December 10, 2014 - business / teachers

by Mitja Mavsar

This story about the networking impact of the IDEATE project was written on the plane home from Brussels, where last Friday around a hundred university and/or business stakeholders met to spend a day together to learn from each other’s experience in the “Thematic Cluster Meeting on Knowledge Alliances”.

From my perspective of a business-realm partner in the consortium, I shall try to explain my view on IDEATE.me here: through the lens of some new insights that have arisen during the interaction with other project representatives in this Brussels event who all share a similar goal: build alliances and tear down the walls between disciplines and between the business and academic world. These barriers have for sure been maintained for way too long, which I can definitely confirm from my business practice. As a head of user experience department in a digital agency I had severe problems finding and hiring fresh graduates from the university. They were all extra eager to work, but I needed up to 2 years to train them properly.

The first symptoms of the “university:business incompatibility” problem that roots in the mono-disciplinary academic focus can be noticed really early in a student’s life. A typical freshman is told that the field of his studies is the most important thing in the world. Then, during the following years he learns to focus, to master and above all to prove to everyone else how immensely important his field actually is. A software Engineer majorly focuses on engineering. Art Student digs into art… They go through their years of studies hermetically closed in a black-box, hardly knowing that there’s a big colourful world of multi-culturalism (as multi-professionalism) outside.

There are of course bright exceptions in every generation, but a typical student is still not aware that s/he will need much more to be successful and happy in his life and career. He will need to manage his time, the time of others, analyse market needs, calculate monetary value of his work, lead or take part in complex processes with a more or less clear aim (projects).

In just about any industry nowadays a knowledge worker needs to create ideas really fast, prototype them, test with customers, iterate on feedback and most of all… He has to find a way to work effectively in a group of people from around the world, with different cultural backgrounds and from various disciplines. The future is bright for people who understand how people from different disciplines and backgrounds can complement their skills and competences.

I see over and over again how young bright startup people “get shit done” even if their engineers are in Slovenia, designers in UK and sales team in New York. These people are able to fully operate although scattered around the globe. Sometimes team members haven’t even met in person. For this type of work a young person needs competencies that were never before on the Universities’ menu. These individuals have learned their skills the hard way. Trying and failing over and over again. And still many of them even believe that “the school of startup” toughed them much more than any traditional schooling could.

Universities nowadays don’t seem to realise that and continue to produce one black-box after another. They design their curricula almost entirely around technical knowledge. They aim to create the masters of the field. Universities are kind of aware that business, finance, management, design thinking, tech and people skills are important, but in their opinion that should be closed and nicely packaged in some other black box, not theirs.

IDEATE is in this view an experiment that aims to prove that the black-box approach is all wrong — or at least that ther is a possibility to make things work across academic fields, and even make them economically viable! We aim to design a new kind of students’ experience that will pull students and their teachers out of their comfort zones. How? Under the mentorship of both business people and academics, students will be faced with real-life problems in a multicultural, multidisciplinary environment.

We will motivate them to use all their talents, take advantage of the latest technology and work on different locations, across (academic and national) cultures. They will actually get a chance to step into the shoes of a typical young entrepreneur whose job is to overcome obstacles and find viable and feasible solutions in cooperation with a dispersed team of experts from around the world.

I am quite happy that on this event held by the EU Commission we got approval that our goal is worth pursuing and that we are on the right track — and most importantly, we got this impression by the peers, trying for the same good. We’ve found out that there are other projects solving similar problems and learned from each other on how to cross borders, motivate project teams and truly make an impact.

Alliances across disciplines and between business world and the academia is a hot potato served on many plates. The EU invests heavily into solving this problem because we (the Europeans) can’t afford to fail in such an important matter. And we won’t. According to all the projects, ambition and motivation I’ve seen in Brussels last friday, the future is bright. Now let’s get down to IDEATE!

› tags: Brussels / business / Knowledge Alliances / Mitja Mavsar / network / tandem / teachers / university /