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Beyond "The Innovator's DNA": Systematic Development of Creative Intelligence in an Engineering Entrepreneurship Program

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Kathryn A. Neeley University of Virginia

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Kathryn Neeley is Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society in the Engineering & Society Department of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. She is a past chair of the Liberal Education/Engineering & Society Division of ASEE and is particularly interested in the role of liberal education in developing engineering leaders.

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Douglas Muir University of Virginia

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Douglas Muir is an authority in business strategy, having successfully built several multimillion-dollar enterprises from the ground up. He is considered the start-up guru and speaks internationally on topics of entrepreneurship, innovation, and business growth.

Muir teaches Entrepreneurship at the prestigious University of Virginia, both in the School of Engineering and in the Darden School of Business’s MBA program. As well as being a professor, he is the Assistant Director of the Business Minor Program in the School of Engineering. He is an expert in the Business Model Canvas theory of building businesses, and teaches this methodology to undergraduate students thirsty for entrepreneurship and eager to start their own companies.

Muir has been interviewed by Gerri Willis of CNN and by Bloomberg Radio, and has been published and quoted in numerous publications including Business Week and The Scotsman Guide, a prestigious magazine for the banking, mortgage, and investor industry. Douglas was the host of The Doug and Eric Show on ABC, “Exposing the Hidden Truths about the Three Credit Bureaus and the Banking and Finance System”. He was featured in Kaihan Krippendorff's business tactics book, Hide a Dagger Behind a Smile, which described how Muir infiltrated the insurance industry and locked out his competition.

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Elizabeth P. Pyle University of Virginia

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Elizabeth P. Pyle serves as Associate Director for Technology Entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering & Applied Sciences (SEAS). Her focus is on developing and expanding the SEAS Technology Entrepreneurship Program beyond the classroom and across the university. Her responsibilities include, but not limited to developing student facing entrepreneurship programming, mentoring students as they shape their ideas into products and businesses; coordinate internal and external information and resources to facilitate the growth of a sustainable entrepreneurship ecosystem and maintain communication and support for key stakeholders in the SEAS community.

Ms. Pyle is also the founder and President of Pyle & Associates, LLC, an Interim Executive Management firm providing management and business consulting services across diversified industries. Her extensive experience in business development, strategic planning, marketing, operations, and leadership have left a lasting impact on overall business performance from start-up to turn-around situations. Ms. Pyle is recognized for her unusual ability to quickly create clarity around key issues to ensure that strategic plans are developed, executed and monitored for success. This clarity of vision is informed by her highly diverse career, starting as an exploration/development petroleum geologist, including a brief stint in education when she lived in Venezuela, and to the present day when her clients have ranged from a heavy equipment manufacturer to a discount brokerage and a biotech firm.

Ms. Pyle holds a MBA degree from Averett University, a MEd. from the University of Houston, and a BA in Geology from Cedar Crest College. She has served on various boards including the Board of Directors for the Charlottesville Venture Group where she chaired the Business Plan Review and Annual Business Forum Committees. In addition, she has served on the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council and as a founding Director for the Business Growth Network. She also served on the board of the Division of Professional Affairs Advisory Council for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

Known for her candor and high ethical standards, positive energy and astute people skills, she has become a valued resource for business incubator programs throughout Virginia and her success as a business consultant is reflected in the successful outcomes of her clients.

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In a seminal paper published in the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW in 2009, Dyer, Gregersen, and Christensen argued that there are "five discovery skills that distinguish the most innovative entrepreneurs from other executives." The broader category they used to describe the confluence of these skills was "creative intelligence." The specific skills they identified through their research were (1) associating, (2) questioning, (3) observing, (4) experimenting, and (5) networking. All of these, they argue, can be deliberately cultivated (as opposed to being innate). In the 2009 article, they offer numerous specific suggestions for how innovators act differently to think differently. The discovery skills as they describe them entail a broad range of knowledge and experiences and suggest that the "broad education" specified by the ABET 2000 criteria is a cornerstone not only of engineering education but also of education for entrepreneurship and innovation. In subsequent publications on the concept of the innovator's DNA, the authors have gravitated away from the breadth and diversity of knowledge explicit in the original article and toward a conception of innovation as operations and processes. In this paper, we argue that education for engineering innovation should be understood as a system that includes not only specific procedural information about customer discovery, business opportunity analysis, and business planning, but also a broader understanding of sociotechnical systems and the broader context in which engineering entrepreneurs operate. We will describe the engineering business and entrepreneurship curricula at our university as an example of a curriculum that systematically develops the competencies required for engineering innovation and entrepreneurship.

Neeley, K. A., & Muir, D., & Pyle, E. P. (2016, June), Beyond "The Innovator's DNA": Systematic Development of Creative Intelligence in an Engineering Entrepreneurship Program Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26384

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