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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor’s Book Transforms the Innovation Talent Pipeline Through Organizational Design

February 8, 2018

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor’s Book Transforms the Innovation Talent Pipeline Through Organizational Design

Book gives a pioneering blueprint for sustainable innovation in companies; defines innovation in terms of skills, talents, expertise, and career paths

Gina Colarelli O'Connor, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute associate dean for academic affairs and professor of marketing and innovation management at the Lally School of Management, has co-authored Beyond the Champion: Institutionalizing Innovation Through People. The new book, which hit store shelves this month, is published by Stanford Business Books with co-authors Andrew Corbett, professor and entrepreneurship division chair at Babson College, and the late Lois S. Peters, former associate professor and director of the M.S. in Technology, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship program at Lally. It addresses the perennial challenges that large mature companies such as DuPont, Kodak, and GE have faced in defending against disruptive technologies and charting new pathways for organic growth. 

As large companies invent far more than they commercialize, the result is underleveraged research and development investments and threats from investors to disassemble these iconic enterprises that hold treasure troves of opportunity.  That need not be the case, according to O’Connor et al., if these companies can develop a capability for strategic innovation.

Beyond the Champion argues that innovation is a talent all its own that requires distinct skills and expertise, just like finance or marketing,” said O’Connor. “Viewing innovation as a discipline in its own right, it is easy to see that breakthrough wins require an organizational design with clearly delineated roles, responsibilities, and career tracks for those who shoulder the responsibility for new platforms of growth.”

Drawing on the results of a four-year study and two decades of related research, this book outlines three fundamental organizational competencies necessary for innovation: discovery, incubation, and acceleration. Mapping these organizational competencies onto roles and opportunities for advancement, the authors deliver a pioneering blueprint for sustainable innovation.

O’Connor is also the lead author of Grabbing Lightning: Building a Capability for Breakthrough Innovation (Jossey-Bass, 2008), and the popular innovation blog

The Rensselaer Lally M.S. in Technology Commercialization and Entrepreneurship (TC&E) program gives students the skills required to become critical players in the rapidly evolving world of breakthrough innovation. In the TC&E program, students work alongside inventors and scientists to develop and test new business models; confront key issues of management, funding, and law; and interface with forward-thinking faculty focused on how business can help solve serious global challenges.



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Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,600 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.