With the proliferation of innovation programs and courses at colleges and universities, business owners and managers can take advantage of the opportunity to work with college students on a problem or issue relevant to their business.
One of the ways business leaders can benefit from a roomful of entrepreneurship and innovation students is to participate in ideation sessions. The business leader provides a challenge for the class—including background information and current business conditions—and the students spend the session generating ideas and potential solutions. Students in these courses are often trained in creativity and innovation methods that enable a deep dive to generate useful ideas. In many of the sessions I lead with my classes, I have found that the students come up with high-potential, valuable ideas and the business leader leaves with an easel pad full of suggestions and solutions. Such is the power of unleashing creative minds unfamiliar with the problem, and therefore free of the prejudices that can cloud or block thinking.
Ideation sessions for problem solving and opportunity searches can span a broad variety of areas, including marketing, sales, financing, managing people, customer service, and leveraging technology. Contact your local college or university to find out if entrepreneurship and innovation courses offer these sessions. They are typically inexpensive or even free. In addition to helping you get creative ideas, they can also be a useful source of interns and future employees.
Lisa Gundry Professor of Management Director, The Center for Creativity & Innovation DePaul University, Chicago