I consider myself to be fortunate. I have a stimulating job that allows me to experiment with new methods and topics. Here are my stand-out experiences. I’ll be building on some of these in 2013, and no doubt starting some more!
1. Lean Launch Pad (LLP) is a robust methodology for customer discovery and customer validation.
I attended the first LLP Educators’ Workshop at Berkeley with Steve Blank and Jerry Engel. It helped bring together many of the elements that I have been working on and thinking about as we re-tool our approach to teaching entrepreneurship at Sauder and UBC. It harnesses Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas, which I had been using for several years.
Steve’s approach did several things for me.
- He added a third dimension to the canvas: time.
- He emphasized the focus on qualitative research of early concepts. I have long believed in this, but now have more confidence to insist on early and rapid testing of a prototype concept – the initial value proposition.
- He provided an overall process that pulls all of the elements together. Critically, this includes a teaching guide, the “back office” or “behind the scenes” elements that allow this to all connect.
- That he provided actual teaching content, that can be used in a “flip the classroom mode”, (more on that below), was a bonus.
What am I doing with this? I have found ways to integrate some elements of the LLP method into existing courses, not least the undergraduate New Venture Design and Graduate level Technology Entrepreneurship courses, both of which I collaborate on with colleagues. But to have a clean run at this I will, in partnership with Iain Verigin (a long-time proponent of this methodology), run a LLP workshop through e@ubc for 10 teams in Jan/Feb 2013. This is an exciting development and one that could become a regular part of the early stage entrepreneurial development network at UBC.
2. The MBA Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship (BINV) track, has been in planning and development for more than 18 months, but was finally launched in Fall of 2012. I have been excited to immerse myself in the design and development of a year-long set of courses for entrepreneurs and intra-preneurs, or corporate innovators. The track as a whole involves a combination of existing and new courses. In partnership with Thomas Hellmann I ran a mini-module or sampler course for the track in mid-Fall, and we were delighted with the response. In addition to the many MBA students who tested the content and approach, we also had 65 non-MBA graduate research students from Engineering, Forestry, Geology and Mining, Pharmacy and Medicine audit the course. Some of these students have registered formally for the applied Technology Entrepreneurship course and it is our intent that this pattern of collaborative activity continues and grows.
Another aspect of this cross-faculty exploration is evidenced by the new Prototyping course, which will be taught to MBAs by Jon Nakane from the Engineering Physics’ prototyping group.
3. Flipped classroom discussions abound, as multiple formats of online content delivery are now available. But what do we mean by “flipped classrooms?” For some, the simple availability to self-serve content is enough, or a desire to replace “tedious lectures.” For me, face time is important and valuable. So my view of a flipped classroom is not one where face time in a classroom is reduced, but rather where it is made more valuable, because different activities happen there. Engaging, value added learning activities can be enhanced by different, better forms of preparation. In part, this can include video content of the “lecture.” But as others have found, simply video-ing a standard lecture can be boring and inefficient. This summer I experimented in making three 10-minute videos. Each of these was story-boarded and shot against a green-screen to enable post production animation. They were then supplied to students ahead of classes, and combined with self-test quizzes for comprehension. When we came to the actual class I did not do any conventional lecturing but went straight to applied exercise activities and the facilitated a discussion on the experiences. This is work-in-progress, but the initial reaction was very encouraging and I plan to do more with this approach. I believe that education is rapidly changing and the expectations of students mean that we need to try new approaches. I think that face time can remain a critical part of a superior learning experience, but it has to use that time well and differently to what students can self-serve.
4. Decoding Social Media. I have taught courses on digital marketing since the original dot com boom and bust in 2000. In the last five years social media has become an important part of digital marketing, but there remains much more to the topic than social. I wanted to develop and advanced course focused solely on Social Media. In exploring how best to do this I sought a partner, and found an excellent one in Alfred Hermida of the UBC Graduate School of Journalism. Our new course starts January 2013, and we will co-teach with students from both Schools of Commerce and Journalism.
5. Portfolios. For a number of years I have included blogging as a formal assignment in several of my courses. In comm101 students are encouraged to explore linking course concepts to business news. In comm464 and bama513, senior students, close to graduation, have been encouraged to take their blogs a step further, and recognize their portfolio capabilities, to allow them to showcase how they think and write, their interests and achievements, as they pertain to their future careers. A number of students reported that these “advanced blogs” helped them gain interviews and job offers. This led to the formalization of the portfolio process for the MBAs and this has moved through a pilot phase in 2012, and will go live and public in 2013. It is an exciting and practical way for connecting academic courses to careers, students to getting jobs and making their way in the business world.
In working on this project, yet again, I have been fortunate to collaborate with the talented team of developers in UBC’s CTLT group.
6. B-clinic. The business clinic or b-clinic concept had its origins in several sources. Students, often in teams, already undertook applied project work for live client organizations in some formal courses. Students also applied themselves to external organizations via a number of other avenues within the school. However, there were still gaps, both in demand and supply. On the demand side there were many organizations asking for help where a lack of fit on timing or scope with a course or co-op context meant that the demand went unmet. At the same time, many students found that without practical experience in applying their new-found knowledge, they were less attractive as potential employees. The b-clinic started in pilot form in summer 2012 with an advance team of MBAs. Several successful assignments were undertaken as the process was designed and tested. In 2013 the b-clinic will grow to scale and students will have the opportunity to leverage these experiences through their portfolios as they design their future career paths.
7. Guest speakers: every year I invite guest speakers into my classes and I always appreciate the energy, goodwill and experience that they bring. This year, the speakers ranged from alumni, a CMO and a former UN Secretary General. I like to bring in younger alumni, one to five years out from graduation to help show current students how quickly they can make their mark. The CMO of McDonalds came into class as a result of a student blog post on the “Your Questions, Our Answers” campaign. This led to job interviews for the student blogger as well as confirmation for the whole class that they were learning real, industry-required skills. See points 4 and 5, above. And Kofi Annan did not come to my class, but he did come to Sauder, and it was a privilege to hear him talk, and answer questions, connection business learning to challenges of the wider world.
8. Think! Social Media – global brain trust. Although my time at UBC has been full and fulfilling, I am delighted to continue my working relationship with Think! In one of those serendipitous events that had every reason not to happen, several years ago, at the height of a crazily busy day, in a busy week of a full month, I answered a cold call from Ben and Rodney and a business relationship and excellent friendship developed. I was delighted to participate in the Think! Global gathering in Vancouver in the summer– staff came from offices in 4 countries less than 3 years after starting up. With a strong vertical focus, (social media in tourism), creativity, passion and hard work, this is one of my 2012 highlights, and I expect it to be up there in 2013. Think! challenges me to give my best and it feels great to contribute to this industry disruptor.