LEINN is a 4-year-long university degree which focuses on Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Innovation. It is inspired by a Finnish program and was imported into Spain by the industrial group Mondragon in 2008. It is officially delivered by Mondragon University even if only a small part of the students/entrepreneurs actually work on Mondragon’s campus. For instance, in Madrid and Barcelona, the urban campuses that host LEINN are managed by Teamlabs.
The program’s aim is to empower young Spanish people to take the lead of entrepreneurship projects and be bold enough to take the risk of innovation. Our conception of “entrepreneurship” is wider than the usual business or “for profit” entrepreneurship concept. For us “entrepreneurship” means “making things happen”. In that sense, launching a sustainable social project is entrepreneurship, as well as managing a specific new project in an existing company.
LEINN is radically different than the usual Spanish university degrees as it is based on a “learning by doing” methodology. In a traditional degree you learn theories from professors one semester after another before you start looking for a company or an institution that will actually show you how to use all that knowledge. In LEINN you learn leadership by leading a team, you learn entrepreneurship by launching sustainable projects (best case scenario) and you learn about innovation the hard way, by trying to build new things or do them in a new way. When you graduate from LEINN you are a young professional with 4 years of real life experience, with scars and prizes.
6 of our tools
Let’s start with the one you will easily recognize. Basic subjects are lessons given by a professor and with an exam at the end. We still use this format for the most theoretical subjects like Law, Accounting, Mathematics, Statistics and a few more. It is however important to emphasize that even those subjects are quickly put into practice by our entrepreneurs. They practice Law by registering their own company and by drafting their own contracts. They practice Accounting by keeping the books of their company.
LEINN is a degree you sign up for as an individual but which you graduate from as a team. The very first day of the first year, entrepreneurs are split in groups of 18. Each group registers itself as a company and that company will be the legal context in which they will be developing their entrepreneurial ventures for 4 years. There are several reasons which sustain this teamcompany approach:
- a necessity to provide a context to develop leadership skills,
- working in a teamcompany allows to participate in several projects and to balance the risk between those projects,
- a teamcompany provides a rich learning context where you learn not only from your mistakes and successes but from 17 more entrepreneurs’ successes and failures.
“Do it yourself” learning
There are many topics that are not covered by Basic Subjects lessons but that our entrepreneurs need to discover and master in order to build stronger ventures. They have to find their own way through them. Typically, each entrepreneur will have to design a Learning Contract: a document in which he defines precisely what he wants to learn, what are the resources he plans to use (books, courses, tutorials, etc), how and when he will put those new knowledges into practice and what are the results he expects to reach (in order to evaluate his progress). It may sound easy summarized in this paragraph but mastering this self-teaching methodology is in itself a major achievement.
You don’t learn to be an entrepreneur by listening to a teacher in a classroom. It’s not about studying, it’s all about doing, trying, failing,… In order to do that you need to build real projects. It doesn’t have to be a big business; it “only” needs to be real: customers, providers, competitors and partners in flesh and bones. From year one to year four, our teamcompanies evolve and are able to go for bigger and bolder objectives. Dream big but start small (today!). From an academic perspective we mark yearly invoicing and benefit goals. It is indeed the most intense pressure our entrepreneurs suffer throughout the whole program.
It’s not a secret that we live in a globalized economy and in an “open” world. In order to prepare our entrepreneurs to feel comfortable and confident in this context, we challenge them to build international projects. They spend 6 weeks in Finland in Year 1, 4 weeks in San Francisco and Silicon Valley in Year 2 and 4 months in Asia in Year 3 (2 in Shanghai and 2 in India). Those journeys are far from tourism. They always have specific learning goals and we require them to launch projects where they are in collaboration with people from those places.
Teamcoach and other mentors
In everything but the classes (basic subjects) our entrepreneurs are supervised by a “teamcoach”: an experienced entrepreneur who advises them about the management of their company, the development of their projects, the way to learn new skills, etc. The teamcoach challenges them, pushes them to do better and quicker, helps them to get on their feet when they fall down, helps them to extract the learning from their successes and failures. There is only one limit: he doesn’t do anything for them. They are in charge.
Mentors are also part of the process. They are important because LEINNers need to learn how to surround themselves with wise advisors. They also need “fresh air” and shouldn’t rely exclusively on our Teamcoaches.
We use more tools; creating, transforming and discarding some of them, every year. I’ll have plenty of time and opportunities in further posts to comment about those other tools. And of course I will for sure get back more deeply on the 6 tools that I just mentioned. In the meantime, if you have questions… shoot!