People regularly discuss pursuing passions in business. 100% agree – passions are important. But pursuing them in business? That might take a few tweaks. For instance, my business dream is a pub and bookstore combination – open browsing, just like one of the big chains. I’m not sure that books and brews mix though. At least not and still be able to sell the books. Maybe a used bookstore?
Anyway, the kicker is I’d love to have one of these on a Caribbean beach. So then we deal with heat and humidity on top of beverages. I can’t really imagine books surviving well in that setting. So, that’s a passion, maybe with a boardwalk, outdoor chairs (why do you never see Adirondack chairs on a beach?), great reading material, and an awesome beverage selection. There’s not really a business opportunity there. Well, maybe I could charge so much for the chair rental and beverages that I could give the books away? But I’m still not sure they’d do well on the shelves in the humidity. Gotta do some more research.
So, I hear a lot of people talking about pursuing their passions. But I don’t hear them developing the approaches that will make some money. Aspects people will pay for, and that will let them grow a business. That’s what we do in the entrepreneurship courses in my day job – let them bounce ideas off our experts, instructors, mentors, and then help them shape their business ideas, to build profitable models on top of their passions.
It’s the same in academic intrapreneurship. The great thing about academia (and tenure in particular I suppose) is that you can pursue your passion for research, and if there are students who want to learn in those areas you can probably teach in that area as well. If not, you teach in areas of expertise, do the research and publishing on the side, and possibly, pursue grants and contracts to do that research. If there is sufficient interest in government, the private sector, or the philanthropic sector, then you might obtain funding to do collaborative work with other stakeholders. You have to make the connections between your research and teaching passions and the willingness of someone to pay. And there are opportunities to mentor others – to take on research assistants, post-doctoral researchers, interns, or students who have projects to complete and have overlapping interests. Passing on knowledge to a next generation is another opportunity for the academic intrapreneur. And along the way, maybe you get to build something great inside a university or college. I’ve been fortunate to do this three times – and to build many programs and projects within each of the three research centers I’ve helped build.
What’s your passion project? Do you know how it will make money? Is there a business there? Or, do you need to bounce some ideas off of our team in the comments?