This morning, despite the miserable grey sky and stormy conditions, I headed off excitedly to our neighbouring school of Roads and Bridges. There I was to meet 3 other colleagues, including a former ITMP student. We had decided to embark collectively on the « slow reading » of a book about innovation. I haven’t done collective anything like this since revising for finals in 1973, and it wasn’t my idea, but it was very tempting so I said « yes ». I’m glad I did. The 2 hours we spent dismantling Chapter I provided lots of insights and I look forward to Chapters II and III next week. The whole thing should take about 8 or 10 sessions and last until Christmas!
On the way out my eye was caught by this copy of a mid 18th century engraving. It’s an artist’s vision of what the Royal School of Roads and Bridges was about – the « vision ».
Lots of hands on experimentation. A very far cry from today’s French engineering elite educational diet. I’d like to explore this more closely…
Then, back at ESIEE, my web 2.0 mentor, Christelle, showed me how to copy and paste the results of the entrepreneurship survey the ESIEE E1 and E2 students had kindly answered. I prepared my slides for the evening.
Next stop was the Aleph Theatre in Ivry sur Seine where the best 2013 controversy mapping projects were being presented. It was like going into a performance. It was dark! A couple of people on the dimly lit stage, videos on the screen behind them. Audience in the seats. We were seeing the best examples of some of the experimentation that has gone on this year on mapping controversies. Three examples involved theatre and acting out the controversies. Students had done voice and drama training with the Aleph Theatre director Oscar Castro. The most elaborate drama had been a 24 person simulation regarding the Iranian Nuclear programme. Instead of producing websites or posters, based on their research, the 24 students enacted this two-day international summit. We then saw three short videos, including a brilliant one on « recovered memory ». Top notch, prizewinning material, brimming with creative metaphors. I will ask ITMP08, Anne Lucie Grange, who became the first project manager of FORCCAST last year, for a link to this video! Here she is surrounded by her team taking a bow just before the tea break!
Then it was time to meet up with Stephanie Fen Chong, ITMP03. She was the guest star for the evening after work meet up of the Bretagne Telecom alumni association. Andrea Burgio, our colleague, had organised this event.
Stephanie has been running the Telecom Bretagne incubator for three years now. « Can you teach innovation? And if so how? » was her theme. First she took us through the Innovation Challenge one semester project her 140 students do. It has to be original, involve a technology deliverable (like a demo or prototype), include a business plan, a 2 minute video pitch and calls for symbolic investment from fellow students. Meeting all 5 objectives all the time is impossible. She then summed up for us the 2010 PIMREP report, which contrasts the assumptions and objectives underlying the way in which innovation has been taught at the PARITECH schools: one is a more technology centred approach on how to give value to the R&D work being done in labs. The other focuses more on the design and process issues of how to steer innovation. At this point there were many interesting reactions and comments from the Telmecom alumni. « Could innovation be linked to all subjects and not just be a subject apart? » « Must it always be technological innovation? » « What about services? » « Innovation for innovation’s sake? » « Does project management work for innovation? »
Stéphanie then referred to the Innovator’s DNA, she listed the 5 skills Christensen and his colleagues have identified among leaders of disruptive innovation: observation, questioning, association, experimentation and networking.
Finally three learnings Nicolas Nova (here’s his fantastic blog!) took from his work with the engineering students at Einstein’s alma mater – the Zürich Federal Polytechnic School:
1. Accept fuzzy objectives and uncertainty
2. Accept that you learn from failure
3. Be comfortable with diversity (ie not just your approach)
BUT HOW REALLY TO CONVEY THIS…?…we all agreed was the million dollar question, leaving Andrea with follow up topic for a future meet up.
Many thanks to the 24 E1 and E2 students who took time to answer the online survey on attitudes to entrepreneurship. I was able to share the results. Then we stopped for drinks and more discussion!
Click here to see how Christelle sums it all up.