Copenhagen Business School
2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark
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The paper analyses how successful corporate intrapreneurs can continue to learn from and about innovations when they are promoted on top management positions. The promotion of intrapreneurs to executive positions has been recommended by management scholars and is common practice in many business firms. However, executive intrapreneurs and organisations are likely to experience learning traps. Paradoxically, the same strategies that promote intrapreneurial success endanger innovation success on the corporate level. The paper discusses contributing theories of organisational learning and innovation to underline this observation.
The paper is based on qualitative research using the case study method. Data were collected from five different business firms by interviewing two groups of managers:
(A) Managers responsible for innovation development; and
(B) Corporate managers (executive intrapreneurs) in charge of resource allocation to innovation projects. A total of 48 interviews was conducted.
The analysis of the case studies suggests four approaches to overcome the learning traps associated with the promotion of intrapreneurs to corporate executive managers.
1. Creating Resistance
2. Institutionalising Feedback Mechanisms
3. Mapping Project Qualifications
4. Modelling and Communicating the Innovation Process
The paper discusses these implications with regard to both theory contribution and relevance to management practice.