Season 4 - Episode 406
Baylor’s Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation department is one of the nation’s elite—ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report, The Princeton Review, and Entrepreneurship magazine for more than a decade. Peter Klein is the W. W. Caruth Chair and Professor of Entrepreneurship at Baylor. In this Baylor Connections, he examines the entrepreneurial mindset in a variety of settings, considers the impact of COVID-19 on business leaders, and shares how Baylor Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation has established itself as a top national program.
Derek Smith:Hello and welcome to Baylor Connections, a conversation series with the people shaping our future. Each week, we go in depth with Baylor leaders, professors, and more, discussing important topics in higher education, research, and student life. I'm Derek Smith, and our guest today is Peter Klein. Dr. Peter Klein serves as the WW Caruth chair and professor of Entrepreneurship at Baylor University, and a senior research fellow with the Boss Center for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise. Baylor Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation is recognized as one of the nation's elite, having been ranked in each of the last 12 years as a top 10 national program by US News and World Report, and earning the same recognition for more than a decade by the Princeton Review and Entrepreneurship Magazine. Dr. Klein's research focuses on the links between entrepreneurship, strategy, and organization, with application to innovation, diversification, vertical coordination, healthcare, and public policy. His work has appeared in numerous academic journals and his insights have been sought by media outlets like CNBC, Inside Higher Ed, and more. And certainly a lot of attention lately, as more great news has come out for entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation at Baylor, as again, those great rankings. I know a lot to brag about it in your program today, Dr. Klein. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us.
Peter Klein:Thanks for having me, Derek. It's a real pleasure.
Derek Smith:Well, you know, top 10 for each of the last dozen years, and really the accolades go far back beyond that. Baylor really was an innovator in Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation as a department, which we'll talk about on the program, but let's start out by going beyond numbers. What is it to you that makes Baylor Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation special?
Peter Klein:You know, it's great to be here at Baylor where we have not only a program, an academic department, outreach programs, but really an entire university that is committed to entrepreneurship and innovation. As you alluded to in your question, this has been a signature area for Baylor University for a number of years. We were one of the first universities to establish an entrepreneurship major. We also have an entrepreneurship minor, an entrepreneurship doctoral program. We have one of the oldest entrepreneurship research and outreach centers in the US, the Boss Center for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise. So really what we have at Baylor is a coordination between the research activities, the teaching activities, and the outreach and community engagement activities. And it's wonderful to have all of those together in the same place, integrated in one unit, all within the Department of Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation. And I think it's this cluster of people and programs and activities that compliment each other that makes our entrepreneurship ecosystem so special.
Derek Smith:Well, the numbers are eye-popping. Number eight nationally by US News and World Report in 2020. Obviously, there's a great superlatives to share, but what impact do rankings like that have on the program and its growth?
Peter Klein:Yeah, I mean, we, of course, focus on the content of our programs and activities. We're interested in quality, but of course, the rankings are nice because they're good publicity for Baylor. They help to attract students, help to attract external partners, professional entrepreneurs, other academics. I mean, everybody likes to be able to say they're associated with a top tier, top ranked national or international program. And it's fun to be able to say those things to people that we engage with. But really at the end of the day, we're about delivering value to our students and to the broader community. We're happy that that is reflected in the rankings, but we try not to think too much about pursuing those numbers
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Peter Klein, chair and professor of Entrepreneurship at Baylor. And Dr. Klein, help us think a little bit about how Baylor carves its own niche in terms of entrepreneurship. You know, pretty rarefied air on a top 10 list, some pretty incredible neighbors on that list, MIT, Penn, and Michigan. When we think about being in that space, in what ways, what niche has Baylor carved out? What differentiates Baylor from say, other great entrepreneurship programs?
Peter Klein:Derek, that's a great question. And it really speaks to the broader mission of Baylor University itself, right? So we are a top tier private research and teaching university, aiming for R1, Carnegie R1 status. There are lots of great universities who are part of that same conversation and Baylor is in some ways like them, but in other ways, it's distinct, right? Because of our unique history and origins, our commitment to the Christian mission of the university, and of education per se. And I think the entrepreneurship program is also distinct in some of those same ways. So here's one way to think about it. What is entrepreneurship anyway? What is the thing that we study? What do we teach? What do we communicate? Well, we embrace a broad view of entrepreneurship here at Baylor. So it certainly includes starting, growing, maintaining small businesses, high-tech ventures, producing new products and services, innovations that make the world better. I mean, those are all certainly within the domain of the entrepreneurship area at Baylor, but entrepreneurship is not limited only to starting and growing for-profit businesses. It also encompasses much broader notions of creativity, initiative, taking responsibility for things, making decisions in conditions of novelty and uncertainty. And those behaviors, those attributes, those features are reflected in a variety of different kinds of activities, right? In a nonprofit setting, in the context of an established business, in government, in culture, in arts and so forth. So it's this broader notion of entrepreneurship as a way of thinking about the world, a way of engaging with the world, that is essential to ... That's sort of the glue that ties together, all these activities. In other words, entrepreneurship for us is all about human flourishing. It's about making the world a better place and how we act as individuals in our families, in our communities, in our businesses that really dovetails nicely with Baylor's mission to make the world a better place.
Derek Smith:You know, Dr. Klein, you mentioned Baylor's pursuit of R1 recognition and increasing research output. I think that's probably one thing, as I've engaged in that area with different professors and Baylor leaders, is realizing that that in and of itself is really very much an entrepreneurial mindset. I mean, you have the word innovation in the title of your department and what else is that but research is innovating? And if you're trying to grow it, well, that's an entrepreneurial mindset.
Peter Klein:You are absolutely right. And even thinking a little bit about Baylor's transition, it illustrates the kinds of issues that entrepreneurs deal with. So Baylor has many strengths, but if we're competing head to head against much larger universities with bigger R and D budgets and larger enrollments, bigger endowments, how do we do that? How do we position ourselves in the market to attract students, to attract faculty, to attract research funding and so forth? Well, it's probably not by trying to be exactly like the big guys, right? We're not going to be Texas A&M for example, or UT Austin. They're three times the size of Baylor. They have very different kinds of missions, different sets of stakeholders than we do. So what's the right strategy for Baylor to grow, to innovate? Well, it's to try to be different. It's to be distinct. It's to offer something that is different from what is already out there in the academic marketplace. It's to leverage our reputation as a great undergraduate liberal arts faith-based institution, to do more things, new things, better things to increase our amount of external research funding and so forth as we pursue that R1 status. And that's really what entrepreneurs do, right? If I were starting a new retail industry, a new retail establishment, I would not immediately try to be Walmart or Amazon, right? I would find something I'm really good at, something that makes me distinct and unique and pursue that particular set of strengths and try to grow it and give it a high position, a high profile position in the market. So it really illustrates, as you say, that having that entrepreneurial mindset or that entrepreneurial attitude is a way of solving all kinds of problems, not just business problems.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Peter Klein. And Dr. Klein you mentioned attracting faculty is one example in that, and you came to Baylor from Missouri, am R1 institution. You've been at University of Georgia before that. What attracted you to come to Baylor in 2015?
Peter Klein:Yeah. Great question. So I had been working in the entrepreneurship area as a researcher and teacher for a number of years, but I had never been part of an entrepreneurship group that was as large and diverse as the one that we have at Baylor. So coming to Baylor was an opportunity not only for me to join a great private university, not only for me to join a community that had goals that very much aligned with my own sort of personal and professional goals, but also really to be right in the middle of that thick, entrepreneurship ecosystem. Ecosystem is a term that gets used a lot in these conversations, and it's maybe sounds a little bit like a cliche, but that term comes from biology, right? Where we think about plants and animals and the climate and the soil and other attributes that all kind of work together, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And that's what we mean when we talk about an entrepreneurship ecosystem. It's classes, it's research projects, it's engaging with entrepreneurs in the community. It's helping students engage in growing and creating ventures. You know, all of those things are valuable in themselves, but having them all clustered in the same place creates these synergies that generate even more value. And that was something that was new to me and something that was very attractive in the opportunity to come here.
Derek Smith:This is Baylor Connections. We are visiting with Dr. Peter Klein, the WW Caruth chair and professor of Entrepreneurship in Baylor's Hankamer School of Business. And Dr. Klein, you talked a little bit about that ecosystem here at Baylor and instructing your students. And certainly there's a lot of real world examples, as you talk about students innovating and overcoming challenges in this time of COVID-19 that you can integrate into the classroom. I want to ask you about how you integrate that into the classroom. But to zoom out just a little bit, this year has been challenging for entrepreneurs in a lot of ways. Entrepreneurs, by nature, embrace challenge, and look to solve problems. But the last year has thrown a lot at them. What stands out to you about how you see entrepreneurs adapting, changing, adjusting, riding the waves of the last year?
Peter Klein:It's a great question, Derek. I mean, entrepreneurs deal with new markets, new products, new situations, so they're used to handling uncertainties. They're used to taking responsibility for taking bold action under conditions where you really don't know what the results are going to be. You're not selling established products in an existing market. You're creating new products and services. You're reaching out to new markets. Entrepreneurs are good at doing that. At the same time, nobody wants to be operating under such extreme uncertainties and challenges as entrepreneurs and everyone has been operating under in the last year. So on the one hand, entrepreneurs are particularly well-suited to adapt to conditions that we all experienced. And we saw that in many firms being able to produce masks and ventilators and hand sanitizers. Of course, the creation of these new vaccines in record time is the result of entrepreneurial, innovative activities, not by startups, by existing companies, but nonetheless activities that fit within the general scope of entrepreneurship and innovation. And so without entrepreneurs and innovators, we would not have been able to handle this incredibly challenging global health situation as well as we have. Not that, of course, anybody has handled it particularly well. So it's great that we have entrepreneurs who can help us navigate these choppy waters. At the same time, of course, the environment has been particularly hard on small ventures, on new ventures. The failure rate has been extremely high and quite frankly, small ventures don't always have the same amount of political support that large, established companies do. Of course, there has been relief through public policy for small businesses, but they don't have access to the same kinds of bailouts and special protection that the really big guys can get.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Peter Klein. And Dr. Klein, I saw the title of a book that said, Entrepreneurs Will Save The World. And you think about the role that they do play. You mentioned that they are uniquely suited for times like this. As you think about your students that you see in the classroom, how do you want them to see the role that they play societally, whether it's at a challenging time like COVID or in hopefully when the day comes that we get back to more "normal times"? the role that they play, what they offer society.
Peter Klein:That's a great question, Derek. I mean, I want to answer in two ways, because I think this question actually is a little bit more subtle than it might appear. So there are the obvious cases of entrepreneurs and innovators who have produced great technologies, that have made a huge difference in people's lives, whether it's Thomas Edison and his light bulb, or Henry Ford and his model T, or Steve Jobs with his Apple devices, the guys who started Google and so forth. I mean, those are innovations the fruits of which are obvious to all of us, because they had such a huge impact, a quantifiable impact on human wellbeing at the same time. Entrepreneurs and innovators also have much smaller impact, smaller globally, but impacts that are critical for themselves, for their families, their employees, people in their immediate communities. So, while in our classes, we want to extol the virtues of the pioneer entrepreneurs and innovators whose actions have made a huge difference in the world, we also don't want students to think that, gosh, you have to be the next Bill Gates or you to be the next Elon Musk, or you haven't really made a difference in the world. No, we're all making a difference every day in thousands of ways, large and small. If you engage in responsible entrepreneurial activity, that is good for you. It's good for your family. It's good for your employees, your partners, your suppliers, certainly good for your customers. It doesn't matter that it doesn't show up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or that no one is making a Hollywood biopic about you. That's not the standard, right? You have to do what feels right to you, what is responsible. You have to measure success in your own way. And we want to make sure students understand that even smaller scale activities are critically important and they make the world go around as well.
Derek Smith:You know, as you would talk about it in the classroom with your students, and I feel like for you as a chair, it's almost unfair to ask you to just generically talk about your great colleagues, because there's no way you can name them all. But I will ask if there's some. So you integrate these real world lessons into the class, or there's some creative ways that stand out, whether it's you or your colleagues, that they've integrated this kind of cutting edge content, what's happening day by day into their education with their students.
Peter Klein:Yeah. I won't try to name names because, as you say, you accidentally leave some of them out, but we're very proud of our faculty. Our faculty have a variety of backgrounds. Some of them are traditional scholars in the academic sense, doing research in the laboratory or the laboratory of the market and publishing their research in high impact academic journals. And then translating those insights into sort of actionable policies and procedures that can be incorporated into the classroom. We also have faculty with a practitioner background who are themselves successful professional entrepreneurs, currently or formerly, and they're bringing their insights from their practical experience into the classroom. We want our curriculum to be experiential. We want our students to be engaged with real, important ideas, whether they're sort of critical theories, whether they are histories, current cases of what entrepreneurs are doing, but making things practical, making things relevant. Obviously that's critical to a successful educational program in entrepreneurship. You know, at the same time, it's not purely pragmatic, let's go by the seat of the pants and sort of try different things and see if they work. It also is guided by the best scholarship on what makes entrepreneurship and innovation successful.
Derek Smith:Hankamer is known, really well known, for having alumni, whether it's in marketing or management or any other of the departments within Hankamer, alumni who give back in a lot of ways financially, but just also with their time, talking to students in classes. What role do alumni play in Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation and connecting with and helping play a role in educating our students?
Peter Klein:I always tell students when they ask me for career advice, do you think I should take these courses? Or should I have this major? Or what kind of internships should I pursue? You know, I said, "Look, find someone who is doing the thing that you want to do and interview that person, study that person. What was their career path? Maybe look for people who tried to do the thing that you wanted to do, but ended up doing something different." So our alumni are a critical source of those kinds of insights, right? When we bring our alumni into the classroom. Of course, in the last year we've been doing it by Zoom rather than in person. This gives the students a chance to say, okay, when you were 18, 19, 20, 21 years old, what did you think at that time? And what do you now see? We can ask these alumni when you were a college student, right? How did you think your career was going to go? How did it actually go? What do you wish you had done differently? Right? So if you want to be the next XYZ, if I want to be the next Derek Smith, interviewing people on Baylor Connections, I need to talk to the actual Derek Smith and find out how he did it and what he wishes he had done differently. So our alumni are a great source of those insights for students. They're also quite frankly, inspirational to our students. So sometimes when you're just starting out, you can be intimidated. You can find the process very challenging, but look, you're somebody who did it and I want to get the technical information on how they did it, but also just seeing someone who has been able to pursue the kind of career that I want to pursue can be very inspiring to me. And especially during the last year, when all of us have been suffering from different kinds of anxieties and stresses about how we're going to make it, seeing people who have overcome those kinds of obstacles could be super encouraging. And we want to make sure our students are encouraged as well as engaged.
Derek Smith:You know, you've met a few of these alums here, going on about six years now here at Baylor. Came here in 2015 and you've been at other institutions like we talked about, Mizzou, Georgia. What stands out to you as you've met Baylor Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation alumni, or now seeing some of your students graduate? Are there any aspects that stand out to you and that you say, yeah, that's a Baylor entrepreneurship grad right there. That's someone who was nurtured and grew here at Baylor.
Peter Klein:On the one hand, the successes of many of our alumni, I think illustrate some of the points that we were discussing before, about how our program integrates different aspects of research and teaching and practice. You can really tell when students had that experience of integrating research and teaching and practice. It's really reflected in a very broad kind of holistic mindset that we try to cultivate here at Baylor. And that is often reflected in their practical success in the marketplace or in whatever professional area they are in. But I also see an amazing amount of institutional loyalty. So many of our Baylor students, we have a lot of first and second generation students, but we have students whose families have come to Baylor over multiple generations. And all of them come out with a tremendous sense of loyalty and respect for the institution. And they want to give back, they want to engage our students, especially alumni who have been through our entrepreneurship programs. They recognize how special those programs are. And I'm guessing when they talk to their colleagues, their professional colleagues who had other kinds of educational experiences, it makes them appreciate what they got at Baylor all the more. And so they want to give back, they want to make sure that our students have the same kind of experiences in Waco that they themselves had.
Derek Smith:Well, thank you so much for joining us. It's great to have you here on the program and share with us today. And I know we don't need rankings to know that Baylor entrepreneurship is a great course of study or that Baylor's great institution, but we're certainly proud to see those numbers in US News and World Report. So congratulations on that. Dr. Peter Klein, WW Caruth chair and professor of Entrepreneurship, our guest today here on Baylor Connections, I'm Derek Smith. The reminder you can hear this and other programs online, baylor.edu/connections, and you can subscribe to the program on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.