Thursday, January 27, 2011

MBA Entrepreneurship Project workshops 2011

This year, I have again run workshops for MBA students doing the core Entrepreneurship Project(EP) at Said Business School. The EP presents students with some important challenges
- how to explore an idea and develop it sufficiently to create a credible business plan
- how to integrate the various aspects of a new venture including strategy, marketing, operations, HR and finance
- how to work together collaboratively in their teams.

My workshops help with all three difficulties at the tricky early stage of students' projects. Even if they have managed to agree on a project title and a paragraph describing it, often they don't know what to do next. My approach is to use methods and tools from creative design that help explore what the idea is (and reject it and come up with a better one if the team wants to) from different angles, synthesizing key aspects such as end users (or customers) and other key actors, artefacts, technologies and processes, and also integrating organizational functions for the proposed new venture.

The important thing is that these methods are exploratory - they help the team look into and understand a bit better the central idea of their EP project which could be a new service, a bit of technology, or a relationship between people in one place and people somewhere else. The only testing we can do in the workshops is exposing the teams' ideas to one another - through design critiques that give teams valuable feedback from many brains.

The four methods we used were
(1) creating storyworlds: visualizations mapping the key actors involved in a project, starting with a person or a thing;
(2) visualizing the customer journey: representing this as yet imaginary encounter between the user or customer and the enterprrise's offering;
(3) drawing rough sketches of the user interfaces of key touchpoints in an offering; and
(4) making sketches of the service ecology or value constellation to identify actors and relationships between them.

Some teams found some of them hard to create. But they helped the students articulate to one another, for the moment, what their idea is and its implications, which is important to help them identify what research they need to do next.

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