Corporate Entrepreneurship : Book Review

Cover image of Corporate Entrepreneurship. How to create a thriving entrepreneurial spirit throughout your company

Corporate Entrepreneurship – “How to create a thriving entrepreneurial spirit throughout your company.” is both a guide to understanding corporate entrepreneurship and also a handbook to help organisations succeed with it.

It packs a lot of useful information into just over three hundred pages with enough frameworks and checklists to enable someone from anywhere in a corporate organisation, regardless of business training, to come up with a business idea and take it as far forward in the organisation as can be justified by the idea’s merits or the organisation’s resources. Be that to evaluation, business plan or effective launch stage.

Robert Hisrich is a Professor of Global Entreprenership, but unlike some academics he writes in a clear and succinct style. The book is well organised into three main sections; Managing Corporate Entrepreneurship; Organising Corporate Entrepreneurship and Operationalising Corporate Entrepreneurship. Each section contains four chapters that provide a step by step guide.

What is Corporate Entrepreneurship?

The early part of the book addresses some critical aspects. What is entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial process? What is corporate entrepreneurship and how does it differ from management activities within a corporation? Hisrich demonstrates these differences through “ Five Key Business Dimensions” which include strategic orientation, commitment to opportunity, commitment of resources, control of resources and management structure.

In the subsequent chapters Hisrich takes the corporate entrepreneur through various key stages. The chapter on “Behavioural Aspects” emphasizes how corporate entrepreneurship requires a lot of creativity – to ideate, and also to solve problems and challenges that occur along the way. This chapter also includes a sound checklist to help identify barriers to innovation and creativity. Indeed, a key reason why the book is so compelling is because it is thorough, and includes processes, tools and techniques and also attitudinal dimensions.

In the chapter on Identifying, Evaluating and Selecting the Idea, Hisrich reminds us that identifying opportunities is sometimes just about the ‘entrepreneur’s alertness’.  This chapter may not provide much that is new to any person who has a marketing background. But if the Idea Champion were to be from a tech or other function then they will likely find much to help them work on this stage.

Once the idea has been selected and evaluated there is clear guidance about the setting up of a ‘venture’ inside an organisation.

The Internal Politics of Corporate Entrepreneurship.

Then follows one of the best chapters on handling organisational politics that I have possibly ever read in a business text. Internal politics can be not only tricky to handle, it can also be a tricky subject to write about effectively – because it can seem so intangible. So often internal politics is described in negative terms but Hisrich makes cool assessments. “Political behavior is a natural and expected characteristic of organisations’ and “Individuals continue to act politically within the organization’s political boundary and strive to improve their own benefits and satisfaction”.

By giving this subject a whole chapter Hisrich is reminding the corporate entrepreneur with a ‘brilliant’ idea that the idea will not go anywhere unless she can manage it through the internal politics of the organisation. And Hisrich is right. If the entrepreneur were on the outside of an organisation they may have more autonomy to drive the idea through – but on the other hand, would probably have inferior access to immediate resources. Inside the corporation, resources are there but they are guarded closely. The corporate entrepreneur is going to have to deal with the politics to access those resources and make the idea happen. Hisrich offers specific help. He guides the corporate entrepreneur to develop a political strategy and also includes a checklist of political tactics.

Business Plans, Funding and other Critical Aspects.

Hisrich then returns to the more rational stuff of how to develop the business plan, and there is a further chapter on funding the venture. There’s little here that would surprise anyone with a finance background. However, once again, if the Idea Champion is from a different function they will probably find the templates for financial forecasts and the descriptions of the various ratio analyses very helpful. Fairly obvious reminders, such as the importance of starting off with a ‘high gross margin idea’ because of how margin is usually eroded during the development process, and also for those holding the purse strings to spread the risk across a number of ideas rather than heavily invest in one, may not be rocket science, but all such comments seem genuinely intended to ensure that the corporate entrepreneur has everything needed to bring an idea to market.

My only concern about this text was that the case studies at the beginning of each chapter did not seem to support the subsequent material particularly well. In some cases it seemed like we were presented with key milestones in the development of these companies – milestones that might have been achieved through merger and acquisition activity as much as through corporate entrepreneurship.  Rather than have such overviews of these major corporations including Siemens, Nokia, American Greetings Corporation, it might have been more helpful to isolate and deconstruct single episodes of activity to demonstrate how the company delivered  best practice corporate entrepreneurship.

Corporate Entrepreneurship is an important text in 2012. With the fast and increasing pace of technological change and also the way globalization of markets is intensifying competition, we all know there is a need for organisations to innovate faster.  The challenge is how to do this when organisations are often set up to move fairly slowly and to manage resources in a low-risk way.

The process of corporate entrepreneurship may take people out of their comfort zones. As we are told, it requires companies to structure and organise more flexibly, evaluate performance in different ways and be imaginative about reward systems. But if that is where companies need to go, then it’s a good idea to have a ‘how to manual’ as comprehensive and accessible as this one to by your side.

Anatellô score as a tool to assist with innovation and growth 4.5 out of 5.

Corporate Entrepreneurship. How to create a thriving entrepreneurial spirit throughout your company. By Robert D Hisrich and Claudine Kearney is published by Mcgraw Hill  2012. 304 p.

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