The Big Picture
People who are real problem solvers operate from a broad perspective. They think strategically. They are able to see the big picture but they are not overwhelmed by it, allowing them to make connections and develop inspired solutions that create value in new and meaningful ways. Faculty members at Lafayette College developed the Meta Mindset to help teach this kind of thinking with the generous support of the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN).
KEEN has worked to develop Entrepreneurial Minded Learning in order for an individual to view challenges broadly as opportunities to effect change. Lafayette’s Meta Mindset goes an extra step. In addition to teaching students specific tools, characteristics, and traits for entrepreneurial thinking, the Meta Mindset highlights the (often lonely and even frightening) journey common to all entrepreneurial endeavors to create new social or commercial value. This journey is always iterative, it always requires management of a wide range of risks, it is never solitary, and it is never a “sure win”. Truly entrepreneurial individuals recognize the process from their own, often accidental, life experiences. The Mindset invites faculty to deliberately create opportunities for students to practice this journey, building skills for recognizing opportunities, managing risks, seeking effective collaborators, and understanding the intrinsic and extrinsic value of thinking like an entrepreneur.
Practicing the entrepreneurial journey is scalable - from individual assignments, projects, courses, and co-curricular opportunities to lifelong endeavors. Continually practicing the journey empowers students to connect their personal development to a broad, entrepreneurial mindset. These experiences encourage students to engage their curiosity, move beyond fear of failure, and create value from unexpected opportunities. The Meta Mindset offers a way for students to use each learning experience, no matter the scope or subject matter, to prepare for the larger challenges and opportunities they will face in their own lives by using each experience to refine their own abilities to think entrepreneurially.
What does the Meta Mindset journey look like?
The Meta Mindset begins with an inspiration - the belief that something is possible, despite having not been previously achieved. Certainly, a person who is inspired to try to create something new has to consider the limits of her/his understanding of the challenge. To transform an inspiration into value creation, a disciplined process is necessary with the intent of discovery and taking deliberate risks. Creativity, collaboration, and a range of skills are critical in developing solutions and overcoming challenges in the creative process. The Mindset contextualizes how these elements interact and shows that value creation is not just measured extrinsically, but also intrinsically. The concept of intrinsic value in the absence of extrinsic value is well appreciated by creative individuals who recognize the benefit of learning from failure.
The Meta Mindset highlights any entrepreneurial process - from developing new ideas for strengthening society to product innovation, applying existing products to new purposes to commercial innovation. The model is equally applicable to an individual as it is to a complex organization - from a local non-profit to a multi-national corporation. Indeed, some organizations and corporations are known for their innovation. The disposition, behaviors, and motivation of these organizations may well be represented by the approach depicted by Meta Mindset where inspiration is the fuel that ultimately delivers value. The connections and curiosity combine iteratively with creativity and collaboration on a different scale than in individual learning, but in a similar and scalable manner.
What we are excited about at Lafayette
The Meta Mindset has the potential to change the way both students and faculty members view education. Imbuing this kind of mindset cannot be achieved by simply describing the process in a classroom. An “immersion” is necessary for students to experience the journey alongside their professors and the College at large. Regardless of their individual career or life choices, extending the use of the Mindset across the college enables students to connect their experience in an engineering or science class, an English class, and a history class to their own entrepreneurial, problem-solving mindsets. Each encounter with the journey, no matter the context, reinforces the applicability of the process and has intrinsic value that becomes, simply, how we approach our lives. Each experience becomes an opportunity to develop, amplify and accelerate students’ confidence in their capability to think creatively and to identify others with the same mindsets. Every encounter contributes to the development of the broad thinking necessary to take on today’s most complex challenges.