New Columbia Courses Focus On Innovation

by Naomi Nishihara on

New York City's Columbia University

New York City’s Columbia University

Entrepreneurship isn’t just for startups. Over the next six months, Columbia Business School will introduce six new executive courses,  four of which will cover corporate innovation.

Columbia revamps its executive education offerings each year, but typically adds three to four new courses, usually inspired by research by Columbia professors. Donna Sharp, interim associate dean of executive education, says this year’s haul is inordinately large in response to demand — and it focuses on innovation as a way to help companies stay relevant and competitive.

“Clearly, the business environment is changing, so we’re doing more in the innovation space, as well as digital tech,” Sharp says. “There’s a whole initiative at the school to really put ourselves on the map in the corporate entrepreneurship space.”

STARTUPS WITHIN COMPANIES

Donna Sharp. Courtesy photo

Some companies may acquire startups to bring new ideas to the table and stay competitive in a changing market, Sharp says, but many generate ideas internally — something she says isn’t easy to do when you’re busy with your regular job.

The new innovation courses, Mastering Corporate Entrepreneurship, From Idea to Prototype in 5 Days, Design Your Innovation Blueprint: Leveraging Systemic Inventive Thinking, and Innovate on Demand, are designed to steer intrapreneurs — employees acting as entrepreneurs to solve challenges within their companies, with the blessing and help of the companies themselves.

“These courses really show you the discipline and methodology to follow as you embark on intrapreneurship,” Sharp says. “Whether it’s building out a new product line, going into a new market, redesigning existing products, or digitizing something that was not digitized before. This is all part of the movement to take companies and digitally transform them so they can compete in the new economy.”

THE CLASSES

Mastering Corporate Entrepreneurship will be an online program taught in three parts, which can be taken individually or as a series. It will cover ideation, incubation, and acceleration — three big challenges for corporate entrepreneurs, Sharp says.

From Idea to Prototype in 5 Days is a course on design, engineering, and business that is meant to teach executives the rapid prototyping process so they can replicate it within their companies. It is based on The Design Sprint from Google Ventures.  

Design Your Innovation Blueprint: Leveraging Systemic Inventive Thinking will be a three-day program in which participants will learn how to plan, develop, and implement self-sustaining innovation.

And Innovate on Demand, also an online course, is meant for participants at any level of an organization. It will aim to give them the tools to generate and implement their own ideas quickly.

SMALL GROUPS, WORKSHOPS, AND LOTS OF FEEDBACK

Sharp says the majority of executive education students at Columbia Business School are sponsored by companies. The courses all take place on weekdays, and can last from a few days to a few weeks. “It’s either part of their professional development budget, or they’re facing a business problem, or just received a promotion, or something like that, and they need to broaden their skills,” she says.

Columbia is hoping to have between 15-25 participants in each of the new programs, Sharp says, and classes will be kept small so students are given proper attention and instructors can give individualized feedback.

“In many cases, what we’re promoting is for teams to come, maybe three or four from a particular company to learn the methodology,” Sharp says. “In Mastering Corporate Entrepreneurship they bring a project from the office, and they’re able to work on it in a group of colleagues, either with their own team or with others. They’re working with a capable professor who can walk them through it, and give them feedback.”

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