Teaching entrepreneurship and innovation management in emerging markets: some best practices

Earlier in the month we held a professional development workshop at the Academy of Management in Philadelphia. We were first up on the first day - Session 29 of nearly 2,000 sessions... and we still managed to draw a crowd.

The workshop was intended to help bridge a gap between the understanding that we need to contextualize research and a seeming acceptance that textbooks and teaching cases do not need to be put into context to be understood by our students.

Florian began the workshop with a brief overview of the pros and cons of contextualization - while it may be costly there is an argument to be made to develop contextualized language and learning in management education.
Dr. Florian Schloderer (INSEAD) presenting the agenda for the PDW
The first speaker, Prof. Stephen Mezias (INSEAD) spoke of the general context of emerging markets and the opportunities and challenges that institutional voids present - as they can both spur and hamper innovation.

This was followed by our "devil's advocate" Dr. Kathy Shen (U. of Wollongong in Dubai) who pointed out that it is important not to get to far away from the original concepts and theory that we are trying to represent and teach. The danger of over-contextualization is that our students are trying to construct their own knowledge of the concept, and if there is too much "context" the learner might not be able to apply her new knowledge in a new situation. Dr. Kathy suggested that it could be best to deliver the abstract knowledge first, which then could be followed by "contextualized" learning experiences.

This valuable introduction, looking at different aspects of contextualization, was followed by five case studies from emerging markets. What tools and techniques have been developed to encourage active learning by students in Africa, India, the UAE and Russia?

Pavan Soni (Indian Institute of Management Bangalore) began his presentation speaking of how Indians have traditionally been known as frugal innovators - solving immediate problems at hand with workable and ad hoc solutions. But the challenge is turning these problem solving skills into capabilities that can scale up solutions and create more dynamic and competitive organisations.

Pavan speaking about his research into the Indian pharmaceutical industry and innovation
In his research in the Pharmaceutical industry Pavan has traced how innovation processes have adjusted to National level institutional changes from imitation to improvisation to innovation and how the evolving context of formal and informal institutions has to be considered when researching and developing teaching cases on innovation management.

Following this Florian presented the Gulf Con simulation "game" which guides students through the set-up of a performance management system. In this simulation there is contextualization at three levels - this in addition to the fact that learning through play fits with the learning culture of the Middle East. However, although there have been positive results and feedback there is currently no evidence of whether this contextualization has led or will lead to sustainable change within the students' respective organizations.

Dr. Victor Huang (Zayed University, Abu Dhabi) then presented his experience using an online social media platform he used when teaching undergraduate students a course on entrepreneurship. Generation "V" (V for virtual) use social media to communicate, to learn, to stretch their entrepreneurial legs and at the moment management education is still discovering the best ways to incorporate social media tools. Teacher involvement is key to "directing" and developing incentives to encourage positive exchanges on Yammer (a free social media tool) and also a guiding hand is needed to take the student's culture and context into account when designing assignments and projects.

Amitaksha Nag(Frametrics Consulting) described his positive results teaching the importance of social networks in managing innovation processes in different communities in Africa. He uses simple games with simple tools and inexpensive material to create interactive, dynamic and fun learning experiences for students. Using this action learning tool Amitaksha helps abstract concepts become concrete through a social, visual and hands-on game.
Network designed by students
Dr. Alexander Fliaster (University of Bamberg) wrapped up the best practices section of the workshop by discussing his experiences in Russia with management simulations to teach collaboration. In management in collaboration for innovation, many of the issues and problems that come up along the process are due to cultural issues - so contextualization is key to effective research and learning.  Dr. Alex said that "our biases as Western educated teachers of what constitutes common knowledge can negatively impact our effectiveness". However, when games or simulations start with objectives, and then incorporate student examples and local scenarios they can see how they can apply their new knowledge in situations that are familiar to them.

Finally we had a panel discussion on the "take ways" of the workshop. Dr. Kathy underlined the need for more research and more "local" knowledge as to what is "different" in emerging markets and what is the "same" - and the cognitive consequences of contextualizing these theories for students.

The panel

It was a great workshop and it underlined the "sameness" and differences of teaching management in different contexts and in different cultures. While we must understand the context we must also keep in mind that some things remain the same across organisations and continents.

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