Back in 2009, I taught a course on Entrepreneurship to IBM employees as part of a semester-long program. It was delivered jointly by SIBM and Steinbeis University. This MBA-like course focused on technology innovation & entrepreneurship education for mid-senior IT professionals.Entrepreneurship-Education-for-Info-Tech-Professionals
I dedicated time to intrapraneurship, corporate venturing, effectuation, CSR, etc. The key objective was to motivate corporate employees. How can they become innovative, opportunistic, and entrepreneurial?
Though the course was for practitioners, we explored elements of entrepreneurship theory. This helped students understand the key traits of startup founders and early joiners. They also appreciated the difference between risk and uncertainty in the venturing context. The broader course theme was entrepreneurship education for those corporate professionals who were likely to lead innovation projects. Thus, I presented each aspect of a startup in the corporate context. For example, raising capital from venture funds was equated with gaining approval from corporate finance.
Similarly, I explained the concepts of selling to customers, persuading co-founders, and signing up partners with intrapreneurial analogies. Students had many questions on decision-making. How could they move quickly in a large company where many approvals are required? Similarly, how can a mid-level employee persuade a CXO to take on entrepreneurial risks? Clearly, risk management is a sensitive issue for corporate employees. The IT sector especially has to be careful since a software bug can result in losses of hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, the company’s brand reputation is at stake in each project. Thus, innovation has to be balanced against avoiding disruption of the existing business.
This is where entrepreneurial education can make a difference. Mid-senior IT professionals can be taught to be agile and opportunistic without creating undue risks for the company. They learn how to rapidly pursue new opportunities and customers while managing risk and exposure. Furthermore, they can implement concepts such as customer development and lean startups during the launch of new business units.