• Random

  • 09.Aug
  • Queen at the London Riots
  • Many people are upset that The Queen wasn’t in London for the London Riots. So… Ladies and gentlemen who are leaving comments on The British Monarchy’s facebook page, worry no more. She was there: Click image to enlarge at full screen. Okay, I may have used a little Photoshop skills here. It’s actually a different […]

  • Design Process

  • 16.Apr
  • 5 Intelligent Questions to Ask
  • Here are 5 categories of questions good designers ask. I’m looking forward to being more self-aware of the questions I ask in the generative phase, making sure that they are diverging and not converging. I think it likely requires a little patience but I’m willing to wait for the ideas to ripen.

Wilson Review on Entrepreneurship, misguided

Sir Tim Wilson in his interview with The Guardian last November (2011) is critical of the role that universities, in particular business schools, can play in entrepreneurship and building future entrepreneurs. This post is a response to that article which cites the growing link between design and business and experience-led education.  In essence, Wilson identifies two […]


Sir Tim Wilson in his interview with The Guardian last November (2011) is critical of the role that universities, in particular business schools, can play in entrepreneurship and building future entrepreneurs. This post is a response to that article which cites the growing link between design and business and experience-led education. 

In essence, Wilson identifies two types of business schools:

1)      Schools that cater for high achieving executives, who work with academics with strong research backgrounds who challenge and facilitate discussion.
2)      Schools that cater for the inexperienced undergraduate population, where academic tutors need a more versatile and rounded knowledge of business themselves.

The third type of business school that Wilson fails to identify is the growing number of business schools that build design into their programmes. Universities such as Stanford, Rotman, Oxford Said and Cranfield have forged ahead in this area of combining the creative capabilities of design practices into the business world, reflecting the innovative business environment seen at Apple, Facebook, Nike and other world-leading corporations.

Kingston University is also taking a lead in this respect through cross-faculty collaboration between creative and business fields. In postgraduate and undergraduate courses, students practice enterprise skills by starting actual businesses, taught by tutors who not only know the field, but also through tutors who are entrepreneurs and designers themselves. In addition, Kingston has a unique Masters programme, the MA in Creative Economy and Creative Industries (MACE) where students from an array of creative backgrounds take modules from both business and creative faculties in the context of starting their own business.

As a result, over the past five years, over 100 student businesses have been started at Kingston University as part of their degree studies. This experience has made them very attractive when it comes to employability. Several of these students have also gone on to start their own businesses.

This practice-based approach to entrepreneurship provides learning and training opportunities that traditional chalk-and-talk lectures cannot. It also provides a low-risk environment for students to practice their business skills learnt in the classroom. MACE graduate Steffen M. found this to be the case with his business team, ‘I have to admit that our business failed in terms of making profit and launching our product on the market I am really grateful that we had the chance to fail in the secured environment of the university… This enabled us to learn from our failures and develop an understanding for running a business, without having a huge financial risk’.

A fellow student, Mikaela S. also praised the experience-led approach to entrepreneurship, ‘One of the first things I learnt to surpass one of my obstacles—my lack of business knowledge—was by ‘experiencing the world instead of talking about experiencing the world’….This was a big lesson. It made me realise that I would never know how to run a business without actually running a business’.

As most start-ups fail in their first year, why not learn those difficult lessons as part of a university learning experience, guided by mentors from the business community and academics versed and experienced in the field while earning a university degree? As academics we argue that university can be an ideal environment in which to learn entrepreneurship, when done through live learning experience in cooperation with entrepreneurs.

In my experience as a university lecturer in both business and design schools, the missing skill many students lack at university is not a lack of natural talent, but rather confidence to start their own business, or to lead innovation in a large enterprise. Through practicing the business skills they’ve learnt in the classroom, through actually developing and sourcing a product, determining a price point, developing a marketing campaign and recording finances, they learn for themselves whether they want to seek to be an employee or to become an employer after graduation. In a survey of Masters students at Kingston University’s MA in Creative Economy programme, confidence to start their own business improved overall by 86%.

While Wilson states that one is ‘just as likely to learn enterprise skills in the engineering or creative arts departments as business schools’, in my experience as a lecturer in several design schools, that is simply not true. As Creative Economy expert John Howkins states, ‘Creativity on its own has no economic value. It needs to take shape to be embodied in a tradable product, if it is to accrue commercial value’. While one can learn the skill of innovation in a number of fields, being able to apply that innovation in the context of a business is rarely taught outside the business school. Often, the missing skill in creative fields is a lack of business vocabulary and an understanding of business models and revenue streams. Creatives tend to be focused on the development of products and services, and are less concerned about the financial mechanics and distribution channels to bring them to market. In fact, in many creative schools, ‘business’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘marketing’ are considered a contaminant for creativity rather than a means of bringing ideas to full fruition.

For those that argue an Entrepreneur is the type of person made outside of a University, this is to believe the Hollywood archetype of the brash decision-maker whose outgoing and forward thinking style dominates the business world. While some entrepreneurs may be born with a ‘natural instinct’, good instincts can be taught. (see quotes from Kingston University students below)


BA in Business and Entrepreneurship graduate David K.: Before I started this [my third year at Kingston], I arrogantly assumed that I knew everything. Having spent my entire summer working on my own venture as part of my placement, I came into class feeling confident that I would be ready to take on whatever would be thrown at me. However, I was yet to grasp what was to become such an eventful and educative journey studying [at Kingston University] which took my understanding of Entrepreneurship to new heights… We brainstormed, we planned, we researched. We often debated…which demonstrated to me how differently people thought and why it is important to get constant feedback for your business/idea rather than always seeing things from your own self reference criterion. Our hard work paid off, we received an excellent grade for our team feasibility plan and a great judging report from the second round of Dragon’s Den. What delighted me more, was that one of our judges who was a bank manager, thought the business was viable enough to receive a special business loan known as the Enterprise Finance Guarantee.

Most importantly, the module enabled me to question what exactly I wanted to do when University finished.  I have always wanted to start my own company so nothing changed about that, however I formulated a different strategy to achieving my goals taking into account all the things I had learnt from [Kingston]. [Kingston] has provided me with a great insight to starting a business…to the point that I have taken up a part time internship as a second job at a startup company in Shoreditch to learn more.


Kingston graduate Harry J. (a student with a background in French studies) states, ‘The main thing that I can take out of the MA in Creative Economy (MACE) course at Kingston Business School is that if I were to set up a business within the next five to ten years it would no longer be a leap into the unknown. I have an understanding now of the processes which I would need to follow and I would have the confidence to do it.’

Harry now has started his own gallery business with another MACE student.

MACE Graduate Yvonne N. a creative writing graduate writes, ‘Being on the MACE course has slightly steered my goals and aims for the future. Before I began, I was happy to do anything job that either allow me enough time to pursue my creative writing until I became a world famous author. Now I feel like I am more focused on determined to combine working and earning a living with my writing- as well as pursuing the hopes of a becoming the next JK Rowling.’


MACE Graduate Andreea B.: I am happy to say I honestly feel like I made one of the best decisions I could make for my career. I have learned so much not just from my team mates but from all the students I became friends with in Kingston: graphic designers, music producers, photographers and film editors. In just eight months I not only learned how to startup a business in the creative industry, I actually learned so much about the creative processes involved. I now know what launching a website involves, researching data for the market you want to enter, how important networking is indeed and how art and entrepreneurship marry into a successful business. I think the MACE course makes a good example not only of how creative management is undertaken, but also of how being a creative entrepreneur can be a personal liberating experience.


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