The current and next generation of engineers that are being educated in colleges and universities are exploring new thinking methods that can allow them to become better entrepreneurs. Traditional thinking methods are being enhanced and micro-cultures of creativity are created by introduction of “Parallel and Lateral Thinking” methods.
At the request of a professor at Cal. State University Northridge (J. Ghandi) for the fall 2013 session, I participated in a series of training sessions for approximately 30 graduate students who were registered for the MSE 602 Entrepreneurship & Innovation Management course. We provided a strong introduction to Edward de Bono’s Parallel & Lateral Thinking course material. Ultimately, one of the key learning objectives for the course was to allow the learning teams to create a diversity of thinking to produce new ideas, decisions, patterns, and connections.
The students used these thinking methods for their course team project to create an entrepreneurship venture product or process start-up. The 6 unique thinking styles were facilitated for basic understanding and a practice exercise was completed by the students. The understanding was that the students could use these thinking modes for any and all work they needed to complete culminating after 16 weeks with an outbrief presentation as a team to a panel of entrepreneurship judges who would listen, review, advise, and comment on their final product delivery.
Entrepreneurship is the thinking balance of possible risk and opportunity measured against the action of a possible business venture. For many engineering students this is a new concept that breaks traditional learning models. Almost all traditional thinking methods are based on adversarial & critical thinking exploration of what is wrong. Very few thinking methods are taught that provide the ability to create thinking together synergies among the students and exploration of diversity of thinking for creating collaborative ideas.
The students were challenged to create an “elevator pitch” about their product or process to explain what makes unique and viable new business ventures. These entrepreneurship teams had common goals and objectives but were allowed the freedom to challenge their own assumptions and establish a double-loop learning environment.
Upon completion of the final student presentations, a survey was completed to establish accurate feedback for the use of “Parallel and Lateral Thinking” methods for implementing innovative thinking in entrepreneurship curriculum for engineers. Over 96% of the students responded that the “Six Thinking Hats® was valuable to their learning experience”. This directly indicates that a cognitive tool was useful in organizing and categorizing their thinking. They were able to cover their thinking from different angles, perspectives, and viewpoints.
Additionally, 89% of the survey respondents agreed that “Lateral Thinking™ was valuable to their learning experience” towards completion of their entrepreneurship business venture. This directly indicates that systemic Green Hat tools, that enable creativity, were valuable in establishing a framework to generate and control innovative projects. Lateral thinking allowed them to work together to be creative instead of working against each other when creating ideas.
Over half of the class indicated when Blue Hat “Thinking about the Thinking” was beneficial. That Black Hat thinking about the logical negative to understand the risks and what could go wrong, were helpful. Half of the students also felt that Red Hat understanding of intuition and feelings for decision making helped with their project and teams.
Over Three quarters of the class felt that using both White Hat thinking to understand the information they needed and the Yellow Hat, used to understand the benefits and advantages of their system elements, components, or features was helpful for their entrepreneurship projects.
Entrepreneurship is based on identifying the potential risks weighted against the possible opportunities in a new Business Venture. Adding new thinking tools that allow students to become more creative in current engineering and management curriculums will ultimately lead to a new generation of entrepreneurs who are risk savvy and opportunity enlightened.
For more information on Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats visit https://www.rockypeaklc.com/hats.html and for information on Lateral Thinking techniques visit https://www.rockypeaklc.com/lateral.html .
California State University Northridge California http://www.csun.edu/
Ernie Schaeffer Center For Innovation & Entrepreneurship http://www.ecs.csun.edu/cie/
Rocky Peak Leadership Center CSUN Event https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.743981952281395.1073741834.168008973212032&type=3