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How two student questions inspired entrepreneurial program

By Ed Steidl on December 1, 2016

Filed under Microsoft in Government

Group of 6 smiling people collaborating around a table

When I started as global program manager for Microsoft Innovation Centers (MICs), I spent a lot of time visiting MICs around the globe.

Each center is a hub of world-class resources and support for students, entrepreneurs, and startups—and we currently have more than 100 of them in 34 countries. They exist to help increase economic opportunities in their local ecosystem.

I’d heard what the centers do, but I wanted to live and breathe the program myself.

During my field trips, I received many questions from MIC students. And two of them created an “aha moment” for me.

When I was in Nepal, after delivering a keynote at our MIC student and partner summit there, a student challenged me with: “I don’t want to get a job, I want to learn to create jobs. Anything you can do to help me with that?”

About a month later, I was at one of our MICs in China giving a talk on how innovation knows no borders. During the question-and-answer session at the end, a student asked: “Can you help me become like Steve Jobs?”

Many of our MIC educational programs had traditionally been focused on hard skills such as IT or business management proficiency. But those two thought-provoking student questions were about a desire to learn how to be creative and entrepreneurial.

I often hear people say that they’d love to start their own company, but don’t feel they’re imaginative enough to come up with a new product or service. So we set out on a journey to create a program that helps people develop softer skills such as idea generation.

To create training content that fosters an entrepreneurial mindset, we partnered with leading subject matter experts such as Stanford University Professor Dr. Tina Seelig, who authored the book “Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World.” One component of our entrepreneurial program is Ideation Workshops, which are based on her research.

The Ideation Workshop is designed to provide attendees with a repeatable process that they can use to not only generate ideas, but test out their market viability. We’ve piloted it in several countries such as Nepal, India, China, Korea, Malta, and Canada.

For example, in Hyderabad, India, the MIC conducted an Ideation Workshop with a Codess group of women developers—Codess is a community for female coders initiated by Microsoft. Hear what they thought of it by watching this two-minute video.

We also recently brought the workshop to the U.S. at Central Washington University (CWU). You can read about that one and see videos of it in this CWU article.

In upcoming blogs, I’ll discuss how MICs help countries further their United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, cover other components of the entrepreneurial program, and share MIC student success stories. So stay tuned!

In the meantime, you can learn more about our MICs and find a location near you on the MIC webpage.

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