Corporate entrepreneurship is both an oxymoron and a necessity?

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            One of the many distinct traits and qualities of an entrepreneur is the tendency to think out of the box and find solutions to effectively resolve the problem at hand that might not have been possible to achieve while working in accordance with the defined set of procedures and practices. The entrepreneur’s non-compatibility with standardized rules and regulations appears to be the fundamental reason behind the belief that entrepreneurs are not capable or suited for working within an organizational or corporate setting. However, the concept of corporate entrepreneurship provides a unique perspective to the subject of entrepreneurship.

The essay looks at the academic research and discussion surrounding the domain of corporate entrepreneurship. It studies the various models and frameworks that are associated with corporate entrepreneurship and tries to evaluate whether corporate entrepreneurship should be considered an oxymoron, or if the concept has enough advantages and benefits for an organization that it can be regarded as a necessity for the attainment of the organization’s strategic goals and objectives.


Corporate Entrepreneurship

            The entrepreneurial individuals working in an organizational setting are typically termed as ‘Corporate Entrepreneurs.’ Donald and Goldsby (2004)describe corporate entrepreneurs as “those managers or employees of the company who do not follow the status quo of their co-workers” (Donald and Goldsby, 2004). They also highlight an important trait of such employees by suggesting that the corporate entrepreneurs are often regarded as the ‘visionaries’ within the organization and are critical to the progress and growth of the company in the long run. However, the corporate entrepreneurs, in their bid to take the company to the next step, are often prone to disregard the established processes and procedures set in place by the organizational leadership. (Chau and Siu, 2000)

Despite their disregard for defined structures and working processes, the corporate entrepreneurs account for being extremely resourceful and creative employees of the organization. Sharma and Chrisman (2007)argue that the corporate entrepreneurs are the best suited employees in order to deal with challenging issues and problems in an effective and efficient manner. While, they have indicated towards many unique qualities and traits of corporate entrepreneurs, (Donald and Goldsby, 2004) have also argued that the practices and activities of corporate entrepreneurs can hamper the organizational progress as well. The corporate entrepreneurs tend to work “with a fine line between unique resourcefulness and outright rule breaking which can easily cause substantial damage to the company” (Donald and Goldsby, 2004).


Why is Corporate Entrepreneurship a Necessity?

            There are many benefits and advantages that the managerial leadership of a company can utilize by instilling and encouraging entrepreneurial capabilities and practices within its organizational workforce. One of the most fundamental advantages of establishing an organizational culture that promotes the values of corporate entrepreneurship is productivity. When employees are allowed to generate and pursue new and innovative ideas and solutions to business challenges, it not only has beneficial results for the growth of the organization, but such entrepreneurial freedom can also open new opportunities for the employees and propel them to greater career heights(Tseng and Tseng, 2019). Similarly, some of the other major advantages associated with the practice of corporate entrepreneur are the efficiency in pursuit of new ventures and projects, the effective implementation of change processes, and the retention of the organization’s most productive employees. (Dess et al., 1999)


Essential Models and Frameworks

Some of the primary models and frameworks that highlight the necessity of corporate entrepreneurship are presented below.


  • Stealth Innovation

Stealth innovation is one of the fundamental concepts that aid corporate entrepreneurship is the concept of stealth innovation. Miller and Wedell-Wedellsborg (2013)argue that stealth innovation is one of the most effective ways of promoting the culture of corporate entrepreneurship within the organization. It allows the employees to seek and pursue their innovative ideas and strategies that can be extremely beneficial for the company. Stealth innovation enables the employees to work undercover on their planned project or innovative idea first and then engage the managerial leadership of the company in order to get their approval. In order to prevent the project from being shot down, stealth innovation enables the corporate entrepreneur to work on his idea in silent and gather enough working evidence to support his plan so that it cannot be turned down when presented to the higher management.

An example of stealth innovation is of Jordan Cohen of Pfizer. Cohen successfully implemented his project pfizerWorks which allowed the employees to outsource their daily tasks to focus increasingly on important business activities. This, in turn, led the company to benefit from higher productivity levels. Cohen applied stealth innovation and worked on his idea under the radar and gathered allies and evidence for its support. He then successfully got the management’s approval for his project as he was able to back his idea with substantial data and evidence of its effectiveness.(Forbes, 2013)

However, there are certain demerits and disadvantages associated with the utilization of stealth innovation as well. One of the major drawbacks is that the corporate entrepreneur tends to lose focus on his regular roles and responsibilities and works excessively on his project under the radar. It can lead to adverse effects on the company’s operations and overall productivity. Similarly, the corporate entrepreneur can lose sight of the business goals and take more and more risks to get his project successful. The case of Jérôme Kerviel is evidentof this as he allegedly madeillegal trades costing Société Générale more than $7.2 billion(Iskyan, 2016). Such risks can, however, be avoided by establishing a culture of clear communication, regular feedback, and by ensuring that the project falls in line with the organization’s business objectives.


  • Greiner Framework

The Greiner framework is a strategic business tool that provides an effective understanding regarding the age, growth, and progress of an organization.The framework involves five stages of development or phases of growth during an organization’s life cycle, namely the creative phase, the direction phase, the delegation phase, the coordination phase, and the collaboration phase. Each of such phases is marked with its unique set of challenges and problems that have to tackled effectively for the company to ensure its growth and progress in the long run(Greiner, 1998). The practices and procedures of corporate entrepreneurship can be applied effectively during such phases of organizational growth in order to address the potential challenges in an efficient manner. Hence, corporate entrepreneurship becomes a necessity for organizational success and prosperity.

For instance, the primary challenge during the direction phase as per the Greiner framework is the issue of decentralization and autonomy. This stage is characterized by employees demanding for autonomy and workplace independence while the managers are unwilling to lose control of business decision making processes. The practices of corporate entrepreneurship can be implemented here in order to provide an appropriate degree of freedom and delegation to the employees who have been identified by the management to be most suited for such responsibility. It will also allow the managers to keep the activities of the employees in check by ensuring effective communication and consultation. An example of this practice can be the workplace delegation model in place at Google which allows creative freedom and decentralization to its employees.


  • Organizational Ambidexterity

O’Reilly III and Tushman (2013) define organizational ambidexterity as the “ability of anorganization to both explore and exploit—to compete in mature technologies and markets where efficiency, control, and incremental improvement are prized and to also compete in new technologies and markets where flexibility, autonomy, and experimentation are needed.” The utilization of corporate entrepreneurship practices is essential to the dynamics of exploration and exploitation within the organization. The corporate entrepreneurs are central to exploring new business opportunities and exploiting viable project leads which can be highly beneficial for the business. Hence, corporate entrepreneurship becomes a necessity for the company when viewed in regard to the concept of organizational ambidexterity. An example of organizational ambidexterity is Apple which effectively engages in both exploration and exploitation activities by inventing new devices as well as making efficient modifications and improvements to existing products. (Mootee, 2012)


The Challenge of Corporate Entrepreneurship

While corporate entrepreneurship holds many unprecedented benefits and advantages for the company, it is, nevertheless, a risky proposition that comes with its own set of issues and challenges(Garvin and Levesque, 2006).Donald and Goldsby (2004) have proposed three primary applications in order to tackle the problems posed by corporate entrepreneurship. Firstly, the organization mustcultivate the required flexibility, freedom, innovation, and risk appetite within its culture. Secondly, the managerial leadership must actively seek and identify the possible barriers that might become a hindrance for employees in order to practice the values of corporate entrepreneurship.

Similarly, the management also has to align the individual objectives and goals of the entrepreneurial employees with the organizational vision and strategic targets(Dess et al., 2003). Ultimately, the development of an ethical framework holds substantial importance for the organization to train and guide the corporate entrepreneurs so that they are able to utilize the available resources and capabilities in the most effective and productive manner. (Donald and Goldsby, 2004)



            It can be essentially concluded from the above discussion that corporate entrepreneurship is not only an oxymoron, but it is also a necessity. Research has shown that the values and principles of corporate entrepreneurship hold substantial benefits and advantages for any organization and can guide it towards progress and prosperity in the long run. The concepts of stealth innovation and organizational ambidexterity, along with the Greiner framework, provide significant evidence to the necessity of corporate entrepreneurship for an organization.



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Dess, G.G., Lumpkin, G.T., Mcgee, J.E., 1999. Linking Corporate Entrepreneurship to Strategy, Structure, and Process: Suggested Research Directions. Entrep. Theory Pract. 23, 85–102.

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Forbes, 2013. Stealthstorming: How to Navigate the Politics of Innovation. Forbes.

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Sharma, P., Chrisman, S.J.J., 2007. Toward a reconciliation of the definitional issues in the field of corporate entrepreneurship, in: Entrepreneurship. Springer, pp. 83–103.

Tseng, C., Tseng, C.-C., 2019. Corporate entrepreneurship as a strategic approach for internal innovation performance. Asia Pac. J. Innov. Entrep. 13, 108–120.


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