A Lesson for Teachers

I just completed the first session and broke the class for lunch. We were to re-meet in about an hour. When I went to the canteen, I found this boy walking around with his phone camera on and scanning in all directions. He occasionally was doing something and there was celebration from friends around. Since he was so lost in another world, I asked him if there was a problem. He smiled and asked – ‘Are you not playing Pokemon Go?’

Over the next 10 minutes I had a class (right there in the canteen). One on ‘Augmented Reality’ using Pokemon Go. This was one more occasion why I enjoy being a teacher. I love my students, because they ensure that I am never behind on anything. Only thing I have to continue doing is – never acting like a teacher. If I keep my student like mind open, I can learn so much from my students. This helps me be an even better teacher.

So, as a teacher, if you are not catching Pokemons, at least let your students catch them. Because if you keep telling them what not to do, they will not tell you what they are doing. It is (in my opinion) the teacher’s loss.

If you are a teacher or a ‘teacher wannabe’ – enjoy learning along with students. Don’t treat them as students but as colleagues in the journey of learning. Its the only way you can learn and stay ahead.

Happy Thinking!

Solitude and Creativity

While it may seem contrarian that ‘solitude’ catalyses ‘creativity’; it seems to have some validity.

While I believe that spending time with oneself is a powerful way to unlock your inner potential, I have never researched on this topic. But when I came across this wonderful write-up on the topic, I could not resist myself from sharing. ‘Is Solitude the Secret to Unlocking our Creativity?’ Link: http://observer.com/2016/06/is-solitude-the-secret-to-unlocking-our-creativity/

I spend a lot of time ‘walking’ and try to spend a fair amount of time in ‘solitude’. Both of these are getting more difficult. But almost every successful and happy person (the combination is rare) I meet increases my belief in both the above activities.

As entrepreneurs, you have a need to be actively engaged in social conversations. But you also need to disconnect from your company, industry, market and be with yourself. It provides you access to your original you. It is needed to help make that unique contribution that only you can provide.

Try it. It seems to me that ‘walking’, ‘solitude’ and ‘silence’ are also the pathway to happiness. Read more on this. Think about it. Reflect and Find out for yourself.

Be Creative. Be Entrepreneurial. Be Happy.

Are you catching Pokemon?

If you are not, its still ok! But, if no one around you is catching them, it signals a problem! While I have not caught Pokemons yet, many of my students are clearing them out from the Virtual World. They got me exposed to this!

No, I am not asking you, ‘teacher’, to play ‘Pokemon Go‘ but I am suggesting that you must keep yourself abreast of the quick developments taking place in the world of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Be around people (students) who are catching Pokemon. Figure out what they are doing and help them decipher the deeper trends behind the fun. They will value it forever. Here is something that you can do as an entrepreneurship educator.

When you are teaching entrepreneurship, one of the key things is to help aspiring and existing entrepreneurs identify emerging trends / be alert to changes. This helps them either find opportunities or create them. All of this is futuristic. And one of these futuristic trends is – VR / AR.

To help your students / participants appreciate and explore this new world, you need to be exposed yourself. Even if you don’t catch Pokemons, you need to understand a little more of this emerging trend.

Here is a nice article to get you up the curve: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/07/13/despite-hype-virtual-reality-still-years-away-making-difference-higher-ed?

Remember that this article provides you numerous pointers to identify opportunities around which million (possibly billion) dollar businesses can be built:

As an aspiring entrepreneur are you going to build one?

As an educator are you going to help one of your students build one?

Happy Reading, Happy Playing, Happy Imagining, Happy Entrepreneuring!

Entrepreneurs: Skills and Behaviours

There are as many claims on what are the skills and behaviours of entrepreneurs as there are commentators! So when I came across a recent working knowledge output from Harvard Business School, I read through it in detail. It is a detailed scientific method to distilling and finding out what makes these mystical characters who they actually are. Read more on this research here: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/skills-and-behaviors-that-make-entrepreneurs-successful?cid=spmailing-13055035-WK%20Newsletter%206-8-2016%20(1)-June%2008,%202016

It is interesting that out of the 11 factors identified by the researchers five seem to be significantly higher amongst entrepreneurs. Two of these five caught my attention: building networks and finance & financial management. Predominantly these two are not taught adequately in entrepreneurship programs. I hope when the research is complete and the results are published, more entrepreneurship education programs enable entrepreneurs-to-be with skills around these two critical factors.

Happy Reading, Happy Thinking and Happy Entrepreneuring!

Autonomy to HEIs – is it enough?

Last week I read a news item that said the PMO was asking the MHRD to give ‘autonomy’ to 20 Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in the country. This they hope will help the HEIs become ‘world class’. It is a very bold and forward looking decision. With most international rankings questioning the stature of our HEIs, such progressive thought is important.

Link: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/services/education/pmo-advises-hrd-ministry-to-give-full-autonomy-to-20-world-class-educational-institutions/articleshow/52947157.cms

One look at the entrepreneurship literature, especially corporate entrepreneurship literature suggests that ‘autonomy’ is but one among a bunch of factors that can help trigger entrepreneurial tendencies. A simple case in point in ‘corporate entrepreneurship’ within established organisations. While ‘autonomy’ is one of the factors there are others too – such as access to work discretion, rewards, organisation boundaries, and organisation climate.

Above all these an institution that wants to turn entrepreneurial requires individuals with ‘an entrepreneurial mindset’ that will allow them to take risks, bold decisions, handle exceptions, and practice ambidexterity.

Do we have entrepreneurial leaders in higher education who can do it? I think that is a big question. How do we find them? How do we empower them? Else it will be just another few thousand crores spent, not invested.

Hope our policy makers think on this!!

Reporting Vs Research

I had an interesting chat with an eager, passionate, enthusiastic and smart student. She wanted to write about entrepreneurship. We spoke about how she could approach learning the subject and eventually contributing to it. During the conversation I found that we kept coming back to this rather important point – reporting versus research.

Reporting is what reporters must do. They are to observe and report (state facts) without interpretation. They normally do not involve trying to identify ‘causality’. On the other hand research is what researchers do. They use the facts and attempt to draw causality. They try to answer questions about why, how, and what behind phenomena.

Reporting must record phenomena, Research must attempt to decipher the meaning and causality behind it.

It is important to know that both roles are important. It is because we do not have high quality reporting that we do not have high quality datasets to work with. Hence both roles are critical. So why is this important?

As a student of any subject it is important to locate oneself in a role that is most suitable to one’s interests as well as one’s capabilities. It is only by situating oneself in the cusp of interest and capability that one can contribute to the most. One can straddle between the two, but moving too often makes one less focussed on either. Hence it makes sense to stay rooted in one and occasionally spend time in the other.

I am a researcher. I have decided to be one. I try to help practitioners make sense of phenomena and thereby make better decisions. What do you want to do? Think and make a wise decision!

I told this budding writer the same thing. The beauty is – she said she would take the inputs, think on it and come back with her decision. This makes the life of a teacher worthwhile.

Happy Thinking!

Talk at GIC – an entrepreneurial ecosystem

I was invited to speak last Friday at Gujarat Technological University (GTU) Innovation 1_JULY_EVENT_2-2Council. They are popularly known as GIC. It was fantastic knowing everyone there. Right from the time I was connected by their Director, the faculty and students running the centre stayed in touch with me, coordinated with a hitch and ensured that I was put back in the cab safely.

Their hospitality was amazing!

Their energy was amazing!

Their curiosity was amazing!

Their culture was amazing!

It is rare to see such an entrepreneurial culture anywhere in India. So I was curious to know how they managed to create it. While they did tell me about the autonomy, the handling of exceptions, the leadership and many others, according to me it is the faith that Mr Hiranmay put in the students. The entire place is run and managed by students. I have always believed that teachers must empower students and be there only to protect them when things go wrong. I saw one man do it. AND I saw the many students there live up to the expectations. (The poster on top was also created by one student)

Their responsibility impressed and inspired me!

Their maturity and professionalism blew me away!

For those who don’t know – these are kids doing their engineering (mostly in their second year). My salute to them. I came away inspired, energised, and reinvigorated. I hope I have added some steam to their already existing momentum too.

Post the talk I was interacting with a couple of startups housed there. We spent almost an hour and at least a couple left with action items for innovation and improvements. I hope they find their solutions and scale up. The startups posed specific challenges and were willing to listen to suggestions (solutions) from a variety of angles.

Overall it was an evening well spent (i think i must say – invested). I will be ever ready to go there whenever possible for I believe this is a classic case of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the making!

My wishes and prayers are with these kids for them to live their dreams and their capabilities.