Lars H. is a current student of the Global Entrepreneurship Program. While attending classes at Zhejiang University he took a course called "Creativity, inovation & entrepreneurship" taught my Mark Greeven, Associate Professor at Zhejiang University Innovation & Entrepreneurship. See what Lars thought about this course:
"In a previous article, I talked in depth about the course titled “New venture creation & strategy” that was taught to us at emlyon business school. The content covered in that course ties together significantly with the classes we got at Zhejiang University in China about “Creativity, innovation & entrepreneurship”. More specifically, our lectures in China built substantially upon the notion of alternative patterns of thinking as a driving force in the process of valuable idea generation. Crucial in my learning experience was the cultivation of an “innovative mindset”, the cornerstones of which are the concepts of vertical, lateral, effectual and benchmark thinking. While most people tend to approach solving their problems vertically, the other three ways of thinking provide new angles of looking at these issues that can unlock a wealth of ideas one might otherwise never have thought of.
However, whereas “New venture creation” focused mainly on idea development in the early startup phase of a business, our lectures for this course also covered other stages of a company’s life cycle. For any entrepreneur, standing still means moving backwards in the face of an ever more rapidly evolving national and global economic context. The list of the world’s leading companies changes year after year and the competition from newer firms with inventive ideas is murderous.
In response, business leaders have to remain creative and innovative, not just when they are starting out as young entrepreneurs, but also (and especially) when they become the large, established players within their markets. To do so, we were introduced to the concept of an “innovation ecosystem”. This is a type of business model whereby a company leader combines several of Doblin’s 10 types of innovation to form a long-term sustainable competitive advantage in the form of a strong network of complementary companies. Companies that have such a business model are able to differentiate in their product offerings, decrease their transaction costs and realize invaluable synergies to remain competitive as the business landscape changes drastically around them.
This course also emphasized creative innovation in the Chinese context specifically. Among other things, our teacher provided evidence that some of the ideas people, including myself, have about the country, couldn’t be further from the truth. For example, China has traditionally been seen abroad as a mere lower-quality imitator of other countries’ innovations and as an unimaginative manufacturer. However trends for the future suggest that the country may in fact become the world’s leading innovator in the not too distant future. Further adding to this trend is the fast-growing number of incubators, venture capitalists and angel investors in China.
Finally, we were given an “Innovation Project” wherein we had to use the tools that were handed to us in the lectures to search for a business opportunity in a Chinese (and global) context that could be developed as a potentially profitable company. We had to systematically set up and refine a business model, testing its assumptions and hypotheses and adjusting our value proposition as the business plan became increasingly detailed over the course of the semester. For some groups, this meant that the final presentation of their business idea looked almost unrecognizable from what it started out as. One of our rules of thumb was to constantly “question everything”, applying creative flexibility and an innovative spirit to every facet of the business we were attempting to grow into fruition."