Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Making of an Idea Journal (2016 edition)

On this site you can view links to many of the different iterations of the Idea Journal assignment we regularly assign to students in the ZSEM Entrepreneurship course.  This year I think it is especially important to emphasize technique so we have reduced the number of entries which through the years have been in the range between 8 and 10 to this year's which is only 5 plus an introduction.

While I believe blogger is very easy to use as I have maintained this blog since 2010, I have to remain open to students choosing different online mediums to present their work.  One student in particular asked if he could do his blog using Tumblr and I not only agreed to but took it as a challenge to create one using that medium as well.  The point of the excericse as described to students is two-fold:

Students will have several exercises to demonstrate the process of coming up with ideas based on self-knowledge, market knowledge, problem/solution identification plus application of creative techniques,

The ideas generated through the individual student idea journals then become part of a database of ideas that teams of students can further pursue to research and develop into business plans for the remainder of the semester.

 The Steps to achieving their own idea journals this year include:

Setting up their own blog on blogger, tumblr or another free and publicly available medium
(my user name is ideaplaymaker and then the blog site is

and then adding original content they create to address the 5 idea generation challenges including:

#1 Entrepreneur Profile and Sustainable Development Goals which draws on work completed for the course by the student and by their peers to narrow down ideas that are inspired by the worlds most pressing issues according to the UN.

(image plus 3 paragraphs and 3 business ideas, see links for full entry)
#2 Mindmap Passions, Purpose and Gifts to generate ideas about your self

(image of your hand drawn mind map, plus written reflections on how this information could be channelled into different entrepreneurship endeavors)

 #3 Storyboard Business Ideas with Character 

(Selecting a character, six scenes they are in and what business ideas those scenes could represent. This one is straight forward as I did everything on a powerpoint slide and then converted it to an image and posted it with the type written list of 6 business ideas)

#4 I wish this was - ideas based on a location

(images of the space you have in mind, descriptions of its location and surroundings possibly link to its region on a map plus 3 business ideas of what it could be to you. Alternatively, students can post 3 images of 3 different locations and provide one business idea for each location. So 3x1 or 1x3 - either way generates 3 business ideas)

#5 Forced Relationships for Deconstruction/Reinvention

 (try this exercise with multiple word sets to come up with a minimum 9 new business ideas as illustrated in the image example)

From this example, over 26 ideas were generated.  Students will select some of their best and worst ideas to submit into an idea bank for the semester and then we will work on developing some of those ideas into full business plans.

Here are some links to student idea journals created this semester and based on this model:
(alphabetical order by last name)

Elisa Auge, France .
Yazid Dennoui, France -
Renato Jammoul, Italy -
Laura Juric, Croatia -  
Jorge Andres Martinez Valdez -
Tristan Mouysset, France - 
Sara Maria Miranda Peixoto, Portugal
Fulya Ulutas, Canada
Alex Zhu, Singapore/Germany -

and more to be added... 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Inspiration - UN Sustainable Development Goals for Social Entrepreneurs in Training

I recently participated in the European Forum Alpbach along with colleagues from the Impact Hub network.  We were challenged several days with ways we could individually and collectively address the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  During the forum we actively engaged in workshops to exercise some of our ideas.  My take away was certainly to activate my own network upon return.  Therefore, this semester in the ZSEM Entrepreneurship course, we will take up the challenge where students will create, innovate and build their own business around at least one UN SDG.

One example from the EF Alpbach, coming out of Impact Hub Zurich was Mosan - Mobile Sanitation founded by Mona Mijthab, an industrial designer based in Switzerland.  She sets out with her organization to address UNSDG#6 - Clean Water and Sanitation.

Example of the Entrepreneur Profile Assignment the Students will undertake.

While the UN Sustainable Development Goals are not without critics (see below), they do broadly identify key societal issues that can trigger students to evaluate their own values, beliefs and priorities.  As entrerpeneurs in training, students will investigate different entrepreneurs around the globe who are addressing market failures and filling needs not only wants.  Last year, the students in the course focused on areas that had economic potential for the development of Croatia and this year they will be challenged to develop business opportunities with Triple Bottom Line (TBL) impact: People, Planet, Profit.  Future posts on this blog will highlight some student work toward these ends.

Additional Readings for Students on UN Sustainable Development Goals (Pros-Cons)
Acharya, N. (2015). How The UN Plans To Use Innovation And Entrepreneurship For Sustainable Development. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Sep. 2016].
Easterly, W. (2015). The SDGs Should Stand for Senseless, Dreamy, Garbled. [online] Foreign Policy. Available at: [Accessed 11 Sep. 2016].

Jack, A. (2015). Experts divided over value of UN sustainable development goals - [online] Financial Times. Available at: [Accessed 11 Sep. 2016].

Renwick, D. (2015). Sustainable Development Goals. [online] Council on Foreign Relations. Available at: [Accessed 11 Sep. 2016].

United Nations Sustainable Development. (2015). Sustainable development goals - United Nations. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Sep. 2016]. 

Links for Students on TBL focused Entrepreneurs - Social Entrepreneurs - Ashoka Fellows  - Everyone a changemaker - New Zealand Foundation seeking to help young people in their pursuit of world changing ideas. - Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs - Take Part digital lifestyle magazine - TED - Technology. Entertainment. Design. Videos from conference series devoted to Ideas worth spreading.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Customers at the Bottom of the Pyramid

The World Economic Pyramid

Usually when I start my CRM course, we first think of consumers as those that the students making up the class can most identify with.  One assignment that has been ongoing for the last 5 years is attending and observing consumers at the annual Coffee and Chocofest.  This was not overlooked this year, however, as timing would have it my former student, Hira Wajahat Malik, was returning to Zagreb and came into the class (11 Feb 2016) to talk about her customer.  This customer was in stark contrast to coffee addicts and chocoholics the new group of students would soon engage with but represented the Bottom of the Pyramid.

I posed to the students a question: "Do you think you will ever have to understand a new customer in a new market?" Well, ofcourse I expected them to quickly answer yes but this opened them to unfamiliar territory that Hira would expose them to over the next hour and into a week long homework assignment.  The classroom went from just a few people familiar with the "BoP" term to 30 plus students diving deep into related issues --- what organizations and enterprises address customers at the Bottom of the Pyramid and how?.

Hira had spent a semester back in 2010 at ZSEM as part of an exchange program between her school in Pakistan and ours here in Croatia ( She took my Entrepreneurship course and worked on a business plan on developing a solar energy company.  To every teacher's dream, she is working on a related business today and was in Europe to participate on a training and partnership exploration.  She captured students by the way she matter of factly talked about how over 60% of the 220 million people living in Pakistan is off grid.  But her view of the Bottom of the Pyramid showed people living with mobile phones without access to electricity and sanitation but with desire for quality products and less means to demand them.  Her solution was to illustrate the isolated areas that would need more alternative energy solutions like solar energy and bringing different payment options to make it more affordable.

The students then had the challenge to find other organizations addressing Bottom of the Pyramid issues and document this with a video or article link.  The assignment took anywhere from 30 seconds to 60 minutes as the students later revealed.  The issues they found were related to health, hygene, access to water, women's issues, preserving cultural heritage, economic development.  We had a total of 30 out of 32 students engage with this optional task. We also then challenged students to prepare a creative presentation of their short research with little guidance and a lot of freedom.  Again this was optional and we got 6 assignments as a result.  The 20% of the students that were willing, able and interested in pursuing this last task included poems, collages, comparitive presentations on prezi.  In a future blog post update we will cluster the research the students around customer profiles, themes and locations and begin to profile their work here as some will develop them into full business cases for a graded element of the course.
Guest Lecturer, Hira Wajahat Malik, Teaching Assistant, Nina Alvir and students
 working in the class.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

CRM - Who is the Customer? #Learner

Customer Relationship Management is celebrating with me as a course I have taught for 10 years at ZSEM!  This semester started off with only half the class showing up on Day 1 but what a blessing to have 19 enthusiastic students and a large capacity room to play in.  Yes, play is part of our learning process.  But learn we did.  This post is a recap of the class for the other half that did not make it and for those who did to reflect on the experience.

We started class with a question...Are you satisfied with the room setup?  The traditional classroom style focuses attention on the professor and the front of the class where all students are in neat rows facing forward.  Tradition should be questioned in my book.  So if we have enough space and movable chairs why not shake things up.  I broke the class up into 3 groups of 6-7 and then they went about coming up with ways to rearrange the furniture and space to maximize learning goals they set.  This is how I say hello, let's move.

The logic is that we should use every opportunity to improve and know how to manage change that is in our control.  For those three hours each week we control the space and should use it to our advantage.  Its not simply about being on automatic pilot.  I do not want zombie students who just take their seats each week sitting in the same place waiting for me to spoon feed information.  I love to construct how we learn and customize what we learn to the industries students find appealling.  Right now, education is a common platform.  Understanding how to create and reimagine the learning environment can be taught by a power point presentation but it can also be experienced by getting up and making it happen.

The results of our experiment were fascinating and I could write a whole research paper on it but instead I will give you a peek into what happened in pictures:

Team 1. Chose to line up the tables face to face in a board room style.  They felt it would give maximum eye contact and balance of power but they had to negotiate around the setup of another team and battle a pole and unruly electrical wires.

The end result for  Team 1. was they added a podium, created signage, laid out folders and took their best shot to capture a setup that would foster debate and discussion.  On the other hand if they removed the podium it would be a great setup for some speed dating.

Team 2. Tried to experiment with engineering a triangle as all teams had the additional challenge of having enough seats so that everyone in the class that day could be seated in the work space. A pole in the classroom also restricted views and would leave some members feeling isolated.

The final result for Team 2. was demonstrated as a teacher or trainer could enter into the middle of the open triangle to move about and interact freely with the participants.  However, the team themselves after sitting in their creation felt that it was too rigid and preferred the space that Team 3 created.
And like Goldie Locks and the three bears....Team 3. seemed to be just right... a multi-level circle where everyone had enough personal space around them but could clearly see everyone and felt comfortable to share freely and openly in this configuration.

There are numerous articles on learning environments and I have written in this blog before on different setups used at conferences to achieve different results.  We will continue this dialog in future class sessions.  If anyone wants to read ahead if you are focused on customers as learners, conference goers, trainees, etc. Here is a quick reading list to get you started...
  1. Bob Pearlman - New Learning Environments for 21st Century Skills
  2. Lawson Reed Wulsin, Jr. - Classroom Design - Literature Review
  3. Jessica Lieber - 5 Ways Classroom Design Can Improve What We Learn and Who Learns It  
Contribute some of your own ideas to the comments below and thanks for visiting.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Entry #10 - Makers

The maker movement has created a new emphasis on tinkering and experimenting.  Playing around with objects to bring your ideas into 3d whether that be starting from a sketch and then putting it together by hand or using a 3d printer to materialize an idea.

Towards those ends we want to challenge our students to create something with their hands that came from their own idea generation.  The simple act of turning some thing useless into something useful has a magical effect and stimulates the idea and opportunity process.  Many students need practice in this area as it is not often used in the college classroom.  Tinkering belongs in the entrepreneurial process and creativity while well exercised in early education needs equal attention and practice in lifelong learning.

For my example, I took tape, paper, scizzors, magazine articles and old packaging and created an idea journal in a former cheese box.  This physical manipulation from one form to another is an important part of transformation and an exercise in value creation.  There are many tools to learn how to do new things and I am especially recommending ehow and instructables as places to learn how to make and experiment following simple instructions provided by members of these communities and others like them.  Have fun!

Entry #10 of 10 - Idea Journal 2015 - Teacher's example

Entry #9 - 5 Social Problems and 5 Business Solutions (Pairs)

Social as being used for our course is addressing social issues not necessarily social media.  Though sometimes social media is used to communicate and raise awareness to social issues.  This post starts with asking questions...what social problems is the world facing today? What are those 5 that you want to research and see how people and places are coming up with business solutions to address these problems.

Let's start with a list of social issues facing the world:

Lack of Education
Child Welfare
Family Erosion
Animal Rights
Human Trafficking
Social Exclusion
Global Warming
Natural Disasters
and unfortunately the list can go on and on...

and turn it into a word cloud with

But simply thinking of all the problems the world faces will not solve them.  We can look for inspiration in social entrepreneurs and the organizations that support their development like th Skoll Foundation, Ashoka and NESsT.

Now I will pick 5 of these problems and try to show how social entrepreneurs are trying to solve them through social enterprise and social innovation...

Poverty is being addressed by many social enterprises but trying to create pathways out of the poverty cycle.  Providing seed money to in sma
ll amounts to start microenterprises is how microfinance concept began and led Muhammad Yunus to a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.  Yunus has spread the concept of social entrepreneurship and his reach has gone beyond his intial homeland of Bangladesh to many other parts of the world including his initiative Yunus Social Business Balkans.

Human Trafficking - Partnership for Freedom ran a social entrepreneurship idea competition to help identify ways in which victims of human trafficking could heal and engage in employment to reclaim their lives.  The results were discussed in a Jan 2014 Forbes magazine article.  I found another example of Neet's Sweets whose founder was a victim of human trafficking and now helps others through the bakery she runs with a social purpose.

Homelessness is a topic I have covered through blogs before so you can see more at the link provided which was written after I worked with the City of Zagreb to address some social issues right here in Croatia.  One of the most memorable ideas is the one called Hidden City Tours out of Barcelona which employs the homeless or previously homeless to give tours of the city as they know the city streets so well from living on them.

Aging and increasing life spans has lead to a shortage of housing and quality of life issues for those over 65 in communities across the globe.  The UK even has published a guide book to address health and social care businesses that might want to serve this demographic. An example of one is Amnick Social Enterprise which helps elderly in 3 main ways...teaches them IT, helps them get back into sports and provides a handyman assistance program.

Disabilities can be short term or long term but they create physical and mental challenges to leading a full participatory life.  People with disabilities often get left out of work and social groups and there are many organizations who are trying to solve this with business solutions.  Vedran Habel in Croatia is a chef and cooking teacher who has been working with the blind, wheelchair bound, hearing impaired and low mental capacity individuals and organizations as well as mainstream organizations to help educate and connect and include through hospitality and catering. He runs Center UNUO and offers dining workshops where persons with different abilities can come together and share through meals and learn more about reducing the challenges for those with disabilities toward fuller inclusion.

Entry #8 - Croatia Customized for Tourists from Entry #5

Each student's journal will refer back to the destination of origin of their international Barbie or Ken from entry#5.  Mine is from Scotland so I have selected some ways I would customize a tour of Croatia for visitors from Scotland.

I tend to believe in the 10% rule that people can handle and appreciate differences to a small degree (10% different and 90% familiar).  Therefore I have chosen elements of Croatia that someone from Scotland might enjoy because they are familiar to them.

Scots and Croats both love the sport of soccer so they might want to take a tour that includes playing soccer, attending soccer matches or visiting businesses and locations where current and former soccer stars hangout.

Croatia and Scotland have a rich history which includes castles. I would be sure to include a castle tour and include culinary classes for learning cooking under the bell "Peka" as well as rakija tastings.

The other option for a tour for Scots to Croatia would be cliff diving and adventure tourism to enjoy recreation and nature's beautiful landscapes all at once.