Creating your future from your core: What we do in our Intropreneurship class

If you follow me on the Gram, you’ve seen me share pictures and videos of the Intropreneurship classes on my feed and stories. If we’re connected on LinkedIn, you’ve seen the job title update. And if we’re real-life homies, you probably heard me say I need to prepare or teach a class a bunch of times.

I’m happy to see these snippets spark the curiosity and to receive questions over email and DM asking things like “am I a teacher?”, “what exactly is it that I teach?”, and “why doesn’t it look anything like a regular class?” (alternate version: “wtf is all this cool shit you’re doing?”).

And that is what this post will be about. I’d like to introduce our Intropreneurship class and some of the vision that supports it; explain what it is we teach, why we believe it matters and perhaps; why it doesn’t look anything like a regular class. And feel free to ask more questions as I’ll be happy to tell you more about what we do there. For those with an interest but limited time, I present to you: the Intropreneurship Aftermovie. In this 2-minute film we have the students speak on their experiences throughout the program and what it did for them. Peep it below and see what we’ve been pouring our souls and energies into these last few months:

I say we because this class is a team effort. I am fortunate to co-design and co-teach this course with my partner in crime and mentor Sandra Reeb-Gruber; educational innovator and the founder and driving force behind IBIS. She asked me to be part of this class last fall, and we’ve been happily creating and carrying it out as a team ever since.

To name our program we coined the term Intropreneur, and logically called the course Intropreneurship, which we define as:

Intropreneur [\ˈin-(ˌ)trō-p(r)ə-ˈnər, -ˈn(y)u̇r\]
noun, plural introtrepreneurs [/in-troh-pruh-nurz, -noo rz/]
a person who organizes and manages themselves, taking on greater than normal personal risk in order to do so.

The blind spot of education

If all goes well during our studies, we graduate with a bachelor or master degree. What’s still missing is knowledge of self, and clear ideas on what we wish to pursue, or refrain from, in our careers and lives. Although education equips us with a wide scope of knowledge and skills, we are left with some very big questions to figure out for ourselves.

    What kind of job would I like, and would suit me? What are my talents? What am I passionate about? What are my core values? How important is my career to me? Which environments do I best perform in?

Our ability to explore and find the answers to these questions determines our success these days more than our grade lists do. Yet somewhere along the line, it was decided that it is not the responsibility of schools to occupy themselves and the curriculum with such questions.

We disagree with that notion.

Personal + professional development as one

This is why we started our Intropreneurship program. In this 10-week course, an elective of the International Business Innovation Studies, we help a group of 25 students find their own answers to exactly those questions.

It is built on the premises that:

  • self-knowledge is the most important leadership knowledge
  • personal and professional development go hand in hand
  • that success is only experienced as such if it is in line with our core values.

The journey of Intropreneurship: inspired by Theory U

Through a journey of guided self-exploration and reflection, we seek to map their talents, values, passions and dreams, but also their enablers and disablers. We gently push them out of their comfort zones with the experiences and exercises, all contributing to them growing an image of themselves that is both affirming and sensible – will help them navigate the path ahead.

We draw inspiration from and tap into a bunch of theories, methods and sources but one of the key models to guide the Intropreneurship process is that of Theory U, a management model developed by Otto Scharmer and meant to inspire authentic leadership (illustrated in the drawing below).

Following the U-shape as illustrated here,

the first part of the program is about acknowledging the existing,
the second part about interpreting the emerging,
and the final part about manifesting the new.

This process isn’t just about gathering more knowledge and skills, but very much about seeing what’s already there, and expanding from there.

By the end of it, each student will channel their insights into a passion-driven project that is in line with their goals and priorities. They will start and build this venture during the class and hopefully, continue it beyond.

Outside-in vs inside-out entrepreneurship

The usual approach to entrepreneurship is outside-in. You scout for market opportunities and unsaturated user needs which your company could provide for. There is nothing wrong with this process, but it is not the only way.

The other approach, and the one we support in our Intropreneurship program, is an inside-out approach. Starting from the individuals’ talents, passions and goals, and moving from there to see and experiment with what kind of business endeavor would fit.

“A leader needs to know his strengths as a carpenter knows his tools, or as a physician knows the instruments at her disposal” – Dr. Donald O. Clifton (from Strengths Based Leadership)

Knowing and guiding one’s self

We believe the skill of knowing and guiding one’s self has always been crucial to success, but is only becoming more important in our 21st-century context, amidst all the changes, choices, freedoms and ambiguities that characterize our era. But we all know that this is a daunting task, and without the right tools, mindset and guidance; perhaps even an impossible one.

So that’s what our Intropreneurship class is about: providing that and empowering this group of talented students to live up to their potential and live life on their own terms, in harmony with, and ultimately capitalizing on, the developments around them. To help them know themselves, own up to their greatness and go out and manifest it. To create their future from their core.
intropreneurship

Together we thrive: a word for our sponsors

And me and Sandra can’t take all the credit. We’ve had the privilege of enjoying amazing guest lectures by the likes of Boukje Vastbinder (Noorderwind) on rapid prototyping techniques, Lorenzo de Rita (The Soon Institute) on the SoonCV, Nuray Gokalp (GlobalTech.City) on the fusion of passions, and learn from both their personal and professional insights. We visited inspiring companies such as Shapeways, Singularity University, Dutch Design Week, Sport eXperience, Enversed on our trip to Eindhoven that gave the students real-life insights on how companies work, and what their role in it might be. We undertook the life-changing Nature Quest experience with Martin Cadee and Roos Moll to discover what is present when all distractions are stripped away. And we were invited by the kind people of Clubs & Subs in De Sloot to host some of our sessions in their dynamic working environment, and away from the classrooms. I want to thank you all so much for your contributions.

And in addition to that I want to give a major shout-out to all my students. There are few things more rewarding than the sensation of helping others, and witnessing others grow and get value from what you have created and facilitated for them. And I’m learning and experiencing so many wonderful things in the process myself; learning both from my own doing, the students’ feedback and the collaboration with Sandra, and not unimportantly: enjoying the ride.

Altogether, it’s been a very exciting journey full of inspiration, sharing, connecting, growth, surprises and lifelong memories. And we’re not even done yet 🙂

That’s what we’ve been doing and what Intropreneurship has been all about in a (rather large) nutshell. Let me know your thoughts on our program, if you have any questions, if you’d like to collaborate or feel free to share your own ideas on what the future of education might (/should) look like. Thank you for reading and always keep learning + teaching!

Posted by Nadia Piet

New Zealand-born, Amsterdam-bred terrestrial being, practicing the art of living in a digital age, and help others do the same. Passionate about shaping the future of work, education and life and helping people and organizations navigate the many challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. Because I believe “the best way to predict the future is to create it”.