In my previous deanship, I had the unique opportunity to work closely with the legendary Peter Drucker. In one of his seminal works on management, he noted that "innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship." For Drucker, innovation was a philosophical way of thinking and knowing, as well as a pragmatic approach to management.
While Drucker may have popularized the idea of innovation in relation to business, its definition continues to evolve, thanks to the realities of business today.
Early on, for example, innovation was primarily focused on the creation of new products and processes to respond to market opportunities. But in recent years, the role of innovation has grown to include the invention of entirely new business models. These business models often reflect societal pressures, such as the quest for greater transparency and accountability to all stakeholders, sustainable business practices, and the notion of corporate social responsibility. Along with the broadening of its role, innovation has evolved from being a “skunk work” activity to a strategic organizational focus. As a consequence, innovation can no longer be confined to a silo within organizations. Rather, it must be engaged with as a systemic approach to business model development requiring knowledge, ingenuity, creativity, and integration across different areas--from finance to accounting, marketing, management, and operations.
This changing nature of innovation has not gone unnoticed by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which recently created a task force to address the issue of how "business schools can focus more on specific skills that support innovation."
At the UO Lundquist College of Business, we believe we are ahead of the curve when it comes to educating students and disseminating research on innovation's role in business and society. This is the impetus behind our new Business Innovation Institute. Leveraging the college's strengths and reputation in entrepreneurship and sustainable business, the Business Innovation Institute will stake out a new and compelling market opportunity for the college.
It is at the intersection of entrepreneurship and sustainable business that we see the greatest opportunities for innovation. This is the juncture where innovation embraces new market opportunities in a societally responsive way, resulting in value generation through growth, efficiency, and stewardship. For proof of this value proposition, we look no further than our own internationally recognized New Venture Championship investment competition--held in Portland each year--where, in the most recent competition, more than a quarter of the proposals presented were for new sustainable products or business practices.
To leverage the college's expertise at this crucial intersection, the Business Innovation Institute will house our Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship (LCE) and Center for Sustainable Business Practices (CSBP). Both centers will continue to operate as distinct entities. The new Business Innovation Institute umbrella will enable these centers to better operationalize resources. Students in each center will be better served with enhanced opportunities for experiential learning, internships, and career support. A stronger research-focused mission for the institute will help each center better support faculty and attract grant funds. And businesses, alumni, and donors, will find it easier to connect to our center-affiliated faculty and students through the institute.
A search firm has been engaged to identify candidates for the position of managing director for the new institute. Job descriptions have also been created for several other positions, including new program managers and coordinators for LCE and CSBP. Randy Swangard, special assistant dean and former director of LCE, is overseeing the creation of the new institute and will assume the role of interim managing director of the Business Innovation Institute on January 1, 2012.
While many details still need to be worked out, we have grand plans and expectations for the Business Innovation Institute. Simply put, we see an opportunity, and are seizing it.
As always, I would appreciate your thoughts and feedback. And if you have a suggestion for a potential candidate to lead our new institute, please drop me a line.