Better Together event builds entrepreneurial thinking skills
New co-curricular learning experience inspires a wide range of participants
Enthusiasm and creative energy filled the Multi-Purpose Room in UMSU University Centre at the first-ever Better Together event in November, a two-day exploration of entrepreneurial thinking for UM students, staff and faculty.
Hosted by The Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning and funded through the UM Strategic Initiative Support Fund, the event saw more than 100 participants learning to apply entrepreneurial thinking to scenarios normally not associated with the word “entrepreneurship,” which is often reserved for business creation and start-ups. The event was highly interdisciplinary, with participants representing 15 UM faculties and units.
“At the heart of entrepreneurial thinking is a willingness to embrace empathy, see problems as possibilities, and persist in the face of obstacles to make an impact,” said Janine Carmichael, Faculty Specialist in Entrepreneurship at The Centre. “It was incredibly exciting to see participants develop these skills together in an experiential learning environment.
A morning of inspiration
Participants received valuable insights from guest speaker Dr. Wenlong Yuan, Stu Clark Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Asper School of Business. Yuan described how entrepreneurial thinking can be developed through deliberate practice.
Yuan also dismissed the assumption that everyone has a passion waiting to be discovered. “Only a small number of people have a passion,” he said. “You don’t find your passion, you grow it. Passion is the side effect of mastery.” He described how big ideas can start from small actions, such as keeping a journal to identify problems in one’s life that need solving.
The morning’s second speaker, Dr. Paul Labossiere, Associate Dean in the Price Faculty of Engineering, assured participants that “Today’s challenge is not about winning, not about beating the other teams. Any change that we’re able to make to help improve the experience for us and others on campus is a success.”
Labossiere demonstrated the benefits of following proven “design thinking” steps – beginning with an empathetic approach and progressing through defining the problem, then ideating, prototyping and testing. “Go at something like you are child,” he said. “Don’t let your biases shut you down from the possibilities. Only by being open minded will you be able to see the best solutions.”
The design sprint
Inspired by the morning’s speakers, participants worked in teams to apply the principles of design thinking to develop solutions to challenges facing the university. They then pitched their ideas in three-minute videos. The challenges, which aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, covered a range of topics including the circular economy, transportation, health and food security.
Students Nitin Dhanapal and Randika Chandracal were on a team with Architecture’s FABLab coordinator Jason Hare. They conducted online and in-person research to tackle the challenge, “How might the University of Manitoba community support those who are food insecure?” Their pitch suggested introducing a cap on campus food prices for students, better promotion of UM’s existing food bank, enhancing the production of the campus community gardens, increasing understanding of Indigenous ways of food, and offering a seasonal farmer’s market.
Both students valued the participation of staff and faculty in the event. “A highlight was being able to work with Jason because of his expertise and knowledge,” said Dhanapal. “He was very encouraging, and he made us feel like equals.”
Following the challenge, participants engaged wholeheartedly with a panel of entrepreneurial thinkers, who helped them understand how to explore their entrepreneurial ideas, deal with adversity and failure, and where to go on campus for support.
Student participants received a $100 honorarium for attending the two-day event, as part of the funding from the UM Strategic Initiatives Support Fund. The event will also be added to students’ Experience Record, an official record of university-approved and facilitated activities that support student development in venues that are not for academic credit.
Be sure to check out the Better Together design sprint videos for the inspired solutions from event participants.
How might the University of Manitoba community participate in the circular economy?
How might the University of Manitoba community support those who are food insecure?
How might the University of Manitoba community offer more non-traditional fitness and leisure opportunities?
How might the University of Manitoba improve transportation options between the Bannatyne and Fort Garry campuses?
How might the University of Manitoba community help first year students who commute make meaningful connections with others between classes?
GET ENTREPRENEURIAL AT UM
To learn more about entrepreneurship and innovative thinking at UM, visit our webpage.
For more information about how to bring an entrepreneurial mindset into your learning environment, get in touch with Janine Carmichael, Faculty Specialist: Entrepreneurship.
To spark your entrepreneurial spirit, visit the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship.
To move your invention or research into a practical application, visit Partnerships and Innovation.