This current crop of management students might be described as “the thumb generation.” That is, they are constantly thumbing their handheld devices everywhere and at anytime, switching back and forth between the physical and virtual worlds. Their attention spans can be as short as a text message, and so instructors can feel pressure to quickly switch topics, media, and instructional content to keep engagement levels high.
This was one of my key concerns as I took on an assignment to teach entrepreneurship courses at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).
A colleague (Prof. Horacio Borromeo) wanted to help and suggested I start with an elective course on inspirational entrepreneurship, a variation on today’s popular topic of inspirational leadership. He suggested a course title of Entrepreneurs Go to Graduate School (EGGS). He even had a course logo in mind: a chick hatching from an egg with a light bulb above its head. The objective he suggested was “to inspire the audience to look deep in themselves to see if they would ever be bold enough to give up a good job and strike out on their own. And make more money than the investment banker, create jobs for countless others, and contribute to society.”
His concept was certainly attention-getting to me. But how might I design and develop this idea so that it would also be engaging to members of the thumb generation? Having just returned from Babson’s SEE program as a firm believer in Entrepreneurial Thought and Action® (ETA), I decided to modify the concept into a panel discussion between myself, as moderator, and an alumnus who practices ETA in his or her life and business endeavors. The setting would be similar to the Charlie Rose interviews on PBS. Moreover, the session would be open to the entire AIM community.
I have launched the series by selecting well-known graduates who have pursued entrepreneurial ventures in Asia. Each participant has been encouraged to allow family, friends, and colleagues to share their knowledge and experiences of the participant in his or her ventures. These sessions are videotaped, and two-minute segments are created in order to grab and hold the attention of current students—aka, the thumb generation—as well as alumni and entrepreneurs from the area who are also invited. Several of these video segments are presented during a session.
After a segment is shown, I ask questions of the participants to shed additional context and insight on the topics raised in the clips. The participants amplify, concur, or even object to the video material. We usually spend about 45 minutes on the discussions and the last 15 minutes are spent on Q & A. These segments are created with certain learning objectives that I want to convey, such as how to use ETA to begin an entrepreneurial venture.
So far we have completed three sessions and the responses have been very positive. The participants in these sessions were:
• An alumnus who organized a management buyout of a money transfer business in the Philippines. He saw the opportunity, saw that the owners wanted to divest (it was not their core business), and was in his own words, “bold enough to tell his boss he could do a better job running the business—and that he wanted to own it himself.”
• A young entrepreneur who started a pet-couture business and later on sacrificed her passion and a friendship when she decided to leave the firm rather than cheat on income taxes
• An alumnus who left his home country of Malaysia and settled in the Philippines to build a successful furniture company
The entire sessions have been recorded and are available as research material for case writing. Plans are in place to market these as DVDs.
Even though these sessions were planned to be held once every three months, due to overwhelming demand, we might do this once every two months. The background work is very similar to that of writing a video case study. A good videographer and editor are essential for the success of this program.