Kellogg School

Earle - DeBiase co-teach Kellogg's Corporate Innovation and New Ventures

The terms “entrepreneurship” and “innovation” often evoke images of a startup in a garage. But what about the game-changing innovation generated by large, established corporations? Now more than ever, large corporations are focusing on innovation as the key to their growth and prosperity. In some instances, it is critical for their very survival. These companies are investing in systems and processes to accelerate the pace of innovation—but need their teams to step up in order to win in a competitive marketplace.

Earle DeBiase KelloggThe Corporate Innovation and New Ventures (KIEI-903) course, at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, addresses the emerging practice of "corporate entrepreneurship," also called "intrapreneurship," broadly defined as the application of entrepreneurial capabilities to the development of new ventures within an existing firm.  In 2014 the course was redesigned by Paul Earle and and Dean DeBiase with some unique student-experience goals in mind, that would  1) create a more experiential-learning ecosystem, taking students out of the classroom into the realities of the boardroom, 2) curate a unique curriculum through impactful sessions and connections with top executives from multi-national corporations, and 3) consider the entrepreneurial movement as an opportunity and tool to drive innovation and growth in and around large enterprises.

With a unique focus on exploring and learning from real companies with real problems, classes provide highly immersive learning opportunities, putting students right in the middle of the “innovation arms race.”  By working directly with companies, students are able to roll up their sleeves and sample traditional and entrepreneurial innovation from the perspective of impacting corporate strategy, market-facing initiatives, corporate venturing, startup partnering and new product development.

whirlpoolTeams work with one “Sponsoring Partner” for the quarter, and are tasked with the creation of innovative ideas around the company’s growth challenge areas, which are presented to the class by their executives. They're further tasked with targeting, developing,  evaluating, vetting and refining their top idea through a concept development process, culminating in a final project deliverable and formal presentation to company’s leadership team.  Previous Sponsoring Partner companies have included McDonald’s, United Healthcare and P&G.


In addition to the main team project, students are also exposed to corporate and entrepreneurial innovation processes at a range of multi-national headquarter and corporate innovation center locations, startups, incubators and accelerators.  Classes are held on site, at “KIEI-903 Organization Partner” locations, where students can interact with management, through thematic discussions, debates and workshops, about their current market opportunities and growth challenges.  Partner organizations where classes have been held include United Airlines, Whirlpool, PepsiCo, Accenture, Leo Burnett, Target, AKTA, TechNexus and1871.

Lecturers' comments on curating entrepreneurial innovation experiences:

Pepsi"With access to Chicago’s top corporate, startup and thought leaders, our case study materials and innovation insights are revealed in real time, through dynamic interviews, debate and discussion.  There are a few ground rules for the executives from our Organizational Partners’ we visit, like minimize the "cross-functional team" type jargon and don't show us your PR approved power point decks."  Paul Earle 

"We facilitate student learning by exploring the real-world messy issues and tough competitive challenges that brands are struggling with today–and what approaches they are taking to move forward.  We do this by digging deeper with candid, no-holds-barred exchanges between our students and industry leaders. Without all of the protective corporate veneers in place, students are provided a front row seat to a company's operating culture and can, among other things, determine if it is driving or slowing their growth and innovation."  Dean DeBiase

Organization Partner comments, after hosting a class at their Innovation Center:

The class is about solving real-world, big-brand business opportunities through innovation…and bring innovation to the forefront for solving our respective clients’ challenges. What was great about the experience for me was witnessing firsthand another kind of innovation in co-teaching. While co-teaching is not a new concept, it was no less impressive to witness the back-and-forth between a class and two co-professors. In this case, Dean and Paul’s unique styles blended together seamlessly to provide the students with the appropriate balance of direction, learning and experience to fulfill the demands of their pupils. accenturerTo paint a picture of these men, Dean is deeply drenched in confidence and immediately owns any room he walks into, backed by the experience of a guy who you are absolutely assured has been-there-done-that a thousand times over. Stand within five-feet of Dean and your IQ immediately increases. For Paul’s part, he comes in as the thoughtful provocateur, looking to push buttons and test your hypothesis, with charm and respect. He’ll navigate you to a decision, but aid you to choose wisely. After all, there is a grade involved…and potentially millions, if not billions, of dollars at stake for the business challenges this class is collectively looking to solve for that letter grade."     PJ Bickett, Accenture  Full post can be found here.

Student comments about the course experience:

"Unlike most classes that are taught 100% in the classroom, Dean and Paul take students on a real-world learning tour of global corporations, from the innovation center at Whirlpool, to the boardroom of United Airlines.   Interacting with top executives about their market challenges, while observing the executional realities of their operating environment and culture, is a tremendously worthwhile experience for anyone interested in making Teamsinnovation part of their career path."   Luke Tanen, Chicago Innovation Awards

"What I loved most about the class was the complete transparency and honesty in which the executives talked to us about issues in their organization. So often at Kellogg, we either study these companies in retrospect, learning from their mistakes or successes, or hear from their recruiters about how amazing the companies are. Having frank conversations about the innovation issues and opportunities was a really rewarding experience, and one that certainly can't be replicated in textbooks or classroom discussions."  Colin Hudson, Samsung

"Corporate Innovation disrupted the traditional classroom environment and took us out into the 'real world' that we all work in daily as Part-Time Students. The Road Trip format allowed us to learn how different firms approach innovation and interact with leading innovation professionals across a variety of industries.  This was the most engaging class I have taken at Kellogg. This class format should be the future model for Kellogg courses in innovation as well as other specializations. The course was fast paced with high expectations on deliverables to a real client.Team  Dean and Paul's differing business backgrounds were very complimentary to one another. Their personal perspectives combined with the local Chicago business connections allowed us to meet with business leaders in a unique, intimate business setting that led to great discussion and idea generation. The excitement and engagement of the McDonalds executives as we pitched our ideas was extremely rewarding. Our hard work and passion paid off, and the learnings along the way as a team were invaluable.”  Elizabeth Brandel, Unilever

"It was amazing to see how so many different organizations innovate and to easily and immediately apply those skill sets to my current job. Loved the course!" Justin Swagler, Wrigley/Mars Inc.

"Corporate Innovation with Dean and Paul was one of the most inspiring and relevant classes I took at Kellogg. The class was a perfect blend of corporate strategy, entrepreneurship, and marketing and allowed us to see all three in action in a real-world business setting. It's a side of corporations the public hardly sees and yet it is the most interesting and most critical to their continued success. The class has inspired me to pursue corporation innovation as a career within my current company, and hopefully many others in the future."  
J.J. Malfettone, 
GE Capital

team2“Corporate Innovation encapsulated the complete Kellogg experience.  Dean and Paul leveraged a vast network of innovators and executives to provide a unique combination of real-time business issues with a range of business landscapes. They were committed to giving us a broad perspective, from small start-ups that were focused on building their business through to major Fortune 500 companies that were dedicated to keeping their brands relevant and accessible.  All culminating in a challenging, yet dynamic final presentation to a group of McDonald’s executives.  Overall, this class was about real business people dealing with real business challenges in real-time.” 
Todd Starcevich, ShopperTrak

"Paul and Dean are two of the newest "rockstar" professors at Kellogg.  In addition to both being corporate innovation luminaries and teaching the latest innovation trends and frameworks, Paul and Dean arranged weekly class visits to local world-class companies so that we could study corporate innovation in practice. These immersive experiences, which featured exclusive facility tours and presentations from global innovation leaders, provided a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse at how leading companies are innovating their way through some of the most disruptive changes the business world has ever seen (digital, mobile, globalization, etc.). This class not only equipped me with the latest team1corporate innovation theory and real-time case studies, but also immediately made me more effective in my current Advisory Innovation role at KPMG. Thanks for an unforgettable class Paul and Dean!”  
Zac Parkhill, KPMG

"Thank you for providing such a wonderful experience!  Honestly…this class is unique in itself in the entire Kellogg School and I am glad that I had an opportunity to take it. I would recommend everyone take this class. Had great insights from Paul and you."  
Ritu Lodah-Shah

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