TIIMIAKATEMIA Finland (TEAM ACADEMY) – Earn A Degree By Building A Successful Business!

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The starting point for a small revolution in higher education began in 1993 with the note ‘Do you want to go on a trip around the world and learn some marketing on the side?’ being posted on the notice board of the Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences (JAMK), in a small city in central Finland. The chief protagonist of the note was Johannes Partanen, a maverick marketing lecturer with a passion for making a difference, who was driven by the need for a new learning model to better engage students.

The model of education used then, and still being used today, turned the traditional bachelor model on its head. With no classrooms, no lectures or exams, the programme replaced classrooms with open offices, teachers with team coaches and has students start with practical work by managing real companies, which they then supplement by theory in an educational ‘journey’. This was the basis for the creation of Team Academy, a three-and-a-half year bachelor programme of 210 ECTS in which 40 students per year (known as ‘Teampreneurs’) start and run their own cooperative businesses, learning about entrepreneurship and marketing using real money and customers.

Teamcompanies as learning tools

Team Academy is a three-and-a-half-year bachelor degree , which has graduating students emerge with a Bachelor of Business. The programme is a flipped classroom model run across an entire academic degree combining the worlds of business and education. Like in the first iteration of the Team Academy in 1993, at the conclusion of the course, students still embark on a six to eight-week world-trip using the profits of their ventures.

The central component of Team Academy is the Teamcompany which is the most important learning tool. Students create their company on the first day of class and spend the rest of their time in the university working to make the company a success. Each Teamcompany has between 10 and 15 Teampreneurs, and adopts a team learning attitude, in which ideas, thoughts, mistakes, experiences are shared with teammates. Together the Teampreneurs practice team and interaction skills, which are vital in their professional future.

Teamcompanies are legal entities and they pay corporate taxes like all companies in Finland, however Teamcompanies are totally owned by the Teampreneurs and are independent from Team Academy Finland as a juridical entity. Teamcompanies can also serve as incubators, as new product and service innovations created within Team Academy have frequently led to students continuing as independent entrepreneurs in new businesses after graduating. Most projects have been rather small, on an average of €10,000-15,000, to keep the students’ financial risk on a manageable level, however the largest have a turnover in excess of €400,000.

Teampreneurs’ learning curves

Whilst each Teamcompany has their own aims and development paths, each individual Teampreneur has their own learning curve during their studies, which is coordinated and supported by the Teamcoaches. More individualised learning paths are fostered through Team Academy, which fosters individual capabilities in a way that is suited to the learner but at the same time making them bound to a collective learning environment.

Three mechanisms support the Teampreneurs along their learning: (i) projects, (ii) training sessions, and (ii) a theoretical programme. With Nonaka and Takeuchi’s Knowledge Creation model at its heart, the Teampreneur develops their knowledge from tacit (invisible knowledge such as ‘gut instinct’) to explicit (visible knowledge such as written knowledge) back to tacit knowledge in a circular process of (i) clarifying core ideas, (ii) formulating a plan, (iii) implementation and experimentation within the Teamcompany and finally (iv) through discussion and sharing of ideas. This process is then applied through three learning growth processes, which occur concurrently in the Teampreneurs learning pathway, with each contributing to the other: individual learning, team learning and internal and external network learning.

The Team Academy method ensures that Teampreneurs encounter few theoretical sessions and many more practical training sessions with no end of year exams. Assessments are primarily based upon the performance of the company and the completion of set milestones, which is managed by the team and done on a biannual basis. There is a further assessment made on the individual level which has Teampreneurs reflect on their own learning journey and their own personal masteries. This process takes place between the Teampreneur and the Teamcoach every six months and is exercised through reflection on the Learning Contract, a Learning Log, a Literature Programme and ‘Birth Givings’ as well as a ‘Skill Profile’ (for further information please refer to the tools listed in the ‘supporting mechanisms’ section).

The far-reaching impact of Team Academy

Speaking in numbers, over 800 BBA’s have graduated from Team Academy Jyväskylä throughout its history, whilst there have been around 70 student teams and over 40 new businesses that have been started from 1993 to 2013. Moreover, coming from Team Academy Jyväskylä, 96% of the graduates are already active in the job market six months after they graduate, while 39% are entrepreneurs six months after they finish university and 42% become entrepreneurs within two years of graduating.

Yet, one of the key impacts of Team Academy is the spirit of entrepreneurship that has been fostered through its graduates, which equips them with skills and networks for life. Students learn through practice and become the owners of their own businesses and consequently, their life plans. Team Academy has a significant regional footprint, specifically in Central Finland, but also more broadly across the country. Team Academy graduates are, through their own business, active leaders in the community.

Do you want to learn more about Team Academy and its success factors? You can access full case study here.


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