In 2017, Haaga-Helia’s StartUp School joined the Erasmus+ project Networking for Entrepreneurship (NET-ENT) with partners from the United Kingdom, Slovenia and Spain, including secondary schools, colleges, polytechnics and university of applied sciences. Some partners had previously worked with Haaga-Helia, while others were new friends. Nonetheless, all partners had a common goal: support entrepreneurship students better in their institutions with a multidisciplinary approach.
Variation of the schools but same target
Though different institutions were at a different stage of their entrepreneur studies, all had the need to support students with business ideas. During the first half of the project, the picture of the target was quite clear: help the student in the early stage of their entrepreneurial journey from the idea to the product. That fit well with the StartUp School’s mission, to help students with their very early ideas and give them the opportunity to crystallise their idea with other students. However, the challenge was to plan a course where the student comes with his/her own idea but would get support from other students with their own ideas.
Design-thinking method for crystallising the business idea
As Haaga-Helia had previously used design thinking methods with Master’s students for the purposes of developing the business idea, it was clear choice to test and try this method with StartUp School students as well. Design thinking method is to define, test and iterate the idea fast; it could be used so that student groups of three could go through this process on a one day, one idea basis. And boom! The framework for the course From Idea to Prototype was created.
The next step was piloting and testing the course with students. A fast one-day approach with one’s idea was possible: emphasize, define, ideate, prototype and test the business idea, all done in a one-day workshop. The next day, a second student’s idea was similarly developed; third day, the last student’s idea. All received help from two other group members, ideating with the other group and validating the idea outside of the classroom, through which students were able to crystallise the idea further and learn the design thinking process.
Same aim, different pilot implementations
Course objectives and the content was similar in different implementations of the NET-ENT at five partner institutions. However, implementation differed notably as while Haaga-Helia’s course was an intensive, 3-days workshop, others had whole school year projects. Different implementations suited different students, and while some partners had more restricted and teacher-supported course in comparison to ours, the course objectives were very well reached.
Working with multidisciplinary groups was successful and student learned a lot from each other on both a personal level and also between different fields. A perfect multidisciplinary group would have one or two students in same degree program, from marketing, product design and manufacturing. One common challenge for all was to keep students and teachers motivated during the journey. If the course was free-choice for most of the students, some students naturally dropped during the semester. Teachers needed motivation as well as this was new concept and a new way to approach the process from idea to product. One additional lesson learned was to keep it simple and to start with a small group to be able to handle it.
The project with different institutions, students, teaching methods and education systems in different countries could be interesting, motivating, challenging and also rewarding. Despite these differences, entrepreneurial skills, idea process, product development and go-to-market is a similar process to all countries. And the last but not definitely least of the benefits was, of course, networking!
Päivi Williams is Service Design Lead of StartUp School. She leads and develops StartUp School’s offering and coach network. She experiments new pedagogical ideas in StartUp School and is enthusiastic about modern functional teaching methods.
StartUp School course From Idea to Prototype helps you learn more how start developing a business idea and make prototype of it. Check StartUp Schools’ offering.