Recently as part of an MSc in Education & Training Management (eLearning) at Dublin City University I was challenged to assist students tasked with playing a new online business game called Play4Guidance funded under the European Union Erasmus+ programme.
Exercise in running a business
These young students had to take over and run a manufacturing business for twelve months. Individually, each student had major decisions to make on sourcing and acquiring raw materials, innovating a traditional production process through investment in modern machinery and staff training, marketing and selling to new customer segments, and surviving in a fiercely competitive environment. Wrong decisions meant business failure.
Daily, the Enterprise Europe Network engages with business owners who are grappling with these very real challenges. Entrepreneurs and innovators are often skilled and committed – but they don’t have all the answers. The clever ones seek help and collaborate to succeed – like mobility and seating specialists 3R Mobility, Northern Ireland’s premier supplier of independence and mobility products to statutory health agencies and the general public. A recent Innovate UK award recipient, 3R Mobility in collaboration with health professionals, ergonomic designers and materials suppliers is designing a new state-of-the-art chair for use by elderly patients in long-term care.
Like my students playing in the virtual business world, rather than merely provide business owners with information, I try to educate them in business development, so that next time round they can make their own informed decisions. Being entrepreneurial involves taking risks and learning from mistakes.
Workshop on entrepreneurship
To assist the students to better run their own virtual business, I designed a short workshop on entrepreneurship, and the development of a business strategy centred around customers and products rather than a focus on production and finance. The workshop consisted of a discussion on entrepreneurial competencies, exercises in seeking and presenting key information, and brain-storming in teams to develop solutions for problem areas. Often I use the same principles and techniques to help real business projects gain traction.
To assist the workshop learning, I created three short educational videos – one explaining key entrepreneurial competencies, and two others describing the theory and real-world practice of Alexander Osterwalder’s new business strategy tool called the Business Model Canvas. Feedback from the workshops, and on the videos in particular, highlights that the students were much better prepared for undertaking the online challenge, and understood business development in a whole new light.
Why not challenge yourself to be a more informed business person or adviser? See if you can develop a model or strategy for a successful venture.