Loyola Magazine

Think wrong

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Blitz sparks outside-the-box ideas

John Cirincione, ’97, had been wanting to get more involved with his alma mater, so he jumped at the chance to participate in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Blitz hosted by the Sellinger School of Business and Management.

Cirincione was just one of more than 50 people who participated in the invitation-only event held in November at Accelerator Baltimore. Among them were entrepreneurs, community and business leaders, representatives from the Maryland Department of Commerce and Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office, and Loyola students, faculty, staff, administrators, and other alumni.

“Recently I’ve been trying to get more connected and give back through initiatives such as the Blitz and through mentoring students,” said Cirincione, a business developer and sales leader for IBM who also earned his MBA from Loyola in 2003.

“These are opportunities where Loyola can truly make a difference in the surrounding community.”

Participants worked collaboratively during the day-and-a-half event to answer a broadly posed question that asked them to consider how Loyola might use its unique assets in ways that enable entrepreneurs and those who support them to scale, grow, and thrive in greater Baltimore, while creating new engagement possibilities for Loyola. Invitees were challenged to discuss ideas to support new outside-the-box business opportunities.

To encourage participants to express their biggest and boldest ideas, event facilitators from Future Partners, a professional training and coaching firm, led small groups through a series of engaging workshops and activities, urging them to use the “Think Wrong” method, an ideology the firm said leads to “a portfolio of small proposals to create businesses that matter.”

“We wanted people here who would think differently, people who were not afraid to let go of their inhibitions and their old ways of thinking,” said Kathleen Getz, Ph.D., dean of the Sellinger School.

When Getz considers the future of Baltimore, she sees Loyola playing a role in economic development and job creation in the city. For her, the desired impact is a better Baltimore and a better Loyola.

That is why she took an interdisciplinary approach when inviting members of the Loyola community, calling on alumni of diverse backgrounds and faculty, staff, and administrators from multiple areas and departments.

The Blitz was just one step—but an important one—in an ongoing conversation about innovation and entrepreneurship at Loyola.

“Because of our York Road Initiative and our strong relationship with a number of businesses in our local community, it is critical for Loyola to be working together across campus, whether it’s with employees in our Center for Community, Service, and Justice (CCSJ), faculty in the humanities, faculty in the business school, and even our Loyola Clinical Centers, as we think about how entrepreneurship can change both our culture at Loyola and our partnerships with our neighbors,” said Erin O’Keefe, ’03, director of CCSJ and the York Road Initiative, who participated in the Blitz.

The Blitz also challenged those from Loyola specifically to approach the small group discussions through the lens of cura personalis, speaking to the University’s Jesuit traditions and values.

“I believe we can make definite, powerful, impactful, and transformative changes at Loyola if we implement these types of practices and programs,” said Scott Adams, assistant director of interfaith and ecumenical ministries in Loyola’s Campus Ministry.

At the end of the second day of the event, groups presented nine ideas aimed at creating jobs and growth in Baltimore. They ranged from a “Think Wrong” school to a possible business incubator for entrepreneurs in Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester community.

While the concepts were preliminary, participants said working together to discuss the ideas opened the door for the possibility of producing tangible outcomes, particularly ways to strengthen Baltimore’s economy and ensure that Loyola has an even greater impact on the community.

“We want to be a part of creating jobs for the people who are the heart and soul of the Baltimore community, the people who are simply trying to provide for their families,” Getz said.

Three small bets

As a result of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Blitz, Loyola is piloting three projects—“small bets”—to quickly prototype ideas before developing larger programs.

#1 Micro-Internships

A practicum course will place students in partnerships with Baltimore-based businesses to do specific projects. The bigger idea would be to create an internship app to match students with local entrepreneurs so students would gain tangible, transferable skills while helping entrepreneurs meet specific needs.

#2 A Mobile Incubator

Loyola will offer workshops to entrepreneurs in the spirit of the University’s annual Building a Better World Through Business event. Those workshops will inform an entrepreneur skills fair in fall 2018, and then lead to one-on-one coaching. The larger idea would be to create a mobile incubator that would go into communities in need to help local entrepreneurs launch or start their businesses.

#3 The Wrong School

Students can enroll in a new course in spring 2019 in which their learning is both collaborative and self-directed. The course provides the opportunity for on-site community-based education where student-designed learning outcomes are intentionally integrated with community needs and learning is action-oriented. The bigger idea would be to launch a set of unconventional courses rooted in a sense of applied learning. Courses would be co-taught by faculty and community members.