Corporate Experimentation: Antitode or Oxymoron?


  • Stefano D'Angelo Politecnico di Milano
  • Antonio Ghezzi Politecnico di Milano
  • Angelo Cavallo Politecnico di Milano
  • Andrea Rangone Politecnico di Milano
  • Salvatore Annunziata Politecnico di Milano



Experimentation, Corporate Entrepreneurship, Lean Startup, Business Model Innovation, Digital Transformation


Experimentation in entrepreneurship has become the basis for the most influential approaches, e.g., lean startup, to launch and develop new ventures. Recently, the ideas developed around experimentation, strongly rooted in the startup context, have begun to be adopted by incumbent organisations, with the promise that these experimentation approaches can benefit corporate entrepreneurship activities, i.e., entrepreneurship activities in the corporate context, despite the established and corporate bureaucratic processes and practices. While there is a growing and significant body of literature investigating experimentation in the startup context, there is no corresponding research exploring the peculiar implications of experimentation in corporate entrepreneurship. Furthermore, current indications for managers and practitioners on how to exploit the benefits of experimentation approaches in the corporate context appear unclear. This issue is more relevant today when companies have to face fast-changing customer needs and market trends, as well as the design of complex value propositions. Through an exploratory multiple case study - based on semi-structured interviews – involving three incumbent firms, this study explores how experimentation is conducted in incumbent organisations and used as a tool to support corporate entrepreneurship. This study provides detailed empirical evidence on how incumbents can adopt experimentation approaches in the corporate context, together with a set of specific managerial practices. Specifically, we document corporate experimentation challenges at three levels of analysis: (i) experimentation-level challenges; (ii) firm-level challenges, and (iii) network-level challenges. Based on the findings of this study, we contribute to research and practice on experimentation in corporate entrepreneurship.