As it is often said that creative companies regularly face the problem of not having access to some of the necessary skills for running a company (such as for example marketing, accounting etc.), one question that we stumbled upon during the research was the question on how to integrate all these skills within the group of founders. We wondered if this problem could already be addressed by the universities during the studies.
Dr. Oliver Mauroner from the Bauhaus University in Weimar volunteered to work on the questions “Are interdisciplinary working groups during studies an important pre-condition for the starting of a company (within the creative industries)?” Together with his workshop group of dedicated experts, he developed a list of further questions, such as:
- Should we promote interdisciplinary teams?
- How can we add missing competences (marketing, design etc.) to the team: by teaching the team or by bringing in other people (experts)?
- How should/could we promote interdisciplinary teams (formats, programs)?
- What is needed (Competences, personalities, experiences)?
- What are the “places” to meet?
Within the workshop, the questions were mostly addressed at the support system bodies (university, support programs etc.) as those who should take action.
Interestingly, the group agreed that the customers needs define which competences should be included in the entrepreneurial team/company. This opens up the scope to a very user-driven approach: work with the customer not for him/her and make the customer believe it was his/her idea.
The participants agreed that there should be support for interdisciplinary teams in the creative sector but that there is not just one way/model how to do that. Possible models mentioned include:
- support within the university AND AFTER
- individual coaching to help the team embers close their individual gaps
- bring in external experts to close the skills gaps within the team
How to meet the right people?
The identified problems in the university context are:
- strong separation of disciplines
- widespread fear of idea fraud
- missing knowledge about ongoing research activities
- poor networking culture
These are problems that should and can be addressed within the universities themselves.
How can / will companies be structured in the future?
Instead of looking at a company as a big construct one should open up to form groups of small companies with different competences. Participant Claudiu Danaila gave an example of his own working situation (http://brainstormcm.dk) where different small companies with many competences co-work on projects. This is more based on the customer’s point of view („work with them not for them“). After the project, the group falls apart and the small companies form new groups to work on new projects.
What are the preconditions for promoting interdisciplinary groups/teams:
According to the participants, the most important preconditions are openness, trust and confidence in the success of the idea.
Openness means to be open to the customer’s needs but also to listen, first to yourself then to others and then being able to making the people listen to you. As one useful approach coaching is suggested.
Concrete ideas for action:
- networking events organized by universities and support programs, where young or aspiring entrepreneurs can meet with other companies, future mentors and possible investors. One interesting event is arranged by the plug ‘n play incubator (Silicon Valley) http://plugandplaytechcenter.com/
- Crowdfunding as an open support system; it is a very good way to evaluate your idea and to test the market
- Lean start-up: fast feedback and iterative product releases in order to shorten the product development cycles
- the setting up of contamination labs for students from all disciplines with tutors, investors, incubators so they can work on their ideas, form groups at startup weekends, barcamps etc. (this idea comes from Denise Di Dio, Incubator Milano Speed Mi Up, http://www.speedmiup.it)
- on an individual level: go to conferences, network, look out!
The group then agreed on a rephrasing of the question: From „How should/could we promote interdisciplinary working groups“ to „What culture/value should be supported“. This implies that the whole cooperation culture needs to be reworked towards more open approaches from both universities and students, but also from customers and clients, as well as from investors, business associations and so forth.