Teaching creativity to the next generation of entrepreneurs is not as wacky as it sounds

It used to be so simple. You did your MBA and a glittering career in banking or consultancy beckoned. Not any more. All those old financial certainties have suddenly vanished, and today an exciting and successful future is much more likely to depend on your ability to carve out your own path.

But can an MBA help you do this? Is it possible to teach creativity and entrepreneurship as easily as you can teach accounting and project management?

Plenty of imaginative entrepreneurs offer living proof that an MBA can set you off in a different direction. And increasingly business schools are working hard at getting their students' creative juices flowing. At Lancaster University Management School, for example, Sabine Junginger, a visiting expert in product design management, has given MBA students a masterclass in creativity and innovation.

People make and design things all the time, she points out, whether it is a business plan or a recipe from what is in the fridge. "But people often don't learn to engage with their creativity," says Junginger. "I try to encourage them to do this by making them more aware of how they think," she says. Students in her recent class were given a mound of objects – from kitchen equipment through to staplers and hammers – and asked to sort it out, thinking about their category judgments as they did so.

At Bristol Business School students are encouraged to develop their indigenous entrepreneurial spirit, reflecting the high level of business creativity in the region. "A lot more students now want to start their own business rather than work for someone else," says Nicholas O'Regan, professor of strategy, entrepreneurship and innovation. "You need some innate entrepreneurial ability, but when you are aware of your mindset you can become much more entrepreneurial and competitive."

Jonathan Wareham, director of research at Esade Business School is using techniques from design thinking and creative play in association with the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. For example, he says, if someone gives you 30 white circles and tells you to make as different designs as possible, you quickly draw a clock and bike wheel and a smiley face. "But then your eyes glaze over and you start worrying about, 'Are we allowed to combine things? Can I count a happy face and a sad face, as two separate items, or are they in the same category?' Your mind starts raising all sorts of questions about rules and categories and limits."

You can think creatively about everything, he says: how to design a mobile phone; how to donate money to the Red Cross; how to do medicine delivery in sub-Saharan Africa.

MBA students often arrive with set views about themselves. "A lot of people in finance and accounting don't see themselves as creative while people in sales and marketing tend to think they are," says Tudor Rickards, professor of creativity and organisational change, at Manchester Business School. "It's important that we help people to push out the limits on their thinking. In fact, unless we can do this, we are going to be in trouble as business educators." He also says creativity is moving away from product innovation towards creative leadership and social innovation.

"Entrepreneurship and creativity and innovation are killed not born," says Shailendra Vyakarnam, of Judge Business School, in Cambridge. "We all have it in us – it is just that society, schools, family, institutions and employers gradually kill it off ." He says that much of entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation are skills-based – and everyone can learn skills when they find self-confidence and inspiration in role models.

A Judge student recently commercialized the research he had done for his PhD in engineering and developed a micro-antenna after being exposed to teaching about entrepreneurship and hearing inspirational stories from people who had created their own businesses. "His father is a school teacher and he had never been exposed to the ideas of entrepreneurship before," says Vyakarnam. "It was there under the surface and the role of the entrepreneurship education experience was to open his mind to what is possible."

'My MBA brought out what was inside me'

Jo Morey, 29, is planning to open Haute Chocolat, a combined shop and café.

"I had a degree in English and French and four-and-a-half years working as a headhunter when I started my MBA. I wanted to do it to develop my entrepreneurial experience, with a view to starting my own business.

Ashridge Business School seemed to focus on developing the whole person, and gave me great tools to enhance my skills and bring out what was inside me.

I had a rough idea about my business plan, but I used different tools and frameworks. I did market research and used focus groups, and it was a question of making all the pieces fit together.

My idea is to set up combined chocolate cafés and boutiques, known as Haute Chocolat. These will be aimed at affluent women and be the sort of place you go for a real treat.

I expect to set up about three or four in the UK and then go international. My first one will be in Brighton, next year. I have already been short-listed for the Girls Make Your Mark award, run by the website handbag.com."

'Our minds went racing at the possibilities'

Sarah Wightman runs Revel Outdoors, a cycle shop based in Newmarket, Suffolk, with her husband Jamie.

"I did my MBA at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University. I had done engineering product management for seven years, but I'd decided that I wanted a change of sector. So after I finished the MBA, I went to Citigroup, joining their MBA graduate programme. Then I realised it wasn't what I wanted to be doing. But I thought that to start a business you needed a big, new idea and I didn't have one.

Then it started to dawn on me that you didn't have to have that; you could enter a traditional business and run it more creatively. So my husband and I – we met on the MBA – looked at this great website, businessesforsale.com, and our minds went racing at the possibilities.

We now run a cycle shop in Newmarket, called Revel Outdoors, and we are developing its website.

The MBA, more than anything, gave us both the confidence to know that we were considering all the necessary areas. We had learned about marketing, finance and accounting, and done quite a lot on entrepreneurship and creativity. We had particularly looked at questions such as, 'what is entrepreneurship?' and 'how it can be introduced into any business?'

I'm not sure that you can turn someone into an entrepreneur, but you can certainly give them more tools, or a taste of it. We're running a traditional business but we are definitely more creative in the way we are doing things and are looking at new methods for stock control and new point-of-sale systems."

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Emily McDowell Card that reads:
artCancer survivor Emily McDowell kicks back at the clichés
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvBadalamenti on board for third series
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Standing room only: the terraces at Villa Park in 1935
football
Sport
Ben Stokes celebrates with his team mates after bowling Brendon McCullum
sportEngland vs New Zealand report
News
Amal Clooney has joined the legal team defending 'The Hooden Men'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Developer - Norfolk - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Software Developer - Norf...

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine