Initiatives and Entrepreneurship
This is a block-mode subject that explores what it means to be ‘entrepreneurial’ in different professional contexts. This is a 3rd year subject in the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation (BCII) double degree program. Until this subject, students have had 5 other 2-week long intensive subjects about creative methods, design, complexity, futuring and leadership while completing their core degree. The subject provides a segue from 3 years of a double degree to focussing full time on the 4th year of the BCII, during which they learn to implement and execute projects in internships or as part of their own start-up pursuits.
Over two intensive weeks, this subject takes students on an entrepreneurial journey, during which they learn different entrepreneurial methods of planning and conducting experiments to validate and implement innovative ideas. Through gaining feedback from different stakeholders (investors, customers, broader community, etc.) teams of students build resilience and learn to collaboratively decide whether to pivot or persevere with their innovative idea, or even completely abandon it in favour of an entirely new idea.
Students learn to accumulate and present evidence in support of their idea. In context of broader social and economic systems, ethical and legal considerations, the subject concludes with a reflection on how the entrepreneurial methods might impact their final year (incl. internships) and careers thereafter.
Innovative WIL Features
- Postgraduate unit
- Multiple touch points with Entrepreneurs
- Design thinking methodology
- Incremental mini-reflections for each experiment conducted
- Peer-review assists in (re)interpreting the assessment criteria
- Building confidence and self-efficacy to develop and implement innovative ideas
- Raw feedback from external stakeholders and industry guests
- Workshops create a safe place to fail
Unit Impacts & Outcomes
For students: Students from across all faculties are immersed and mentored through a series of short lectures, longer workshops and guest talks over two weeks, during which they form multidisciplinary teams, conceive an idea and learn different ways to experiment and validate the idea and to communicate it to a variety of stakeholders. The experiential learning process is framed around the process of creating a new venture, but the emphasis is on the methods and processes, which are applicable to other contexts in which new initiatives are proposed and implemented. An outcome of the subject is that students are exposed to the process if incrementally implementing and validating projects, including budgetary justification, which prepares them for the commercial context of their upcoming 4th year internships. In some cases, students continue to build on their venture within certain 4th year streams, e.g. 81523 Speculative Startup.
For industry: Industry partners may be in-class for guest talks or workshops where they assist students with the development of their ideas. For example, instead of a general guest talk about IP by a lawyer, generalised IP pre-readings and resources are provided online (as part of the ATN EDGE project) and the IP lawyer rotates in-class between teams to give them advice that is specific to their idea. Other industry-engagement opportunities occur outside the classroom when students reach out to them to validate components of their idea. The subject culminates in a ‘demo day’ when students pitch their idea to an invited industry panel and other guests in the audience, some of whom offer support for the students to continue pursuing their idea over the summer or in place of their 4th year internship subject.
For teaching: Intensive-mode teaching poses its own challenges in comparison to conventional flipped classroom (Bliemel, 2014) or blended learning modes (Male et al 2016). In particular, there is little time for students to complete readings, discuss or reflect on threshold concepts if they are hurried from one workshop to another. This requires very selective presentation of threshold concepts and careful threading of their flow, while cutting out supporting materials to give students time to work on their projects through which to apply the threshold concepts. The students (supported by a handful of in-class mentors who have industry experience) are guided to design experiments that are critical to their idea, their learning and their use of time. While 2-weeks would not normally permit much entrepreneurial experimenting, this approach revealed remarkable progress across all teams, as evidenced by comments from industry panellists at the final presentations.
Bliemel, M. J. (2014). Getting entrepreneurship education out of the classroom and into students’ heads. Entrepreneurship Research Journal, 4(2), 237-260. https://doi.org/10.1515/erj-2013-0053
Male, S., et al (2016) “Intensive Mode Teaching Guide” Report funded by the Office for Learning & Teaching
- Shape creative ideas into initiatives that create value for different stakeholders and align with specific social, cultural, economic and regulatory contexts.
- Test value and impact of an entrepreneurial idea through experimentation and engagement with stakeholders and experts.
- Effectively communicate an entrepreneurial idea to diverse audiences and adapt your approach based on feedback.
- Critically reflect upon entrepreneurial practices and issues and articulate your own position within the entrepreneurial ‘playing field’.
While the subject is primarily about entrepreneurial methods and entrepreneurship, knowledge thereof is not assessed per se. The graduate attributes for the BCII complement the core degree’s emphasis on knowledge and communication thereof, by focussing on (GA1) complex systems thinking, (GA2) creating value in problem solving and inquiry, (GA3) inter- and transdisciplinary practices, (GA4) imaginative and ethical citizenship, and (GA5) entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial skills. The assessments and assessment criteria for this subject, 81516, map partially onto GA2 and GA4, and fully onto GA5.
There are three assessments to evaluate how much students have developed these graduate attributes and capabilities (not ‘knowledge’). The first assessment is after the first week, and requires students to communicate the experiments conducted thus far (incl. rationale for their prioritisation, designs, and outcomes) along with the value proposition to a potential customer in the form of a prototype (e.g. website, app, physical mock-up or other form). A draft version is (formatively) peer-assessed across teams prior to submission for (summative) assessment.
The second assessment is at the end of the second week, which includes a ‘demo day’ pitch to potential investors or other supporters explaining the current state and envisioned future of the idea. A key element of the assessment is how much students have communicated the evidence in support of their idea, especially regarding the value created for a variety of stakeholders (e.g. potential customers, end-users, distributors, suppliers, partners, and investors) and how the idea will survive/thrive from capturing some of that value creation.
The final assessment is a personal reflection, drawing on in-class experiences and the above to reveal how their view of what entrepreneurship entails may have changed, and what implications this new/updated view has on their immediate (4th year) or near-term future (career start).
Reflection on learnings
In retrospect, the reflections on each incremental experiment were not well constructed or guided. For the next version, I am planning on providing a better template to record the experiment with greater emphasis on the learning outcome, consistent with Kember et al’s (2000) levels of reflection.
Since some students resist the notion of becoming a startup entrepreneur, students may need more frequent reminders that the premise of creating a venture over two weeks is just an extreme form of launching new initiatives of any kind, including intrapreneurship, and that budgetary considerations will apply in almost every initiative.
Engagement with online materials remains a challenge in intensive-mode teaching. For future sessions, the online materials will be made available much earlier, with more prompts to explore them.
Kember, D. et al. (2000) “Development of a questionnaire to measure the level of reflective thinking.” Assessment & evaluation in higher education 25.4: 381-395. https://doi.org/10.1080/713611442
Students preparing to play the (facilitated) Playing Lean board game through which they learn how entrepreneurial methods play out over time
Dr Martin Bliemel
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation