Entrepreneurial Innovation in Pharmaceutical Research and Development

By Boyatzis, Richard E.; Esteves, Mary B. et al. | Human Resource Planning, December 1992 | Go to article overview

Entrepreneurial Innovation in Pharmaceutical Research and Development


Boyatzis, Richard E., Esteves, Mary B., Spencer, Lyle M., Jr., Human Resource Planning


Change, and in particular innovation, in organizations is a perpetual dilemma. Although organizations are primarily designed to facilitate and control the production and provision of goods and services, innovation is key in order for a company to establish and maintain competitive advantage in an increasingly complex world. In recent years, the popularity of entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, change management, and innovation have been evident in the number of popular business books published. The magnitude of attention focused on innovation in business magazines, books, Wall Street analysts' reports, consulting firms' services, academic courses, and academic journals reflects a widespread, perceived need for more innovation. The 1990's have been years in which the demand for adaptability and speed of responsiveness has increased the need for innovation and the energetic styles described by "entrepreneurial" behavior.

Researchers have compared successful and unsuccessful innovation and change. Boyatzis (1982) applied a modified version of the extreme case, or criterion sample, methodology developed for the study of individual competencies of effective and less effective people in specific jobs. This method contrasts subjects selected to represent opposite outcomes. Three studies of high- and low-performing units within the same high-technology, manufacturing, and military organizations, identified three sets of variables that cause or were associated with successful innovation and implementation of change (Boyatzis and Greenley, 1986; Dalziel and Schoonover, 1988). They included: (1) individual competencies; (2) job role requirements; and (3) organizational structure, process and climate, or culture. For example, in one of the studies cited above, manufacturing plants that were effectively utilizing CAD/CAM (i.e., computer-assisted design and computer-assisted manufacturing) technology were compared to plants not effectively utilizing the same equipment and technology. Both sets of plants had the equipment delivered, and both were expected to be using the technology by division and corporate management. In the "effective using" set of plants, the CAD/CAM technology was used daily as an integral part of their operations. In the "not effectively using" set of plants, the technology was not used often (i.e., maybe once or twice a year) and in some plants the equipment had never been plugged into an electrical outlet!

These studies revealed individual competency requirements related to five particular roles necessary for successful innovation. The five roles were: (1) sponsor; (2) entrepreneur; (3) creator; (4) technical expert; and (5) administrator. In the sponsor role, senior managers encouraged and protected entrepreneurial people and initiatives. Competency requirements for this role included socialized power motivation, the desire to attain positions of visibility and influence, and using "empowering" managerial styles which arouse achievement motivation in subordinates (McClelland, 1985).

In the entrepreneur role, aggressive product or idea champions pushed the innovation from concept to market against all obstacles. The most important competency requirement for this role was achievement motivation, which is a strong personal concern with doing better against internal and competitive standards of excellence (McClelland, 1985). In the creator role, creative professionals identified new process or product ideas, but did not necessarily see or pursue markets for new ideas. The critical competencies in this role were knowledge and conceptual abilities related to the specific field or subject area of the innovation.

In the technical expert role, functional specialists in marketing, production, and finance helped entrepreneurs implement business plans. Here again, the important competencies were knowledge, conceptual abilities, and interpersonal abilities related to the specific function. In the administrator role, supportive managers took care of organizational maintenance requirements, keeping other team members on track and freeing them to create, or be entrepreneurs. …

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