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Inside the Entrepreneurial Method by Sara Whiffen

Posted By Christine Pigsley, Monday, December 08, 2014

Begin Where You Are

By: Sara Whiffen, Insights Ignited

This is the first of a series of monthly blog articles from the work that is being done on engaging effectuation (the entrepreneurial method) in the 10 Coleman Foundation Entrepreneurial Colleges in Action Grantees from around the country. We wanted to share this information with the larger community of practice so you too can start engaging in conversations in your department, your college, and your community.

  1. When getting started, don’t look outward for “inspiration” or “vision”; look inward. 
    • Are you starting with a specific problem to solve?  If so, you want to develop outcomes that are solutions.  This provides some constraints that might help you prioritize next steps and possibilities. 
    • Are you starting with an idea to create additional value?  In this case, you might have more flexibility in terms of how you move forward.
  2. Be honest with yourself about your organizational culture.  Take a few moments to identify potential barriers / challenges.  Does effectual thinking fit intuitively with your existing organizational culture?  Or will it be a challenge for people to think in this way?  Is it a challenge for you, personally, to think in this way? 
  3. Understand what is non-negotiable.  This is especially important in institutional settings.  Understanding your boundaries will allow you more freedom to pivot when the opportunities arise. 
  4. Do you have a traditional planning process that you must / want to follow?  If so, before getting started, look for opportunities to either insert effectual thinking or operate in parallel.  This can be an effective way to get others internally on board with this approach. 
  5. Start Asking!  Get yourself and your teams to begin making asks, even on a small scale.  Practice is essential to building the competence and confidence that will be needed for true co-creation. 
  6. Track your successes and failures.  Decide now how you will record your experiences with this process – both the positives and negatives.  Since this method relies on interactions, consider capturing conversations. 

Effectuation is not an all or nothing approach.  Just as every business idea does not warrant an extensive business plan, not every entrepreneurial action needs to be effectual.  Expert entrepreneurs are proficient with using both causal and effectual thinking. They understand when and how to apply both mindsets with fluency.

I encourage you to comment on this blog to share your experiences implementing effectuation in your organization and any challenges you are facing.   


Tags:  Coleman Foundation  community college  effectuation  entrepreneurship  innovation  NACCE  strategic planning 

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_ _ says...
Posted Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Thanks Sara for posting! As we start to use these methods at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, we have been struck by how much we underestimated the level of interest and excitement by some of our partners from the Crazy Quilt side of things. We also realized that our internal goals are truly broader than we thought. We were thinking internally about what success looks like when growing our ENTR program, but not about how much it could impact economic development statewide since we are one system with main campuses. We can certainly use these techniques to guide us along the way. See, we learned something this week!!!!

Steve Bryant
Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington
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Steven Groner says...
Posted Friday, December 26, 2014
We have resolved to appreciate the journey, the conversations and building awareness more in 2015. To the point of "begin where you are", we started to identify programs having some portion of entrepreneurial thought already blended into their curriculum. So far, culinary arts, cosmetology, business and agricultural programs have been identified. Also, we are getting ready for another staff development session to introduce effectuation concepts and terminology. Reaching common understanding about "non-negotiables" and our planning process are great topics for upcoming monthly discussions with senior administrators. Discussing our culture engaged the President & VPs during November & December. For leadership engagement our goal (and measurement) continues to be- create a monthly meeting that everyone looks forward to attending!
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