Taking entrepreneurship to the classroom - a collaboration between the University of Reutlingen and CODE_n

05/18/2018  |  Entrepreneurship, News | Trends, Startups

We are always eager to promote and support initiatives that foster a culture of innovation within the education system, as well as programs that boost the entrepreneurial thinking of students. This was one of our motivations for joining forces with the University of Reutlingen and becoming part of the Spinnovation initiative. Its aim is to change the mindset regarding entrepreneurship. Financed by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Science, Research and Arts, the program was launched at regional universities in Aalen and Reutlingen alongside Stuttgart Media University. The initiative focuses on experiential learning and the cycle of failure inherent in creative endeavor. Today’s students need to be prepared to actively shape their own future by thinking and acting more entrepreneurially throughout their university education.

In Germany, more and more young people are starting to think about running their own business – even at an early age. They realize that traditional career paths aren’t their only future option. And for many of them, university is the perfect place to embark on the first steps toward their entrepreneurial goals. It’s also the right place to earn good qualifications and brush up on useful skills. The University of Reutlingen actively promotes entrepreneurial undertaking and encourages students to familiarize themselves with the world of business through a dedicated Center for Entrepreneurship. The specialist unit provides students with the tools and experience they need to think creatively in pursuing new opportunities and seeking innovations suitable for a startup. In addition to providing advice on all kinds of issues surrounding the development of new concepts and business models, the university has also set up a successful network for startup enthusiasts, complete with coaches and mentors. Building and supporting a sustainable startup scene in Baden-Wuerttemberg, even on an international level, is an important goal for CODE_n, which has been perceived as a key player in the German innovation scene for years.

A creative thinker himself (and a man with a passion for organizing innovation workshops tailored to individuals), our colleague Robin took on the challenge of empowering students to explore the pros and cons of design thinking. We see his approach as a new way to teach and learn. So last month he organized a fast-track, hands-on, project-based seminar for students at the University of Reutlingen to gain insights into different startup approaches. They also learned about existing business models, collaborative processes, development, and the implementation of ideas. At his one-day workshop, Robin helped students gain an understanding of entrepreneurship, emphasizing that innovation is more than just coming up with a nice idea. Throughout the seminar, Robin used various elements of design thinking, explained to the students what a business model canvas is and introduced them to the idea of lean startups. The students learned how to observe customer “pains,” find solutions, create prototypes, design business models and ultimately pitch their business concepts to a fictional investor.

The teams quickly became involved in active discussion and problem-solving in the seminar, looking at a variety of scenarios. The workshop also provided first-hand exposure to interdisciplinary working, since the teams were made up of students from different departments, such as engineering, business administration, IT, textile engineering and management, etc. This proved to be a powerful stepping-stone to enhancing creativity, open-mindedness, and knowledge transfer.

When we asked Robin about his one-day workshop at the University of Reutlingen, he said it was a thrill to experience the students’ energy and enthusiasm as they dove deep into the startup ecosystem and disruptive thinking: “We have to strengthen our ties and do more to support university initiatives such as Spinnovation. Not only is it fun and exciting to work shoulder-to-shoulder with students and help them develop their entrepreneurial skills, it’s also beneficial to our diverse CODE_n network of lateral thinkers, innovators, and digital explorers. When you embark on the journey as an entrepreneur, the most important things you’re going to need to get right are the mindset and a good network. We’re well aware of this in our CODE_n innovation ecosystem and we have the right tools to link up individuals and accompany or guide them as they explore and develop their new business ideas.”

Judging by the feedback received and positive atmosphere at the workshop, we will continue to make every effort to give young people the opportunity to achieve their full potential, help them develop entrepreneurial skills and nurture innovative ideas.

“The course was excellent, Robin has a good way of sharing his knowledge and knew how to interact with us as students. He also has a great presentation style and the time in the workshop flew by. The entire course was really well organized and there was a healthy balance between the sessions and breaks – as was the case with the theoretical and practical parts.”

“Robin knows what he’s talking about and knows how to create a pleasant learning atmosphere.”