Innovation & Entrepreneurship: A Look at Drucker’s Powerful Approach

By: Karl R. LaPan, President and CEO, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center

One of my favorite management gurus is Peter Drucker. The Father of Modern Management is prescient. His thoughts about entrepreneurship are timeless. Drucker once said the the definition of an entrepreneur is “one who is crazy.” If you know anything about the business world in the last 70 years, then you likely know about how consultant and author Peter Drucker has shaped it. Drucker’s philosophies still resonate with business owners today. Today, I would like to revisit some of the concepts mentioned in his book, “Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” which was first published in 1985.

In the book, Drucker lays out some guidelines for how entrepreneurs (and really anyone) should approach innovation.


  1. Analyze Opportunities – “purposeful, systematic innovation begins with the regular analysis of opportunities.”
  2. Look, Ask and Listen – “innovation is conceptual and perceptual – look at both numbers and people aspects.”
  3. Keep It Simple And Focused – “it should do one thing (or else it will confuse) and as everything new runs into trouble, if complicated, it cannot be easily fixed.”
  4. Start Small, Not Grandiose – “requiring at first little money, few people, and only a small and limited market.”
  5. Aim At Leadership – “otherwise likely to be incapable of establishing itself (i.e. perceived as not innovative enough).”


  1. Try To Be Clever – “innovations are for ordinary human beings and incompetence is in abundant and constant supply, so anything too clever is almost bound to fail.”
  2. Try To Do Too Many Things At Once – “an innovation needs the concentrated energy of a unified effort behind it – it also requires that people who put it into effect understand each other and this, too, requires a unity, a common core.”
  3. Innovate For The Future – “Innovate for the present! innovative opportunities sometimes have long lead times but it is still necessary to focus on projects that, if successful, lead to immediate practical applications.”

Also worth mentioning are the three necessary conditions for innovation, which he says are “obvious but often disregarded.”

  • Innovation Is Work. It requires knowledge, ingenuity, diligence, persistence, and commitment—among other things.
  • To Succeed, Innovators Must Build On Their Strengths. The challenge is to look at the big picture but ask which opportunity fits you and the company.
  • Innovation Is An Effect In Economy And Society. That means innovation has to be “close to the market, focused on the market, indeed market driven.”

In my experience, all these factors are usually taken into account, but usually not with much intentionality.“Business has only two functions — marketing and innovation.” So, are you committing any of the “don’ts”? If, so what’s one actionable step you could take this week to take a more purposeful and systematic approach to innovation?


Enter search term...

close ×

REIMAGINE: Survive and Thrive During COVID-19

Browse our new digital guide for strategies and resources

Read Now