It is common to see entrepreneurship learning activities focus on the ‘idea-generation’ aspect of a business start-up. However, equally important for entrepreneurial success is the ability to transform business ideas in to commercially viable products or services. Through an innovative entrepreneurship module entitled “Discovery Panel”, (which started in the Münster University of Applied Sciences (MUAS) and is now implemented in the Munich School of Business) students are connected with entrepreneurs and their already existing business ideas so that they can assist them in evaluating its commercial viability. Pioneered by Prof. Todd Davey, this approach changes the focus from idea generation to allow students to understand the practicalities of transforming an idea in to a viable business proposition.
How does it work?
The purpose of Discovery Panel is to help students understand the entire innovation process while enhancing their transversal skills such as team work, communication, inter-cultural understanding and leadership. To this end, the program brings on-board researchers, entrepreneurs and/or NGO’s (stakeholders) who have a business idea but might not necessarily have the resources to verify its comercial viabilyt and further develop it.
The first task students perform in the Discovery Panel is to thoroughly understand the specific idea and needs of the stakeholders. Here, it should be noted that the ideas presented might have different level of development. Following that, students undertake a preliminary investigation of the proposed product/service and its target market to acquire a basic understanding of the factors at play. Then, guided by the findings of the preliminary investigation and the feedback of both the stakeholders and Prof. Davey, the students carry out a more focused and in-depth study. The process concludes with a presentation, where students give a concrete recommendation to the stakeholders including a detailed product/service, price, place and promotion strategies.
The module is offered as a semester course where there is a 1.5-hour weekly meeting for 3 months. What is noteworthy about the arrangement of the course is that the total time is evenly divided between theory – lecture and explanations, and practice – time spent on solving the stakeholders’ problem.
Drivers and barriers
The main driver behind Discovery Panel is that it creates a win-win situation for the external stakeholders and students. The participating stakeholders benefit from the research output and the concrete recommendations provided, while the students benefit from the practical insight that is gained by working on real cases. On the other hand, the difficulty of finding a lecturer with the relevant practical experience and the resources required to bring external stakeholders on-board were mentioned by Prof. Davey as the main barriers. Yet, despite some of the challenges, the course has been successful, particularly in terms of developing student soft and hard skills. Lastly, it is worth mentioning that the module has recently been introduced in Munich Business School.
This article is based on a case study originally written by Andre Perusso (Münster University of Applied Sciences) developed as part of the Erasmus + Knowledge Alliance Project “Integrating Entrepreneurship and Work Experience into Higher Education” (WEXHE).
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