These are the show notes for How can Corporates Reignite the Entrepreneurial Spirit? first published on June 30, 2020, where futurist Trond Undheim interviews corporate innovation expert Steve Epner. Where available, there are approximate time stamps.
Steve Epner, you earned a Master of Science degree from the Purdue University School of Technology. You are the founder and current Executive Director of the St Louis Innovation Roundtable, a faculty member in the Graduate School of Business at Saint Louis University where you teach Corporate Entrepreneurship and Lean Canvas and “Ideas of Mass Disruption”. You were the Entrepreneur in Residence at Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS).
- Steve Epner LinkedIn profile (steveepner) and consulting (The Startup Within)
- SLUStart I-Corps at Saint Louis University (website) (00:03:27)
- Trond Undheim’s LinkedIn profile (undheim) and bio (about)
- Startup co-founded by Trond Undheim (Yegii, Inc) & Yegii Insight blog (Yegii.org)
That’s a varied background, can you explain?
How to reignite entrepreneurship? (00:03:49)
Steve: “Every corporation were entrepreneurial, otherwise they wouldn’t get started. But what happens it that they get good at something. And they get better and better at doing that thing and they forget about entrepreneurship until they are suddenly hit in the head with a 2 x 4”
“Innovation is new ways of doing things. Entrepreneurship is doing something with it. The classic example is Kodak. They innovated in digital photography but didn’t go after it internally. They couldn’t see this as a positive innovation.”
- Kodak (website) (00:06:30)
- The Real Lessons From Kodak’s Decline (Sloan Management Review, 2016)
“Middle class idea generators with a nice life and a nice job who work on it part time but never commit.”
Impact of COVID-19 (00:12:30)
“Who’s going to buy new office furniture right now, with COVID. I’d look at what’s next.”
You are a member of the IBM (International Brotherhood of Magicians). Tell us more? (00:42:10)
I’ve always been fascinated with magic. It forces you to think differently. Magically, I can’t pull rope through my neck. I don’t tell the audience that. I learn where people are looking, what they are attracted to, and how can I think differently that everyone else. I think if you want to be an innovator, you should join an improv group. You learn quickly and you learn to think with a team.
The International Brotherhood of Magicians is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the art of magic, with members in 88 countries.
- The International Brotherhood of Magicians (website)
Let’s jump right into the topic of corporate innovation. What do you understand by that term? Is it rare or prevalent? (00:10:00)
What can you tell us about your experience at Boeing? (00:03:00)
Steve: “We were asked to come up with a hundred business ideas a month, which was the easy part, and then two a year that we could turn in to real businesses”.
Taking risks at Boeing (00:16:00)
“I was surprised at the amount of administravia that a large company has.” 176,000 employees, even if I was at the top of the food chain (not being a Vice President nonwithstanding), there were a lot of people above me. Trying to create an environment where it was okay to take a risk was really difficult. Those who had been inside the organization for a long time had a hard time coming to grips with it.”
“Sometimes to do new things you have to do things that aren’t always sanctioned.This is hard for young people. For me, it was easy, because I had already retired.” (00:31:50)
Doing your own thinking vs. relying on customer discovery?
“If you said I think you need an iPod twenty years ago, they wouldn’t have known. But, people said, ‘I wish there was an easy way to listen to music’. Steve Jobs changed the human interface.”