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Innovating from Within

A new Farley Center course called Corporate Innovation will help students understand how they can be entrepreneurial, innovative changemakers – even at established enterprises

Recognizing many Northwestern graduates interested in entrepreneurship often become “intrapreneurs,” or innovate within established enterprises, two business executives are launching a new Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation course this spring focused on corporate innovation.

Taught by Sailesh Chutani and Todd Warren, ENTREP 395: Corporate Innovation will examine how entrepreneurship and innovation occurs within large companies.

Mixing case studies with projects analyzing the innovation strategies of corporate enterprises, the quarter-long course will investigate the diverse drivers of corporate innovation, such as internal incubator processes and acquisitions, culture’s role in creating new ventures, and the distinct business models corporations employ to seize compelling opportunities. 

Sailesh Chutani, Todd Warren

“There’s a real gap in how people think about innovation and the circumstances in which companies innovate,” Chutani said. “We want to close that gap and provide a deeper understanding of how innovation can – and does – happen at corporations.”

Both Chutani and Warren bring extensive corporate innovation experience into the classroom.

A visiting fellow at the Farley Center as of January 2024, Chutani has held research and leadership roles at many global enterprises, including Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Microsoft, and Logitech, and served as Logitech’s chief technology officer and chief innovation catalyst. He also spent time as an executive-in-residence at Amazon, where he pursued opportunities in robotics and sustainability.

Warren initiated new businesses at Microsoft for 20 years, led vehicle software development at the Ford Motor Company, and spearheaded a seed-stage venture fund for a decade. An adjunct faculty member at the Farley Center, Warren also taught NUvention: Web for 12 years.

“We both have rich experiences to draw upon and unique insights to share about what does and doesn’t work when it comes to corporate innovation,” Chutani said.

Chutani and Warren have also built a dynamic slate of guest speakers to highlight how established companies bring innovation to market. Planned visitors include a member of the Xbox founding team at Microsoft and a former Harley-Davidson executive charged to open new markets for the brand.

Ultimately, Chutani and Warren aim to provide entrepreneurial students a toolbox to assess corporate teams and projects they might wish to join as well as strategies they might exercise to drive innovation and transformation at established organizations.

“From climate to new technologies to evolving business models, corporations today are navigating various disruptive forces,” Warren said. “Arming students with a framework for assessing how a company approaches innovation and executes its strategy positions them to succeed in these dynamic environments.”

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