Designing a future – Tutoring entrepreneurial skills to design students

Designing a future – Tutoring entrepreneurial skills to design students

Leonardo Springer: ISEC Lisboa. Portugal


The purpose of any education is to stimulate perceptions, the acquisition of specific knowledge and the development of a unique set of skills, eventually attaining social improvement. University students are asked difficult questions, they indulge in discovery, explore unfamiliar domains, identify the state-of-the-art, learn specific tools and applied methodologies while experiencing a new environment and developing their own identity, only to grasp that learning is a lifelong process. Nevertheless, mature students will acknowledge that adaptation is fundamental in an ever-changing world, and that control is difficult to grasp and delicate to maintain.
Classroom constraints set the future framework for students to understand, adapt and overcome an evolving global ecosystem. Students are encouraged to group and work in teams, as this helps assertive discussion, improves the learning experience and provides peer review presentation training.
Design students, in Management, Deontology & Innovation class at ISEC Lisboa, are asked through a project-based learning approach through a semester, to acquire a set of design-thinking methodologies that address entrepreneurship issues, business sustainability and social responsibility, using creativity, innovation, design and peer critique to develop an entrepreneurial skill set in the making of a small business.
Before one can change the world, one must comprehend its idiosyncrasies and mature a global awareness, this is essential for present and future developments. The first step towards a design solution is to define the problem (brief), typically one that links behaviour, technology and business in a sustainable manner. The transdisciplinary nature of design practice requires a broad understanding of tangent subjects, fostering innovative ways to overcome barriers (prejudgments) and provide a viable solution.
«creative work becomes a fundamental part of our social and economic gear» (Klaus Schwab)
Constraints like the COVID-19 pandemic, redefine processes and the normal state of things in an extremely fast pace, creative adaptability is not only normal these days but also a survival necessity for any (design) school. Classes have shifted from the classroom to online remote learning (Moodle) and video conferencing (Zoom), nowadays considered to be a normal teaching tool (ISEC Lisboa) used by many universities.
Despite the fast adjustment to this new reality by all the involved parts (students, tutors, and services), novel systems are demanding for users and require adaptation. In some cases, they render processes like practical classes or group visits impossible due to sanitary restrictions. Nevertheless, final year design students were assigned to address real life issues, using local resources (products/services), teaming-up, cooperating and working remotely to address design and innovation in a sustainable manner, creating value and eventually designing their own micro business concept (on-line wine sales, pet dating, biologic fruit preserve, dessert filling pastry, etc.).
This text explores the processes students developed to overcome limitations and develop a sustainable and feasible entrepreneurial solution. This project intended to develop critical skills, in final year design students, providing methodologies and a mind-set to adapt to ever-changing futures


Keywords: Design thinking, pedagogy, ideation, resiliency, entrepreneurship, mindset

Author: Leonardo Springer Ph.D. FBAUL, MAID CSM-UAL – MDes FEUP Adjunct Professor ISEC Lisboa, Researcher TGRAF & CIEB