by Marika Alhonen & Kalle Räihä
The first Nordic Ideation Camp was arranged already a while ago on Porvoo Campus. Now that the project network (Copenhagen Business Academy, Estonia Business School and Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences) has started planning the second camp, we want to reflect back and bring out our insights from the first camp. The first observation would be that even if the planning phase took more than a year, in the end much of the practical arrangements were managed during the last weeks and days.
A big chunk of the actual work is left on the university hosting the camp, even with all the Danish, Estonian and Finnish partners giving an equal and sincere contribution to the planning. This definitely is one major development point for our network: how to share the workload more evenly between the partners? The answer to that probably has to do with the importance of building trust, finding common values and shared goals in the organizing team – as well as figuring out more efficient ways of working together online.
All other practicalities aside, the most important reflection point would have to be the results. We had three partner companies with 3-4 teams attached to each of them. By the end of the camp it was obvious that the best results were created by teams, which were able to work closely together with the company. It also helped with creating solutions if the company had presented a clear and “universal” challenge for the students to solve. Now that we are planning the second camp in Lyngby, Denmark, the universal nature (as opposed to being related a very specific, geographically restricted customer target group, for instance) of the business problem has been brought up, since it should help making the research work during the “pre-week” more meaningful.
Another contributing factor is finding the right type of companies to work with. Based on the experiences from this first camp we would say it’s better to work with a private company, which can independently make its own decisions, instead of a network, which can’t necessary implement any of the solutions created by the student teams, regardless of how feasible they might be. The size, or level of operation of the company is also a factor to consider when choosing the companies. Taking into account all the uncertainties related to very small startups (1-3 entrepreneurs) before they have launched their products or services to the market, it is not recommended including them as commissioner companies to camps like these. Yes, they may have interesting cases to offer and the needs are real, but the lack of resources and the fact that the company hasn’t really started their business operations yet removes all meaning out of the cooperation. And from a practical point of view it just doesn’t work, if you agree to work with someone, who pulls out from the project in the last minute, due to lack of resources.
The companies don’t have to be huge corporations, either. Often the case with them is that they already have a bunch of professionals working on their issues, so what a group of 20 students can create for them in a week isn’t necessarily as substantial as when dealing with SMEs, which don’t have all the resources in-house.
Finally, one key issue is the cooperation between the teachers. We, the teachers, must reach a shared vision and agree on the philosophy of our coaching and guidance of the student teams in their work. The teacher team should learn to openly discuss topics related to what the role of a teacher is in a project like this and how to find the balance between micro-managing the students or leaving them to work in peace. It is important for an individual teacher to understand that it is about supporting the students’ work with useful means in the current situation, not so much about lecturing on our favourite topics.
We can, without loss of integrity, proclaim the first Nordic Ideation Camp a success. Especially considering it was the first attempt in a series of three, arranged by people previously unknown to each other, representing very different educational organizations. We strongly believe in evolution, so it will be interesting to see to what extent we can implement the learnings from the first camp at Haaga-Helia Porvoo Campus. One thing is sure: the Lyngby camp will be a fascinating experience for all involved partners.
The Nordic Ideation Camp is a series of three ideation camps organised each autumn by the
involved partner universities (Haaga-Helia, Estonia Business School and Copenhagen Busines Academy). The first camp was organised on Haaga-Helia Porvoo Campus 13-17.11.2017. The second camp takes place in the autumn 2018 i Lyngby, Copenhagen and the third in the autumn 2019 in Tallinn, Estonia. Each camp involves 20 students and 2 teachers from each partner university and lasts for three weeks. During the first and last weeks students work in virtual teams but are located in their home universities. The second week brings all participants together to work intensively on commissioned cases/projects. The Nordic Ideation Camps are financed by NordPlus.
Kalle Räihä and Marika Alhonen work as Senior Lecturers in The Degree Programme of International Sales and Marketing with Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences