One of the teaching methods that are gaining space within the university entrepreneurship scene is action learning and the inductive thinking process (Bell and Kozlowski, 2008, Pedler, 2011, Prince, 2004), typical of innovative environments.
This article explores a research opportunity from two little explored analysis lenses, especially in university entrepreneurship (Kassean et al., 2015): action learning, singularity and limited rationality.
The singularity is related to the entrepreneurship so that a startup is worth of a temporary window of opportunity and subjective, also called path-dependence (Wang and Ahmed, 2007).
The limited rationality is the absence of historical basis and dynamic decision criteria (Marafon et al., 2015; De Meyer et al., 2002). Thus, building knowledge becomes a vital focus on startups (Lacerda et al., 2014).
Academics and practitioners exposes some limitations about traditional methods and its contribution to the development of new skills relevant to entrepreneurs (Bell and Kozlowski, 2008, McCarthy and Anderson, 2000, Pedler, 2011), becoming a promising field of study (Corbett, 2005).
What challenges does the academy face to improve critical thinking in its entrepreneurial students in an action-learning approach?
What are the reactions and alternatives that students present to the singularity and limited rationality in the real-time resolution of a startup problem?
This research uses a qualitative approach to the data collection through participant observation and its results presented in the form of a case study.
This research presents three semi-annual editions of an interdisciplinary project funded by the main government agency in Brazil and develops at UFSC, one of the most important Brazilian universities.
The goal of this practical project is to give students a practical insight into the reality of managing a startup.
The practical procedures proposed by the project are based on the action learning approach with recursive phases of reflection, debates, propositions and data collections.
The three case studies involved in this research were carried out in one of the most important Brazilian universities and involved the participation of 43 students from various courses mainly related to engineering and management.
Each case lasted from 8 to 12 weeks and was conducted in three separate semesters between 2015 and 2017.
In the first case, a startup with Big Data product was attended, whose main problem was the lack of a process to select market opportunity and improve the sales argument. The solution comprised of the 12 participating students was based on a multicriteria decision aiding methodology integrated with Lean Startup.
The second case was a problem of lack of clear criteria for choosing which projects should be prioritized in a robotics and automation startup. The solution was composed of Lean Startup with multicriteria decision aiding and had participation of 15 students.
The third case had the participation of 16 students who were engaged in understanding the problem of an automation startup, whose problem was the absence of a measurement model of the research and development area, the proposed solution being linked to visual management and multicriteria decision aiding.
From the three case studies, we can analyze some results.
One of the aspects is the fear of failure, provoked by the search for an optimal and generic solution of the problem from the scientific literature or similar examples, typical of traditional learning methods.
The another important aspect is that students understand that the internal organization and learning management is more important than the technical solution itself.
The uniqueness of the startup problem, coupled with limitation of facts and data, led the group to decide more on studies in startup in loco than generic bibliographic research on the problem or the search for similar solutions.
Finally, the solution validation process was more due to the challenge of premises informed by the entrepreneurs of the startups than by mechanisms of statistical or economic validation.
Contribution to Scholarship
This article presents a parallel between the academic world and entrepreneurship, making theories related to entrepreneurship, such as singularity, limited rationality, dynamic capabilities and heuristic decisions, can be discussed with the modus operandi of university education.
Contribution to Practice
On the one hand, students have a practical vision of solving an innovative problem of a startup. The project allowed students to understand the dynamics of a startup, the challenges and decisions in building a business model.
On the other hand, startups are participants in a learning context where entrepreneurs can reflect on their business and mindset.
The results contribute to discussions in the integration between university and startups.
The article has as theoretical construct the singularity, allowing to understand the specificities of students as entrepreneurs.
The article presents three case studies of an active learning project, serving as a framework to building of ecosystems to student entrepreneurs.
AL-DEBEI, M. M. & AVISON, D. 2010. Developing a unified framework of the business model concept. European Journal of Information Systems, 19, 359-376.
BELL, B. S. & KOZLOWSKI, S. W. 2008. Active learning: effects of core training design elements on self-regulatory processes, learning, and adaptability. Journal of Applied psychology, 93, 296.
CHESBROUGH, H. 2010. Business model innovation: opportunities and barriers. Long range planning, 43, 354-363.
DAVEL, E., VERGARA, S., GHADIRI, S. & FISCHER, T. 2004. Revitalizando a relação ensino-aprendizagem em administração por meio de recursos estéticos. ENCONTRO DA ASSOCIAÇÃO NACIONAL DOS CURSOS DE PÓS-GRADUAÇÃO EM ADMINISTRAÇÃO–Anais... ENANPAD.
DE MEYER, A., LOCH, C. H. & PICH, M. T. 2002. Managing project uncertainty: From variation to chaos; Project managers can't predict the future, but accurately gauging the degree of uncertainty inherent in their projects can help them quickly adapt to it. MIT Sloan Management Review, 43, 60-68.
KASSEAN, H., VANEVENHOVEN, J., LIGUORI, E. & WINKEL, D. E. 2015. Entrepreneurship education: a need for reflection, real-world experience and action. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, 21, 690-708.
LACERDA, R. T. D. O., ENSSLIN, L., ENSSLIN, S. R. & DUTRA, A. 2014. A constructivist approach to manage business process as a dynamic capability. Knowledge and Process Management, 21, 54-66.
MARAFON, A. D., ENSSLIN, L., LACERDA, R. T. D. O. & ENSSLIN, S. R. 2015. The effectiveness of multi-criteria decision aid methodology: A case study of R&D management. European Journal of Innovation Management, 18, 86-109.
MCCARTHY, J. P. & ANDERSON, L. 2000. Active learning techniques versus traditional teaching styles: Two experiments from history and political science. Innovative Higher Education, 24, 279-294.
PEDLER, M. 2011. Action learning in practice, Gower Publishing, Ltd.
PRINCE, M. 2004. Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of engineering education, 93, 223-231.
WANG, C. L. & AHMED, P. K. 2007. Dynamic capabilities: A review and research agenda. International journal of management reviews, 9, 31-51.