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To create change, we need to learn how to develop a growth mind-set.  It’s a skill!  At UpThink we believe that to survive, engineering firms must embrace innovation and mind-set change as a fundamental part of their corporate growth strategy.

We know a traditional organisation’s culture can often be a stifling experience, ultimately limiting staff and an organisation’s growth potential. The application of entrepreneurship principles and processes is as vital in established organisations as it is in early stage companies.

As part of the Master in Engineering Management at UCD, the Corporate Intrapreneurship module aims to instil participants with the skills and mind-set required to embrace sustainable innovation and growth strategies.

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” – your business’ future depends on it.

We use many frameworks and methodologies, including lean, design-thinking and psychology behaviour to navigate the innovation process, such as:


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: engineering education focuses on finding solutions rather than idea generation. Engineers tend to zone in on finding solutions without taking a step back to question

“Are we solving the right problem for the customer?”


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

As one MEM participant 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.”


While the skills of design and lean thinking can be learned, participants must be open to these processes. The biggest challenge we face 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.


An organisation is only as innovative as its employees and the environment they are in. 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.

“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.”

-2016 MEM student

If you would like to know more about the Masters in Engineering Management programme at University College Dublin contact Vincent Hargaden at

If you would like to learn more growth strategies in your organisation contact Mary Cronin on

Mary Cronin
Author: Mary Cronin
October 24, 2017
Mary is an innovation specialist, systems thinker and circular economy facilitator. As the founder of UpThink Innovation Agency, Mary works with SMEs and large organisations as a circular economy/climate change/ESG consultant.