Sunday, December 4, 2011

PL 70/11: Bird-in-hand: entrepreneurs in HE

Filed under: debate, education — plinius @ 3:52 pm

Last Friday we had an excellent conference on entrepreneurship in higher education at Oslo and Akershus University College.

I missed the opening, since I had to get my visum for China (where we’ll do a LATINA course in mid-December). I arrived in the middle of Vesa Taatila’s keynote on Passion, inspiration, networks and a little bit of Learning by Development.

Taatila works as a special advisor at the Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Finland, where learning basically takes through real projects that students do off campus.  He did not use the standard (unreflected) expression R&D (research and development), but referred to RDI: Research, Development and Innovation. The growing importance of innovation – or real changes in the world of production – has been clear in public policy making for the last two or three years, I think.

The old model: Research followed by Development followed by Production, sets up barriers between types of activities – and encourages researchers to remain within the sphere of research. The Norwegian government now asks both schools and HE institutions to teach entrepreneurship to students, and asks researchers in HE to come forward with new business proposals. But the prestige and safety of academic research remains strong.

Students participate

Taatila said:

  • All our learning  takes place in practical projects.
  • Learning to create innovations; working on shared goals; resource leverage; continuous networking.
  • Students have to “sell” their skills
  • We can respond quickly – and manage a great number of students- creating projects on the go.
  • Lecturers are for those who cannot read ….

Sandwhich studies

In Norway, a private college of computer studies has introduced a new bachelor programme in cooperation with Accenture and their daughter company Avanade

  • B. with placement takes four years, including 18 months of practical experience (two periods)
  • Students are paid appr. 200.000 NOK pr. year during their employment periods – and maintain student rights at NITH

A senior adviser in the employers’association for trade and services asked for much closer collaboration between education and production. In the knowledge economy, the Teaching – Research – Innovation triangle is basic. We want to be included in all three sectors – not just innovation. Commercial and public actors demand

  • Parity of esteem between university-based and work-based learning

In the long run, specialized HE institutions may even disappear, with

  • Learning in a workplace as mainstream for students

Saras Sarasvaty

The second keynote (+ a workshop) was given by a brilliant and lively business professor – and former entrepreneur -from the Darden school of business, University of Virginia. She presented the principles of entrepreneurship – based on detailed empirical studies of real-world entrepreneurs:

  1. Bird-in-hand. Start with Who-you-are; What-you-know & Whom-you-know. No pre-set goals.
  2. Pilot-in-the-plane principle: The future comes from what people do. “History does not run on auto-pilot”
  3. Affordable loss principle (not highest expected return).
  4. Crazy Quilt principle: Build a network of self-selected stakeholders (not competitive analysis). You co-create the future through stakeholder commitments.
  5. Lemonade principle: Embrace and leverage your surprises. When life throws lemonade at you, make lemonade …

Her thesis on entrepreneurial expertise was supervised by Herbert Simon. Before that, she was on the foundings team in five entreprise ventures.

  • Effectuation is widely acclaimed as a rigorous framework for understanding the creation and growth of new organizations and markets.
  • There exists an entrepreneurial method. We are at the the stage of Bacon (F) when he wrote Novum Organum.
  • An expert is someone who has at least fifteen years of founding enterprises and CEOs Multiple ventures incl. successes and failures
  • We use multiple methods of investigation to counter criticism of our empirical study of entrepreneurs

Major initial study: collected entrepreneurs and had them think aloud while they solved a 17 pp. problem set of 10 typical startup decisions. Entrepreneurs all hate market reseach. They did not rely on predictive information.

You will find lots of open-access background material at

More than 4K instructors now have password access to teaching materials (free).

Pierre Omidyar on eBay

Its system is self-sustaining. Was this planned? No – it started as a hobby, and had to be simple. Build a platform and prepare for the unexpected. eBay is and was a commun

For foodies

Saras: Do you cook causally or effectually. What would cooking causally mean? Select recipe, get ingredients, follow instructions …

How do you compare entrepreneurship with cooking? Causal = with recipes + systematic purchases . Effectual with what you happen to have in your fridge and pantry.

  • Causal restaurant: Knut Boge (professor at my college): start with market research; location-location-location, analyse competitors
  • Effectual restaurant: Start with WWW: Who-What-Whom. Try it out on friends and neighbours …

The effectual approach (working with what you have) is generally more cost-effective.


  • Saras asked: we predict the future in order to control it. What is the opposite of that?
  • Plinius: If we make the future, we don’t have to predict it.
  • Saras: How do you do that?
  • Plinius: We just do the best we can with what we have
  • Saras: Did you read my web site beforehand?
  • Plinius: I peeked – but knew this a long time ago [I could have referred to Giambattista Vico …]
  • Saras: I’ll give you my after-the-lecture gift

She actually did give me the book … which describes some of the most beatiful roads in Norway


  • Check out the Freitag (brothers) video at Saras’ web site:
  • I twittered quite a bit from the event on Friday

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