Recent research has called for institutional approaches to help surpass the limitations of structural growth models in accounting for regionally specific development paths. The region of Heilbronn-Franconia in Baden-Württemberg is one such puzzling case for its economic and industrial structure is inconsistent with extant models, and yet the region represents one of the most prosperous economies with the highest concentration of hidden champions in Germany. This paper explores the institutions –patterns of social interactions and underlying beliefs – that characterize entrepreneurial practices on the levels of the firm, inter-firm and civic relations of this rural region. Based on a mixed-methods approach, including 132 interviews with managers and a survey of firms in strategic sectors, we unveil the interaction patterns of ‘life-long engagement’, ‘tinkering’, ‘doing’, ‘leadership networking’, and ‘civic engagement’ as well as the underlying beliefs that inform these patterns, as the institutions that are coherent with a particular mode of continuous innovation and entrepreneurial stamina. We conclude by proposing the
hourglass model as the institutional morphology of rural industrialism.