Both sides of entrepreneurship
What are you working on at the moment?
'With my research group and a group of international and local colleagues, we study how companies can improve their innovation efforts, and the role of managers in this process. One research team is investigating the organisational and psychological antecedents of employees’ entrepreneurial behaviour, such as reward systems and passion for entrepreneurship. Another team concentrates on the challenges Finnish companies face in creating and integrating internal ventures. Our third team aims to unfold the micro-foundations of venturing capabilities, which could allow companies to sense and seize opportunities.'
'I am teaching two courses. One course gives students the opportunity to work with Finnish companies that face a certain innovation or renewal challenge. The other introduces first-year students to the initial stages of the entrepreneurial process, with the aim of allowing them to work with Finnish companies and renew their business models.'
'I am involved in the Aalto Ventures Program, a strategic educational initiative that aims to develop and deliver entrepreneurship education. I am also a member of the Advisory Board for designing Aalto University’s entrepreneurship education strategy.'
Where did you work prior to your current position?
'I was an Assistant Professor of Corporate Entrepreneurship at Strathclyde Business School in the UK for five years. I was involved in the development of a bachelor’s programme in entrepreneurship. I also coached MBA students in starting new ventures, as well as academics in spinning off their ideas.'
Can you tell us about your research career?
'I completed my PhD in Corporate Entrepreneurship and Strategy at Strathclyde Business School, studying the venturing activities of four British corporations. Then I spent a year as a postdoctoral researcher at Cass Business School in London. After that, I returned to Strathclyde.'
'In 2010, I spent three months at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. The next year, I spent one month at INSEAD, France. Both visiting positions gave me the opportunity to develop my research skills and to build an international collaboration network.'
Why did you choose your field? What sparked your interest?
'In my master’s thesis, I studied corporate venturing as a tool for fostering innovation and gaining access to international markets. I came across the challenges organisations face in being ambidextrous, i.e. trying to explore their current position while exploring new markets. I also noticed how influential managers can be in creating change and challenging existing structures within those companies. These challenges still fascinate me, and their implications to managerial practice continue to trigger new research questions for me'
Can you mention three achievements in your career that give you pride?
'The publication of my first single-authored paper in a four-star journal in 2012 gave me great pride. It unfolded the “dark side” of venturing activities, and the emotions of envy among employees, who are not involved in such activities.'
'I was very proud when my PhD student, Dr. Sergio Costa, received the Heizer Doctoral Dissertation Award in August 2015 at the Academy of Management conference in Vancouver.'
'It is rewarding to receive messages from students and executives telling me that my courses have helped them to launch a startup or a corporate initiative. In 2013, I received the award for best teacher at Strathclyde Business School.'
How does your work at Aalto link to the international research community?
'Over the years, I have built and maintained active research collaboration with colleagues in Europe and in the United States. I also serve as a reviewer for the leading international entrepreneurship and management journals and conferences.'
'In August 2015, I co-organised a symposium on corporate venturing at the Academy of Management conference in Vancouver, bringing together colleagues from many countries.'
Do the results of your research influence the everyday life of ordinary people now or in the future?
'Employees aspiring to become change agents frequently experience frustration and dissatisfaction, if their efforts to improve the innovation output of their company are not recognised. My research aims to help the management of companies to foster the entrepreneurial potential of employees and to improve everyday work life.'
Which three characteristics are important for a good professor and a successful academic career?
'Competence in one’s own subject area and research methods is naturally vital. We need to be able to renew our thinking and our approaches to research, though.'
'A profound interest in the subject area is also important. It needs to be combined with accountability: We are responsible for the implications and dissemination of our research.'
'We should also show warmth, compassion and gratitude towards the co-creators of our work, such as colleagues, reviewers and students.'
What kinds of students do you wish to see in your department?
'I appreciate students who are able to combine critical thinking and proactiveness, who consciously try to discover their passions and to act on them, who are competent in their own field but also encourage constructive dialogue with other experts, and who are willing to take risks and expose themselves to uncertainty.'
'Such students are able to develop this unique set of skills early on in life and practise it in the relatively safe university environment, which will give them a competitive edge in their professional, and possibly also in their personal lives.'
How does the future of your research field look?
'Entrepreneurship is a new discipline, and the main challenge is how to apply theory to practice and how to offer society, companies and their management more tools for innovation. We need to integrate theories from different fields to better explain innovation and entrepreneurial attitude.'
The Department of Industrial Engineering and Management
Text: Anu Jussila