IMPLEMENTING THE 3A APPROACH
Founded in 1919, the AUC strives to build a culture of leadership, lifelong learning, continuing education and service among its graduates, and is dedicated to making significant contributions to Egypt and the international community (mission statement). In 2010, AUC's School of Business declared "entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership" as its new mission. To enact this mission, I introduced a new graduate course strategic management of innovation in spring 2010.
This course was designed to teach students a systematic approach to innovation necessary to achieve success in the marketplace. Grounded in the comprehensive innovation framework (Crossan & Apaydin, 2010; Zona, 2009) and a design thinking approach developed by KMD (Keio Media Design) University, Japan, this course had no textbooks or exams. Instead, it included the latest articles from Harvard Business Review, cases from Ivey Publishing, an improvisation workshop, an ethnographic field-work in 10 urban communities of Cairo and a consulting style project on innovation resulting in a series of recommendations for 8 local companies. The following sections explain how each module of 3A approach was used in the coursework.
A1. The first module of the class builds students' Awareness of (a) what innovation is and its importance to an organization, (b) what the comprehensive innovation model is and why its completeness is a
requisite to achieving sustainable innovation outcomes, and (c) what the enacted and espoused innovation strategies and the effects of their congruence/incongruence on an organization's performance are (see Crossan & Apaydin, 2010; Zona, 2009 for detailed explanations).
A2. During the Analysis phase, the students were required to administer the innovation audit tool (Apaydin, den Hartigh, & Crossan, 2013) to Egyptian companies. This analysis involved (a) using the comprehensive innovation framework to assess the degree of comprehensiveness of those companies' innovation strategies; (b) applying a survey-based measurement instrument, proposed in Crossan and Apaydin (2010), to benchmark them against the consolidated data of a global sample, which was collected in 2008 from 68 publicly listed companies in 20 countries (Apaydin, den Hartigh, & Crossan, 2013); and (c) employing a unique methodology, developed in Zona (2009), to assess the gap between companies' espoused and enacted innovation models.
A3. Usually graduate course projects end in a project report and a grade. However, in this course, the 3A approach called for completing the cycle by conducting an Action. After completing the project, the students presented their findings and recommendations for improvement to the management of the companies. As a result, two firms asked for a repeat of the audit project a year later in order to assess the improvements they intended to implement.
THE 3A AND DESIGN THINKING IN CAIRO
Another, smaller application of the 3a approach in this course was a field-work project conducted in 10 distinct communities in Cairo. This part of the course can be considered as a hands-on real life workshop in entre-premiership where innovation can be practiced in a socially responsible manner and not only studied.
Developed by KMD University ( Japan), the design thinking module of the course introduced students to a new method of developing commercially viable ideas through an ethnographic field study. Design thinking is an ability to combine empathy, creativity and rationality to meet often unarticulated user needs and helping the user "get the job done" in an easier and more fun fashion (Bettencourt & Ulwick, 2008). Unlike analytical thinking, design thinking is a creative process of a natural building up of ideas with no early judgments.
A1. The students start the 3A cycle by first learning the methodology of design thinking, its objectives and expected outcomes. Then, they conducted their field research in a specific urban location in Cairo with high concentration of population. During their field-work, the students observe the behavior of individuals in a particular community (Awareness).
A2. Then, the students create several models of their subjects' behavior analyzing their patterns and identifying their unarticulated needs and desires (Analysis). The idea is to find a pattern of activities and attempt to extend them in order to augment the human experience in a socially responsible fashion. The idea of commercializing experience is relatively new. In the past, we moved from selling products to selling services but now, selling experience (e.g. theme parks, Starbucks, cultural tourism) is becoming more prominent. Thus, the focus of this project is to identify commercially viable ideas towards improving people's experience in the urban communities under consideration. The component of social responsibility and public interest is a recent development in the business domain. When deciding how to commercialize the experience, a manager can take an agnostic decision, or a socially responsible decision. The latter would invariably bring additional benefits such as improved reputation, enhanced employee morale and increased public good (Cone, Feldman, & DaSilva, 2003). Thus, students were encouraged to explore a solution which could enhance public good, for example, developing facilities for elderly and disabled in Al-Azhar Park, color-coding of metro destinations to help illiterate passengers, providing a bus service for Armenian Center visitors.
A3. The final, Action part of the 3A cycle encourages students to
develop a proactive attitude. This translated into taking the necessary steps to materialize their ideas. The students were required to prepare a sales pitch for their ideas and present it to the concerned parties such as Ministry of Tourism, AUC, Carrefour, and Al-Azhar Park. The process involved writing letters of introduction, setting up meetings with the respective parties, preparing presentations, delivering their sales pitch and obtaining from their potential customers a signed letter of intent. As a result, some of the student's ideas are now being considered for implementation.
As a whole, this interactive learning experience produced tangible outcomes for all stakeholders. The course was enthusiastically received by the students and the companies involved. This was also one of the highly ranked courses in the program. In their anonymous course evaluation comments, the students mentioned this course as the most valuable experience in their many years at the university. These results show that the 3A approach leads not only to a better understanding of a complicated material, but also increases motivation and engagement of students, improves their understanding of the corporate social responsibility and benefits the students, the companies and the society at large.
The author is thankful to Rehab Wahsh for her help with processing the results of this study.
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