Spring 2018 Issue

Emma Fleck has taken her teaching of entrepreneurship to superior heights.

Lesson Gets Their Spidey Senses Tingling

Fleck’s inspiration, her sons, aged 5 and 6.

Fleck, associate professor of management in Susquehanna’s Sigmund Weis School of Business, has begun using superheroes to teach creativity to students in her entrepreneurship courses.

“There are three components that make up the entrepreneurial mindset-innovation, ability to problem solve and the concept of creativity,” Fleck said. “This elusive creativity is something I think we’re still trying to understand. How do we teach it? Can we teach it?”

Inspired by her sons, aged 5 and 6, Fleck is trying to teach creativity by transporting her students back to a time when they were at their most creative-about 5 years old.

Her lesson, “Embodying the Superhero Within,” asks students to remember being 5: What inspired them? What were their favorite toys? What did they want to be when they grew up?

A pile of costumes, masks and craft supplies gives students the chance to recreate their 5-year-old superhero, design an icon that represents this time in their lives or draw a picture that represents their childhood dreams.

“While choosing our costumes, we were able to make connections between the costumes, what we have seen other superheroes wear, the function of our imagined superhero and our personal preferences,” said Xavier Books, a senior business administration major from Philadelphia, Pa. “This connection provoked the same type of innovation needed by entrepreneurs when assessing available resources, competition, targeted customer segment. It helped us understand that entrepreneurs should not be afraid to use their imagination and creativity to solve a problem or issue, even if at first it feels silly.”

A post-lesson period of reflection impresses upon students that, although the lesson is fun, the goal is serious.

“Dressing up reminded me of my early childhood. I didn’t have an iPad or a smartphone when I was 6 or 7 years old, so I had to create things with my imagination. I feel like that technological deprivation allowed my mind to explore ideas with more ease,” said Davis Rooke, a senior business administration major from Mount Vernon, N.J.

“As adults, we have grown out of that superhero/costume phase, but we must use our inner creativity to better understand the problems that we are faced with.”

That is exactly what Fleck was hoping for.

“I really hope that they remember how to capture the feelings of creativity when they were younger and to take this feeling of no limitation, of excitement and apply it to entrepreneurial problem-solving,” she said. “This might include new ways to communicate with your target audience, new product innovations to meet a changing marketing or keeping up with your competition through innovative relationship-building strategies.”

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