreneurs, and probably colleagues and bosses would attest to this, is that you’re incredibly stubborn, and set in your ways, and you don’t change your mind very often, and I’m as guilty of that as the next intrapreneur, let’s say. Since leaving the firm, back to this metrics of success, I think very differently about how I judge myself and what I’m doing, and it’s a little bit about moving from a focus in doing, and achieving, and delivering, to actually focus more on being, and actually less is more, and actually taking some time out, and not judging myself by these other metrics of success, and certainly not in terms of salary because I’m not earning a salary anything like what I was doing in the past, so yeah, it’s really been a shift in opinion on that, in that the things that we think are quite trivial, and unimportant, and they don’t get us anywhere, and they’re certainly not on our annual objectives, may be the very thing you should actually be doing and be the thing that will fulfill you more than other things.

And yet the things that we’re trained to focus on are probably getting in the way as well, right?

Completely, which goes back to the corporate immune system, you know, the annual objectives and KPIs. If I’d been chasing them I would have never been able to set up ADP.

Very good, very good. Secondly, where do you go to get fresh perspectives to help you solve problems and make decisions?

You mean beyond listening to the podcast backlog of Innovation Ecosystem? I’m going to answer this question. I mean, there’s no shortage of places out there like your podcast which is excellent. I think there’s no shortage of these sort of stimuli, if you will, if you want to look for them. My answer to this would be a different one is that I actually try to go into myself or go to a quiet place where you can actually shut out some of these things. Nothing against what you’re doing with Innovation Ecosystem, there’s a time for that, but I feel that too many of us, me included, have been in a state of semi distraction in our day to day lives, so many stimuli, so many things to read, so many tweets and Facebook things, and is it any wonder that that kind of suppresses, I think, real creativity and innovation, and when I get myself to a very quiet place, it might be somewhere in a faraway island or Bali, or something like that if I can, and just cut off and be still then I actually find it pays huge dividends in terms of creativity, and ideas, and thoughts, and new perspectives without having to read anything, without having to listen to anything or whatever. The ideas will probably bubble up if you can get quiet enough.

And actually, in the book that was one of the things that came out as you were describing your experience in the ward in the hospital.


They took away your phone, right, and you were actually, I sensed the way you were writing it, as I was reading it, that it took time for you to get used to the fact that, ‘I can’t check my e-mail messages,’ but then the other thing that struck me was that you’d overused your phone in a few days before-

I’d overused it, my phone and I had gone through an episode and again I talk about this in the book, but I went through, several days before going into hospital, I had a fever coming back from a trip to India, a business trip, a leadership retreat, and it triggered a manic episode, and I wasn’t sleeping, I was having ideas, and flow, and creativity, something that people probably pay a lot of money in illicit drugs to experience that kind of flow and euphoria, and everything was possible, nothing was impossible, and I was recording these ideas in the middle of the night in a letter to my boss, a resignation letter, an idea, and the next idea was better than the previous idea, and the third idea – it was a craziness, a mania that got out of control, although I revisit, and it’s quite difficult revisiting a breakdown and trying to distill out whether in amongst all that craziness where there any gems of ideas that could actually be brought forward? There are plenty of examples of where more creative people, artists, Van Gogh or musicians do their best work in manic states, so I was trying to see whether there was anything in that, and well, you can be the judge if you read the book as to whether any of the ideas do have merit.

Absolutely, absolutely, and then thirdly, what is your most significant low, what have you learned from it and how have you applied, or how are you applying that learning, perhaps?

It would be trite to say the answer is just read this book, but I think, yeah, probably a low finding yourself in a psychiatric ward as someone who considered himself, you may argue differently, but I considered myself normal. I had no history of mental health issues, I’ve had none since, I was happy, I was contented, I had enough money, these challenges were for somebody else, it wasn’t people like me, I was very lucky, but I’m sticking my hand up and saying, ‘This did happen to me and it was a low point,’ but you can’t change what happens to you, you can only change really how you respond, and it’s this old adage of turning a crisis into an opportunity, and I’ve tried to do that in the book and tried to say, ‘Well, is there an opportunity for me to share this experience, or share some learnings from this experience, to hold the mirror up to the system and to try and catalyze, if you will, action with others to say that small change inside large organizations can make a big difference?’ You don’t have to end up in a hospital like I did, but you need to take action and it will pay back, and I can honestly say three years on now that life has changed quite dramatically for me, and I feel much more confident, much more resilient, much more contented in what I’m doing than I did when I thought I was bulletproof. 

Yes, yes. Well, also we worked together at the League of Intrapreneurs and I think what always strikes me when I’m with them is not just the passion but also, what’s the word, how relieved people are when they realize they’re not alone and their experiences are actually pretty universal with people trying to make change in large organizations.

It’s difficult being the odd one out, the oddball, the sheep that breaks from the herd. The League of Intrapreneurs, I think, is excellent. It’s almost like Alcoholics Anonymous for recovering intrapreneurial talent in business who feel like their views are either not being listened to or they’re not being heard, that there are other people like me, and I would encourage people to join up and sign up to that, and it’s a great movement and I think this is going to grow around the world.

Yeah, and actually one of the resources is their toolkit which is very helpful for intrapreneurs, but for the executives who are listening and who wanted to get a different perspective it’s worth downloading this and just looking at some of the issues that most likely people in your organizations are facing trying to make change happen, so in terms of getting a different perspective this is what it feels like in the trenches of making this stuff happen.

Completely. I wrote a blog recently on The Huffington Post called ‘Managing the Mavericks’ which is targeted at CEOs which is basically asking the question, it starts of, ‘Would you hire an Elon Musk, or a Jeff Bezos, or a Richard Branson?’ and of course, the answer would be yes, we would if they happen to be applying to our company. The message is you probably have these people within your midst or had them, and they may well have actually left because you haven’t had the right systems, and process, and culture, top-down, to bring that kind of innovation bottom up, so there is a wake-up call, I think, to leadership, and CEOs, and companies that they need to embrace and harness the power of the intrapreneurial talents within their midst. 

Brilliant. Where can people get in touch with you, Gib? We’ll put those resources in the blog and some things in the show notes, but where else can people get in touch with you if they want, having read the book or they want to just get in touch and find out and get to know you a little bit more?

There is a website,, and you can sign up for a fairly regular blog. The blog I call the ‘bullog’ which is a bit of a play on words, but that comes out fairly often. Twitter @gibbulloch, and LinkedIn in the usual way.

Wonderful. Well, we’ll put that in the show notes. I really enjoyed the book. It will have come out by the time this goes live but I do recommend this.

Tenth of April.

Tenth of April, and we will look forward to hearing how that goes, and thanks as always for your time. This is a face to face interview, so it’s a bit different from normal, but thank you very much as always, Gib.

It’s great to be here face to face and to know that my starting salary was five hundred more than yours.

Very good.

Thanks for the opportunity.




In this episode, writer, speaker, and intrapreneur, Gib Bulloch, joins us to discuss his book ‘The Intrapreneur: Confessions of a Corporate Insurgent.’ He spent 20 years at Accenture where he started Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP), a businsess unit set up to leverage that business’s expertise and experience in service of global development organizations.Gib now works as a consultant specializing in intrapreneurship, social enterprise, and cross-sectoral partnerships. He is also a noted public speaker and has contributed to The Huffington Post, Businessweek, and The Stanford Social Innovation Review.

What Is Covered

  • Why CEOs and leaders need to make changes in organisational processes and to cultural norms to reflect the changing needs of the workforce of tomorrow
  • How best practices from the world’s most admired companies can be used to deliver impact via the work of global development organizations
  • Why if people “want to think out of the box” they need to get out of the box to apply their skills; a different context as a way of seeing things they would not otherwise see in their normal daily routines

Key Takeaways and Learnings

  • How organisational cultures, norms, and middle management (the “corporate immune system”) conspire invisibly to stop innovation in its tracks
  • The power of bottom-up change; Gib’s call to action for millennials to push for change within their organizations both individually and collectively
  • The possibilities of “not for loss” business models that are cost neutral to shareholders and have measurable business benefits

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Mark Bidwell

Mark Bidwell

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