UCD’s Master of Engineering Management includes a new module that provides engineering managers with the skills to identify and exploit new growth opportunities in their organisations by applying entrepreneurship principles and processes
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To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the admission of the first students to UCD’s Master of Industrial Engineering (MIE) in 1967, Vincent Hargaden from UCD and Mary Cronin from UpThink describe how the programme, now called MEM (Master of Engineering Management), includes a new module which provides engineering managers with the skills to identify and exploit new growth opportunities in their organisations.

To create change, employees need to learn how to develop a growth mind-set.  It’s a skill! A core belief at UpThink is that in order to survive and grow, engineering firms must embrace innovation and mind-set change as a fundamental part of their corporate growth strategy.

Traditional culture in organisations can often be a stifling experience, ultimately limiting staff and firms’ growth potential. The application of entrepreneurship principles and processes is as vital in established organisations as it is in early stage companies. The new Intrapreneurship module, taken by MEM students in 2016 and 2017, aims to instil the skills and mind-set required to embrace sustainable innovation and growth strategies. Intrapreneurship, also called Corporate Entrepreneurship, has well documented benefits, including the ability to develop new products, business units and to enable organisational renewal.

Intrapreneurship matters on two levels;

  • On a personal level, it allows employees the space to ideate, experiment, iterate and fail. It combats a culture of fear-based decision making. A culture of intrapreneurship can significantly increase job satisfaction and productivity leading to growth. It is now a key element in attracting and retaining talent.
  • On a strategic level, intrapreneurship unearths new growth areas and revenue streams while creating customer-centric, agile and creative teams. As an increasing number of sectors become disrupted, the creation and validation of new business models is no longer just “nice to have” – the future of your business depends on it.

Throughout the Intrapreneurship module, several frameworks and methodologies are employed, including lean, design-thinking and organisational psychology to navigate the innovation process, such as:

Synthesis versus Analysis

The first challenge engineers face in the module is ideation. Often, engineers feel that creativity is not in their nature. In truth, it’s not in their habit as engineering education has traditionally focused on finding solutions rather than idea generation (although this is changing through the recent introduction of modules on Creativity and Design at the undergraduate level). Engineers tend to focus on finding solutions without taking a step back to question “Are we solving the right problem for the customer?”

Customer Discovery

Central to UpThink’s Intrapreneurship approach is transforming participants from being organisation-centric i.e. ‘We already know what the customer needs’ to customer-centric which positions the customer at the centre of everything they do. In reframing participants’ focus to a more customer-centric viewpoint, students come to realise the possible growth opportunities and longer-term benefits. Getting “out of the building” to interview customers is a vital part of validating ideas, challenging our biases and helping unearth what we think we know.

As one MEM student said “I was genuinely surprised at how wrong our initial ideas for our value proposition and customer pains were. The solution we envisaged was solving a problem no one seemed to be having. By speaking to our customers, we could see their biggest pain was different than we thought initially. This led us to our revised value proposition.

Mind-set

While the skills of design and lean thinking can be learned, participants must be open to these processes. The biggest challenge faced is creating cultures which breakdown the cycle of fear and group-think and instead reward curiosity and a fail-fast, learn-fast approach. At the core of truly hearing customer insights is empathy. Employing the methodologies of design-thinking, lean start-up and customer discovery, participants use a build-measure-learn feedback loop to validate whether their ideas are big enough to be worth solving.

Implementation

An organisation is only as innovative as its employees and the environment in which they find themselves. If employees do not have the space and the autonomy to create and validate, innovation strategies are a waste of time. Organisations that foster strong innovative cultures produce much more diverse ideas and have more successful, sustainable business models. The implementation of an intrapreneurial, customer-centric based culture within an engineering organisation can ensure that the technical expertise is converted to commercially sustainable business models.

As one recent MEM student said, “This module has removed the fear factor of generating ideas and pursuing potential commercial success. It has shown me how to reduce the risk of failure through a structured idea validation process at relatively minimal cost to any business unit. My view of intrapreneurship has shifted.”

If you would like to know more about the two-year part-time Masters in Engineering Management programme at University College Dublin, visit our website at www.ucd.ie/mem or contact Dr. Vincent Hargaden (vincent.hargaden@ucd.ie). Applications are now being accepted for September 2018 at www.ucd.ie/apply.

If you would like to learn more growth strategies in your organisation contact Mary Cronin on hello@upthink.works

http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/dr-vincent-hargaden.pnghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/dr-vincent-hargaden-300x300.pngJames HarringtonSponsorededucation,UCD
To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the admission of the first students to UCD’s Master of Industrial Engineering (MIE) in 1967, Vincent Hargaden from UCD and Mary Cronin from UpThink describe how the programme, now called MEM (Master of Engineering Management), includes a new module which provides engineering...