Entrepreneurship and innovation Featured

5:17am EDT June 29, 2005

Everybody loves an entrepreneur. You probably know a few -- they're the men and women who take a simple idea and turn it into gold. How did they do it? What was their thought process and what motivated these so-called mavericks?

Foremost, they're creative and they don't let the status quo or bureaucratic red tape trip them up. In fact, the definition of an entrepreneur is someone who is willing to take risks in order to make a profit.

Today, big business and industry are increasingly using the methods, strategies and practices of entrepreneurs to position their organizations for innovation and growth. "Corporate entrepreneurship" is the catch phrase, and changing the corporate culture to accommodate creativity is the mission. Companies are inventing new products and services at a breathtaking pace.

But innovation is more than just invention.

Successful companies grow and profit by improving processes and streamlining services in addition to inventing new and improved products. And for corporations to enhance the innovative abilities of their employees while increasing revenues, radical environmental change must take place.

Does your company have what it takes to innovate? Kathleen Razi, director of corporate innovation and growth at Tri-C's Corporate College offers the following suggestions for successful innovation in organizations.

* Develop a senior management team that is committed, aligned and involved.

* Build a corporate culture that values, affirms and supports creativity and innovation.

* Employ teams to make the innovation successful.

* Focus on the customer for insights, both internal and external.

* Look for opportunities to recognize the team/organization as a winner.

* Create opportunities for learning networks and concept development through interactive processes.

* Establish a climate that nurtures creativity, provides information and gives feedback.

Innovation survives and thrives in an environment that has the following characteristics.

* A clear strategic direction

* A culture where people are encouraged to pay attention and respond to emerging trends

* A culture where people are encouraged to challenge the status quo

* A culture where people actively engage with clients to determine new opportunities

Fostering an innovative environment requires that an organization is constantly aware of opportunities and ready to shift focus as needed. Ask yourself, "How can we find new ideas and applications for old ideas?" Then consider the following tips.

* Look at challenges and opportunities from a different perspective.

* Get and keep people involved, especially upper management.

* Celebrate and share successes.

Another way to spur creativity and innovation is to get company leaders and key team players involved in special innovation programs. Some of the most-requested course topics for executive education in Northeast Ohio are innovation and entrepreneurship training. These skills are imperative to growing businesses and helping the region prosper.

When evaluating potential innovation classes or training programs, look for ones that focus on teaching participants how to turn innovative "thinking" into a way of "being" to reach the end goal of profitability. Also helpful are courses that bring in local business experts and that facilitate networking and the exchange of tips and ideas.

Dr. Denise Reading is president of Cuyahoga Community College's Corporate College. For more information or to register for Tri-C's Corporate Innovation and Growth programs call (866) 806-2677 or visit www.corporatecollege.com.