What is Corporate Entrepreneurship?


Entrepreneurship in the conventional sense hinges upon incentive; people respond to incentives by creating mechanisms for their fulfillment.  In this sense of the word, “entrepreneurial” also differs from merely “enterprising” in that these mechanisms take the form of business units, usually small companies.  So while applying an innovative approach to debt management might not be called “entrepreneurial” in the strictest sense, creating a new company whose mission is the application of that approach would likely fit the description.


In the corporate workplace, “entrepreneurial” is often applied more loosely.  The relentless propensity for euphemism in corporate communication has seen the term used to describe everything from the truly pioneering to the somewhat less idle.  For purposes here, it is necessary to distinguish entrepreneurial activities from other incentive-driven activities, and from business as usual.


Although a conventional understanding of entrepreneurship helps to stake out its meaning in the corporate sphere, some refinements to the conventional definition are needed.  Corporate entrepreneurship, for example, is unlikely to issue in the creation of a new company, or at least not as a first step.  More often the result of corporate entrepreneurship is a new department, team, task force, or the like.  But not all newly-created teams can be said to be the product of entrepreneurship; clearly a set of features distinguishes those teams which operate according to entrepreneurial principles from those brought about through the normal course of business.

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