Unleashing Innovation: Transforming Entrepreneurship Education with Design Thinking

Story by Juliet Sithole

Office of Advancement and Public Affairs Media Graduate Trainee

Entrepreneurship transcends mere business planning; it is about navigating the dynamic and unpredictable terrain of the business world. The mission of educators is to equip students with the adaptability and creativity essential for success in this rapidly evolving environment. While conventional entrepreneurship courses often emphasize business planning and prediction, Africa University’s i5Hub advocates for an alternative approach – one that embraces creativity, adaptability, and a holistic understanding of the entrepreneurial journey.

At an recent event, the hub was  privileged to host experts from the field of design thinking, including Mr. Edward Jurkovic from the University of Notre Dame, Ms. Audrey Chidawanyika, a design thinking practitioner, and Mr. Simbarashe Murondoti, an entrepreneurial lawyer.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Yolanda Washaya, the Africa University Innovation Manager, underscored the intersection and significance of design thinking and entrepreneurship. She emphasized the importance of teaching students to identify needs, engage with users, understand their pain points, and iterate based on feedback.

Mr. Jurkovic initiated the discussion by contrasting the Traditional Approach with Design Thinking. While the former focuses on business plan development and predictive thinking, the latter advocates for a more dynamic and creative process. Design thinking, rooted in creativity and iteration, offers a fresh perspective on entrepreneurial education, emphasizing practical application and non-linear problem-solving.

Ms. Chidawanyika highlighted the empowerment potential of design thinking for students and faculty. Drawing from her experience with the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she emphasized the importance of fostering creativity, interdisciplinary collaboration, and a student-centered approach to problem-solving.

Mr. Murondi elaborated on the human-centered design approach, emphasizing empathy, iteration, and user feedback. He emphasized the importance of startups in entrepreneurial endeavors, stressing the need for idea validation and understanding customer problems.

The event concluded with remarks from Professor Talon Garikayi, the Africa University Deputy Vice Chancellor, who reiterated the importance of identifying real problems and providing human-centric solutions. He emphasized the symbiotic relationship between design thinking and entrepreneurship in fostering innovation and meaningful impact.

In integrating design thinking principles into entrepreneurship courses, the hub encourages students and faculty to explore problems from diverse perspectives, move beyond theoretical frameworks, and engage with real-world challenges. Through reflection, experimentation, and effective communication, it aims to empower the next generation of innovators and problem solvers.

Entrepreneurship isn’t just about business; it’s about making a meaningful impact. Let’s embrace creativity, empathy, and practical application to transform entrepreneurial education and shape a brighter future.