dominant personalities of the many players in a corporate environment, and how engineers need to be aware of those to effectively innovate within that culture,” he says. Every organization has a mindset, Weaver notes. The collective mindset largely determines an organization’s culture. Some thrive on rapid innovation-to-market, while others may champion a concept but lag in producing results. Intrapreneurs must be able to recognize organizational pitfalls that could impede or derail their efforts. These include companies that are fast- followers who simply emulate their competitors; corporations that view small incremental improvements as acceptable; and those that run with the first feasible solution, making them prone to waste time, effort, and resources on weak concepts. The intrapreneur must have an awareness of the tension between the goals of production and exploration. “Many successful businesses are set up to mass produce nearly flawless products,” Weaver explains. “But the production mentality is often at odds with innovation initiatives that are seen as potentially risky diversions from daily design and production routines. Efficient production tries to reduce variance, but intrapreneurship sometimes increases variance. Therefore, there may be resistance when new ideas or approaches are perceived as potentially disruptive. It’s critical for young engineers to be able to navigate their corporate environment based on these insights.” Even after engineers understand and appreciate the balance, they still need the right skillsets. Weaver identifies ideation as a relevant and valuable skill that is easily introduced in many engineering courses. Noting that there is an industry demand for ideation techniques, Weaver found a corporate partner that has been particularly interested in learning how to apply biomimicry (design inspired by nature) in its engineering design functions. So he decided to incorporate this into his course. “We’ve also held two joint workshops at the Detroit Zoo where students and practicing engineers learn and apply a structured biomimicry approach to solve a current design problem in the corporation,” Weaver says. Everyone involved benefits from learning a rigorous approach to applying biomimicry. Students gain insights from engineers in the field wrestling with a real industry problem, and the practicing engineers receive a wider set of alternatives than they would have generated on their own. “The ideation methods offer students a way into their own propensities to be curious, form good questions, and create those ‘ah-ha’ moments that we love as their professors,” he says. Even after seeing students develop new ideation skills, Weaver notes there’s more that students must practice. “Students have to be able to clearly communicate not only how their concept works, but also the value proposition created by it.” By implementing practical, entrepreneurial opportunities into his courses, Weaver is confident that his students are better equipped to be valuable assets to their employers. He says, “We’re training students to be game changers. Students and companies know that it’s the only way that they can remain successful and sustainable in the long run. Intrapreneurs are internal agents that create growth and sustainability. There is no other way forward. As a university preparing the next generation of engineers, this work is critical.” READMORE ON PAGE 40. D espite the excitement surrounding startups, the lion’s share of new products come from within established businesses — where intrapreneurship is an integral part of the culture. “The challenge and opportunity that most of my students will experience during their first career step after graduation is being genuinely innovative inside a large, established organization generally focused on mass producing high-quality products,” asserts Weaver. Working in the automotive industry and with other companies on a broad array of projects, Weaver has experienced the power of entrepreneurial thinking to grow both large and small businesses. He embraces the responsibility that university faculty have to create opportunities for students to think of themselves as intrapreneurs. “My students need an appreciation of intrapreneurship to prepare them for the dynamic milieu of technology- driven businesses, where ideas are constantly in demand,” Weaver says. “The most impactful way I can teach intrapreneurship is to bolster students’ entrepreneurial mindset.” One class that particularly focuses on mindset is a semester-long elective in innovation and creativity. The class presents approximately 20 ideation techniques (see page 40) that can be applied to help engineers routinely generate creative, innovative, high-value solutions to open-ended design problems or perceived market opportunities. The techniques are covered in many different ways — through hands-on exercises, short inspirational videos, and case studies. They introduce entrepreneurial necessities such as opportunity recognition, problem definition, concept generation, concept selection, and implementation. The list of topics might surprise some, especially considering that they are taught alongside the development of the critical thinking intrinsic to engineering. “One thing I emphasize in the class is that great products somehow make an emotional connection to the user,” Weaver explains. “This tends to be a foreign concept for most engineering students who want to approach everything as a rational, data driven, unemotional analysis. I ask each student to reflect upon a few of their recent purchases. It usually does not take long for them to realize that great products must meet not just engineering functional requirements, but also the emotional needs of the consumer.” Weaver also helps students connect the importance of the human element in the creative enterprise. “We discuss the emotions and ANEDUCATOR’STOOLBOX “Entrepreneurship is cool. It’s where all the buzz is these days,” observes Jonathan Weaver, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Detroit Mercy. The need for entrepreneurship education is pitched in books, blogs, conferences, and on social media. But is starting their own business the likely destiny of most college graduates? FROM ENGINEERS TO INTRAPRENEURS 24 25