Founder at Heart @MBAe

Founder at Heart is a result of a few years teaching Global Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Technology Sydney’s MBAentrepreneurship. We realised that, coming from an anthropological perspective, some of the inner work we did with students resonated deeply. So, I was invited to design a course around purpose and collaboration.

The summer term of 2018 was the first term this course was taught. I introduced many reflective exercises and some games, and had four wonderful guests speaking on purpose and integrity, holacracy and non-violent communication as well as resilience and conscious entrepreneurship. My favourite bit is that as one of the assignments istudents design a game – or experiential format – on the issue of complexity and resilience.

This subject aims to help founders appreciate their entrepreneurial purpose, understand ecosystemic resilience and learn about alternative and lesser known business models. Founding a venture requires imagination, courage and strength of character. Every founder is different and Silicon Valley best practices may not serve all. Founders need to identify their values and relationships, so that they build a business that suits their character, team and market. With the aim of understanding and developing their own motivation, inner workings and capabilities, students learn to embed their entrepreneurial ethics into 21st Century complexities. Students also learn to take a systems perspective and gain knowledge of new ways of working inherent in Open Value Networks and Cooperatives as well as Holacracy and Teal Organisations. The subject builds on the works of Otto Scharmer (Theory U), Kate Rawford (Doughnut Economy), Daniel Kahnemann (Thinking Fast and Slow), Joanna Macy (The Work that Reconnects), Fritjof Capra (The Systems View of Life), Charles Eisenstein (The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible) and Frederic Laloux (Reinventing Organisations). These authors span and connect inner motivation and capabilities with systemic and economic practices and mindsets.

How it’s different
One of the most important aspects of FAH is that it’s taught by an anthropologist, a media/design anthropologist, who’s dedicated to bring humanities back into business (polemic, I know… but you know it works…).  That’s why we’re looking at human behaviour first (and at organisational structure secondarily). This shift of thinking might seem trivial, but it has all kinds of ramifications for teaching business.

Why is it so important to address human behaviour and culture? Many companies have understood that applying design thinking without cultural change doesn’t aid innovation and competitiveness. Also, from an anthropocentric perspective, humans have great impact on the planet and not everything we plan is working in our favour in the long run. We can see the ramifications of extractive economy in many ways. And because humans are awesome, we’re already building new economic models to help building markets that help the earth regenerate. This course teaches an overview of what it requires to build a good business in a holistic sense.

scientists can't do that yet.JPGAnother aspect that is different from other courses – and academic tradition in general – is that this course offers a whole array of content that we skim (instead of going deep into some specialised content). Thi is similar to what we see emerging in faculties for transdisciplinary innovation (check out UTS’ FTDI). Dipping into different ideas and relating them with each other is a deeply creative practice, because in doing so we are creating knew knowledges at the intersection of our readings.

This approach aligns with the content we’re covering: it trains us to work within complexity and uncertainty; it requires a dash of intuition, collaborative faculty, and courage to make decisions because they feel right (yes this also means your decisions about which literature to choose and how to create your assignments).

I deeply care about this so called aesthetic pedagogy as I believe it caters to our creative minds in a way that is neglected. This is one course within your whole year that gives you the opportunity to engage as freely as a University course can offer while still being able to grade your achievements. All assignments are designed to explore the edges of your comfort zone without the risk of failing greatly.

Also, while Universities and traditional schooling give clear guidelines and criteria to meet, this course addresses creativity, imagination, and personal experience. These cannot be assessed like content you are asked to learn and repeat or use in a certain way. For example, this course offers you several resources, at your choice, and several modes of engagement that are experimental and require your creativity.

Module 1 – Complex Systems

  • Complexity
  • Resilience

Module 2 – Purpose and Integrity

  • Purpose and Integrity
  • Relationship

Module 3 – Views of “Economy”

  • Conscious entrepreneurship
  • Alternative Business Models

Module 4 – P2P Workflows

  • Technology Stack
  • Tools

Module 5 – Soft Skills, really?

  • Working with Uncertainty
  • Working with Intuition
  • Conversational Intelligence

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