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New Corporate Entrepreneurship course puts students in consultant’s role

Thursday, February 27, 2014
New Corporate Entrepreneurship course puts students in consultant’s role
By the time students complete the business school’s new Corporate Entrepreneurship course this semester they’ll have more than an understanding of the concepts it covers, they also will have had a chance to advise three outside companies on their readiness to implement corporate entrepreneurship in their own operations.

These efforts will give students a much deeper comprehension of corporate entrepreneurship, and will allow them to see for themselves the potential benefits to a company by adopting these practices.

“I tell my students they’ll be acting as consultants,” says entrepreneurship instructor Wayne Blizman, who developed the class and is now teaching it.

OU’s new minor in Entrepreneurship

The new course, cross listed as both Entrepreneurship 480 and Management 480, is an elective for OU’s new minor in entrepreneurship, available to both business and non-business majors.

The class is an introduction to a practice that has been gaining significant momentum in today’s business world. Corporate entrepreneurship, also known as “intrepreneurship,” is the development of new ideas, products or services within large, established businesses.

“Entrepreneurship is usually associated with individuals or a couple of individuals that have an idea for a business or see a problem and have an idea for solving it,” says Blizman, who also is Director of the School of Business Administration’s Ideas 2 Business program and Senior Advisor – Commercialization at the Macomb-OU Incubator. “It’s usually associated with startups."

“During the last 10 to 15 years, more individuals in business have asked, can we take those concepts – idea generation, creativity, innovation – and integrate them into larger corporations, too?”

The idea here, Blizman says, is that by embracing innovation and creativity, companies can promote growth and differentiate themselves from their competition. “Even more importantly,” Blizman adds, “The new school of thought says corporate entrepreneurship can be a very effective way to sustain that competitive advantage.”

It was imperative to Blizman that the Corporate Entrepreneurship course reflects the School of Business Administration’s emphasis on experiential learning. With that in mind, he went to work developing a unique opportunity for students taking the class.

“I know a lot of people in industry through the incubator and other contacts,” says Blizman, who identified three companies that are willing to support the course. The companies agreed to have employees complete a detailed survey from the students’ textbook that helps assess where they stand on corporate entrepreneurship. The 12-student class has organized into three teams to present the survey and review the results.

Local Corporation Involvement

During the semester, representatives from each company will make a presentation on their operations to the class. “A few weeks later, the student teams will prepare a report and present their findings to the company’s management on where they stand on corporate entrepreneurship and make their recommendations,” Blizman says.

The participating companies include Altair, a Troy-based leading engineering company that already takes an innovative approach to its work, Blizman says. While working on new designs that require aerodynamic abilities or strength, the company looks to comparable designs in nature – including the animal world – for innovative ideas.

Cliff Boggs, Altair’s Vice President of Business Development, says he sees value in the SBA’s new class. “It is looking at traditional approaches in the workplace and challenging that model,” Boggs says. “I’m not saying the traditional path is wrong, but the workplace is changing.”

Altair, Boggs adds, has benefitted from embracing innovation. The company, founded in 1985, has more than 2,000 employees and had sales exceeding $250 million in 2013. “We are a very entrepreneurial company," Boggs says.

Another participant, Malibu Technologies, is an engineering, design and manufacturing firm that recently developed an employee involvement program intended to get employees more engaged in the company’s success. “When I spoke to the president about the survey, he said it’s the perfect tool to build from employee involvement to corporate entrepreneurship,” Blizman says.

The class also will be working with Enterprise Holdings, owner of Enterprise Rent-A-Car Alamo and National, which places great value on creativity when selecting new hires. “They said they want their student team to evaluate their readiness for launching innovative ideas,” Blizman says, adding that his students already have started working on the surveys.

Blizman expects students to benefit from their interaction with the companies as much as their research and presentations. “I always bring guest speakers in whenever I can,” he says. “It brings the real world into the classroom.”