Learning how to think like an entrepreneur

entrepreneurial psychology - Hanne Viken

Photo: Hanne Viken
Students create models of their dreams in progress.

Mona Anita K. Olsen, PhD
Cornell University

Students currently enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program in innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) are enjoying the launch of the new university course, Entrepreneurial Psychology. A first subject for all students in the innovation and entrepreneurship cohort, Entrepreneurial Psychology is also a distinctively novel approach within the entrepreneurship ecosystems at Norwegian universities. In Entrepreneurial Psychology, students learn about the mental elements of being an entrepreneur and innovator. In a practical fashion, students work in teams regularly and they practice dealing with uncertainty, ambiguity, diversity, and resistance in the exercises for the course.

In October of 2018, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Hanne Viken and approximately 40 students in the Entrepreneurial Psychology class at USN at the Bø campus. It was fantastic to be back at Bø further developing the relationship between USN and Cornell University. In the guest lecture, I introduced many practical exercises and diagrams that have been useful in the course Conversations with Entrepreneurs at the Hotel School at Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. I also worked with students on the Gallup Builder Profile 10 Assessment. While it was a return visit to the campus for me, I learned the exciting news that USN had become Norway’s newest university after a series of multiple mergers across the higher education system on May 4, 2018. With over 18,000 students and 1,600 staff, USN is a collection of four faculties across eight campuses in Drammen, Vestfold, Kongsberg, Ringerike, Bø, Notodden, Porsgrunn, and Rauland.

entrepreneurial psychology - Hanne Viken

Photo: Hanne Viken
Students in Entrepreneur Psychology class at USN were asked to contribute value or “a-ha” statements they learned from the day’s lecture by Mona Anita K. Olsen, Ph.D. This one says: “I have learned that people with different qualities are extremely valuable.”

I also learned that the Entrepreneurial Psychology course was an innovation of its own in relationship to faculty. While Viken has taught innovation and entrepreneurship at USN for many years, she saw that this course could address a major opportunity in the curriculum around “the entrepreneurial and innovative brain.” The course was set up to address the question “how can we practice thinking constructively when we face something that’s new and does not have a user’s manual or guide?”

Viken continues to see the opportunity to engage students in a variety of activities to get them to practice thinking like an innovator. She noted, “A good entrepreneur chooses to think things can change. A good entrepreneur is open to new experiences, dares to try and fail, dares to think big, and is able to handle resistance. A good entrepreneur has understood that you do not have to be able to do anything but know how to build a good team. And this is what students get used to in this study.”

Viken also runs the website Grunderhjernen and wrote a blog post recapping perspectives about the guest lecture in October. You can read it at www.grunderhjernen.com/blog/bes%C3%B8k-fra-cornell-university. To obtain diagrams outlined in the blog and in photos, visit www.monaanitaolsen.com/teaching. To learn more about USN, visit www.usn.no/english.

Mona Anita K. Olsen is an assistant professor at the School of Hotel Administration in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business​ in Ithaca, N.Y. ​She is also the founder of Innovation Barn 58N6E and the 501c3 iMADdu (I make a difference, do you?) Inc.

This article originally appeared in the December 28, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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