Developing an eLearning platform for early phase entrepreneurs
The Dynamiqe psychometric online application forms a key part of an eLearning platform designed to support early phase entrepreneurs. It meets the needs of a rapidly expanding population of young people wanting to start their own businesses, either out of necessity or due to desire for greater freedom and control over their careers. It is clear that this new generation (“Gen Z”) learn in new ways, drawing heavily upon their preferences for online applications and interaction.
Launched in beta in November 2014, the instrument is already in use at 20 Universities across Europe. It is also being used by tech accelerators, such as VC Nest in Hong Kong and Alacrity in South Wales. A cohort of professional mentors have been trained and accredited in the use of there instrument, located in San Francisco, UK, Greece, India and Hong Kong.
Context and Focus of the research
Across the university-based and early phase start up ecosystem (pre-revenue/pre-funded), we are trying to meet the needs of the new generation of entrepreneurs and founders by using traditional methods of education, including workshops, in person mentoring and expert blogs. I have described this centralised and content driven formula as applying 19th century solutions to a 21st century problem.
Dynamiqe starts from a different premise. It provides an online application that prompts critical self awareness and personal inquiry within the user. By placing the user within model built around four entrepreneurial archetypes: Driver, Dealer, Director and Creator, it highlights that they are using a particular approach to their entrepreneurial project as opposed to other possible approaches. By asking them questions about their current reality and their future intention, it also invites them to think how they might need or want to change their approach.
For example, in early user testing at Central St Martins, a key theme was the need for creative entrepreneurs to become more commercially minded, both to protect their creative IP and raise their fees. In Dynamiqe terms, this suggests a shift from the Creator profile to the Dealer profile.
The product is delivered in a 12-14 page personalised report, which places the user within the model and identifies the top priority development areas for them to work on.
Dynamiqe consciously focuses on the development of human capabilities and team dynamics as a basis for effective entrepreneurship, in contrast to the dominant discourse that stresses investment opportunity, wealth creation and business formation.
The research was conducted through the application of grounded theory method and other supporting mixed qualitative and quantitative methods. The research draws upon my own direct coaching and mentoring work with different samples of early phase entrepreneurs.
Impact and Effects
The breakthrough for Dynamiqe came when the instrument was adopted as an eLearning platform by Social Storm, a social enterprise venture hosted by Loughborough University. 15 universities were involved in creating teams of student entrepreneurs. They were required to work in virtual teams across three locations, using social media and web applications. The goal was to produce a plan to tackle the UN Millennial Goals.
Dynamiqe was used to help pre-match the teams for both gender and profile diversity (one of each of the four profiles). Also, the teams were requested to complete the instrument before and during the event. This was designed to help the teams to create dialogue about roles and also identify strengths and potential derailers within the team. One reason Dynamiqe was selected for this project was that it empowered the teams and enabled them to be more equal in their relationship with their mentor.
Social Storm provides a good example also of how eLearning tools like Dynamiqe can provide a form of learning that is continuous, timely and highly personalised.
Dynamiqe was featured in an article about Social Storm that appeared in the Guardian.
On 24 February, the Dynamiqe tool was presented at the UCL Advances Mentoring Symposium, which afforded an opportunity to gain wider recognition from senior industry figures from University enterprise education, the investment community and technology accelerators.