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Learning to be T-Shaped: Business By Design

Trying to learn new skills that will make you a well rounded entrepreneur? Try learning to be t-shaped with the Business By Design toolkit.

Photo of Kelsey Ruger
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Card decks that can be easily applied to daily work activity like IDEOs Method Cards or Stephen Anderson’s Mental Notes inspired the idea of creating a toolkit that serves as a 'field guide' for a new entrepreneur to navigate their 'new world' and perform exercises specifically designed to help them deal with challenges they may not have faced.

The toolkit has three components (2 card sets and a mobile application):

Business By Design Deck
The deck consists of 60-70 cards all with design concepts that can be applied to business. Each card would be broken into 4 areas:

  • Definition of the rule - What's the rule, why it matters
  • Observation of the rule - How it works well.
  • Transgressions of the rule - How it works poorly. Key to avoid improper application of rules (e.g. how many time has "don't worry be crappy" been misinterpreted?)
  • Keys to application of law - Tips for proper application in the workplace.

Mobile Application
This deck would have an accompanying mobile application for cataloging and sharing thoughts and application of each concept.

The Timebox
The deck consists of 40 cards broken into 4 areas of development. These skills that will have a long term impact on the entrepreneur's ability to pick up and maintain new skills and achieve continued success. Those skills are resourcefulness, resilience, refactoring, and responsiveness.

  • Resourcefulness – Having the techniques, tools or the ability to get the techniques or tools you would need to solve the variety of problems that you may have to solve.
  • Resilience – The ability to know what to do when you have a problem and stick to it until you have an adequate answer.
  • Re-factoring – The ability to use the things that you have learned in new ways to solve new problems.
  • Responsiveness – The ability to quickly adapt your skills to new and changing environments and situations.

The Timebox is a selection of exercises and challenges designed to build fluency in areas relevant to their experience as a business owner. These exercises are short structured sprints intended to achieve a stated specific goal. Timeboxing is a great way to get focused on solving a real problem without the risk of unfocused brainstorming or problem solving. This will allow them to develop speed, fluidity, and intuition. All important for the entrepreneur.

How will your concept support web entrepreneurship?

The toolkit provides a way for entrepreneurs to quickly utilize earned analytically skill and quickly develop the design thinking and empathic skills that allow them to learn about and work within the different cultures and disciplines that are needed for a global business. This will be useful for global businesses that need to produce relevant solutions.

What kinds of resources will be needed to get this concept off the ground and scale it?

A team to develop curate the design concepts, create the exercises for the Timebox and build the accompanying mobile tools. Money to facilitate development.

How could we get started?

Partner with design and MBA students at local universities to pilot the games and test each of the design concepts.


Join the conversation:

Photo of DeletedUser


Hey kelsey -- thanks for pointing me to your concept. I like the kick-off idea of partnering with students at local universities, as the more I thought about it, the more I saw this toolkit as most appealing to new or young entrepreneurs esp. before the content on mobile app got more sophisticated. I could see experienced entrepreneurs getting the most out of the mobile app over time and perhaps the timebox. I liked that each part of the toolkit worked best with the others in a very IDEO-like spirit and competency model: the business by design deck could be a good, easy to digest, first-point-of-contact for the toolkit and then act as reference for later use (discovery), the mobile app would turn the deck into a living document where a budding entrepreneur could learn from her own or others' documented experiences (concepting/refinement), then the timebox would be a structured way to actually do something about what you had learned (implementation: acquire or improve skills).

Photo of Francesca Barrientos

I love that this idea includes the mobile app. Even with well-designed cards, some of us need concrete examples to learn new concepts. The mobile app is a great way to hear how others interpreted the cards, used them to solve their own challenges and learn from their experiences. Nice!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this post being today's onsite Featured Concept!

Photo of Kelsey Ruger

Thanks. Exciting to get feedback for refinement

Photo of Brad Burkard

This reminded me to keep reading "Business By Design!" I almost forgot about it!

Photo of Brad Burkard

Change By Design*

Photo of DeletedUser


Particularly like the 4 bullet points for card content - looks like the idea will offer more than just top-level info.

Photo of Paul van Zoggel

Great! It's crazy but in 2010 I was helping setting up a university design pathway for T-shaped persons using the heroes journey and game design principles.

Totally see where this can lead to!

Photo of DeletedUser


Utilizing this tool as well as the simulation game from the virtual incubator concept could make for a great addition to entrepreneurship courses throughout the EU!

Concept link:

Photo of DeletedUser


Beautiful build!!!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Way to Kelsey! I'd order this for starters!