21st Century Academic Forum Conference : Practice What We Teach

Practice What We Teach: Iterative Design Methods for Innovation Education

Co-Authors: Rhea Alexander, Aaron Fry

Publication Number: ISSN: 2330-1236

Keywords: VUCA; Innovation; Entrepreneurial Education; ELab


There can be little dispute that the past two decades have seen an accelerated change in the hyper-connected parts of both developing and developed worlds. The term VUCA-environment (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) describes our new social, political, economic and environmental landscape, and may itself provide some clues about how future generations might be educated, what they may be expected to learn and know, and ultimately how they may be prepared to survive and thrive. We propose that design-led entrepreneurship and innovation are both essential skill-and-mindsets that stand at the core of how future generations will successfully navigate VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) environments. Despite the rise of design-entrepreneurship and a broader acceptance of “design thinking” in business, we contend that entrepreneurship’s connection with design education remains marginalized in today’s mainstream pedagogy. We describe here the VUCA conditions and the emergent values and priorities of the post-recession generations of consumer, employee and learner (millennial-and-beyond). We examine the manner in which these (Gen-Z and Alpha) generations learn, and contrast this with current pedagogical priorities and modalities. We then conclude with the case for Parsons’ Entrepreneurs Lab (ELab): a design-driven business incubator and academic research lab which seeks to develop a ‘design intelligent’ pedagogical approach. We argue that the ELab model and methods address the pivotal role of design in developing that most intangible quality, the entrepreneurial mindset. We further assert that teaching and using design principles and methods for innovation and entrepreneurship will better prepare future generations to better respond to the unknown.