Francisco Mello Castro:
“Team Academy methodology was created in Finland, but is rapidly assuming her place in all continents, by doing partnership with some great universities around the world. I had the chance to visit the one in Mondragon University, in the Basque Country, that has a campus in Irun, 20 min away from San Sebastian. They offer a non traditional business course, that put students face to face with the real world of business.
To be admitted, you have to do more than do well in school. You must have an entrepreneurial profile, and be willing to invest a lot of your time in a demanding graduation course. Besides the standard test to get in a college in Spain (Selectividad), the university requires a group challenge to be taken. It may vary from year to year. Also, you will have to read a number of specific books (including The Alchemist, from the Brazilian Paulo Coelho) and send an Application Letter. At last, it might be required a personal interview. This long process is required because of the profile they seek. If a student doesn’t have an entrepreneurial profile, there is a high possibility of him dropping out, which is not only undesirable by the university, but for the companies, that lose a member.
The four year graduation gives you a diploma on Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Innovation (LEINN, in spanish). During the four years, you will have regular classes, as in a business course: Math, Management, Economics, etc. But only during three months of the year, from September to December, for eight hours a day. The rest of the year is used to create and run a real company completely managed by the students. The company is used as a learning tool, where you can experiment new projects and new businesses. The students develop their products and services, visit clients and partners, define the work groups and actually deliver the work. The students I talked to were particularly happy about this. Despite the amount of work that is required for them, they can do what they enjoy doing, creating their own agenda and engaging into problems they want to address.
Besides the regular academic goals, they have financial goals and other objectives that the group sets for itself and that the college sets for them. In the first year, students create groups of work, that latter will became their companies. They have a name, a logo, and have to work together from day one. Team academy is all about team entrepreneurship. There is no individual graduation. The entire company must be successful. If a student is “fired” from his company and has no projects, he must leave Team Academy, which reinforces the team culture they want to create.
They are evaluated by their peers in a 360o evaluation, and in a model they call, the rocket model. It has three parts, company learning, team learning and individual learning. Bellow each “family” there are different competences that the students must develop during the four years. If they fail, which means that, by evaluating themselves they think they didn’t achieve that competence, the company must pay the number of credits they own. That creates a culture of responsibility, because all the students are constantly charging each other to develop and to achieve, because they all share failure.
Even during the holidays you can find students there, working. They have coworking spaces, called Offices, and other beautifully designed rooms, for meetings. and trainings. Working in project groups during the first year, they experiment many ways to make money, until they find a more cohesive and functional business model. By meeting real clients, selling products and services, they must be able to reach financial goals that increase by the end of every year.
The students can’t take any money for themselves. Instead they use it to pay for courses they want to attend, and affording their own operations. Also, Team Academy pays for learning journeys every year for the students, as they want to create global citizens and see fit that they have an international experience. Every year they spend a month in another country, understanding new cultures, visiting new business and meeting entrepreneurs.
All of them have coaches, more experienced people who help the students and their companies in their journey. They have periodic sessions, called training sessions, every week with the companies, and are responsible for helping the students achieve their goals, and making decisions. They are always near to help and encourage the students to make decisions.
The course is very complete and this different dynamic allows students to find what they love doing, have them doing it and learning on the process. It shows that it’s not necessary to offer four years of theory for them to be prepared to face real situations, as they will most likely need even more time to have enough experience to be prepared. This approach allow the students to develop many qualities of the XXI century, in balance with theory or knowledge required to understand reality and context. The students are more engaged, and, when graduated, far more experienced then the majority of business students from other colleges. They will have a set of skills that can’t be developed in the classroom, and entrepreneurial spirit, the fine skills to be able to responsibility and making change happen.” (http://educationatw.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/school-1-mondragon-team-academy-sp/)