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From Entrepreneur to Designer: The Transferable Design Principles of the Entrepreneur

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 8

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Freddy Solis Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Freddy Solis is a postdoctoral researcher in the College of Engineering at Purdue University. He holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering with an emphasis on innovation management and engineering education, an MBA, a Master’s in Civil Engineering from Purdue University, and a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering from the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan, Mexico. His research focuses on innovation typologies – with a special emphasis on enabling innovation, disruptive innovation, and radical innovation, design for innovation typologies, and entrepreneurial thinking.

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Joseph Victor Sinfield Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Joseph V. Sinfield received a B.S. degree in civil engineering, summa cum laude, from Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA, and M.S. and Sc.D. degrees in civil and environmental engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. He is an Associate Professor in the School of Civil Engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana and a Senior Partner at Innosight, LLC, an innovation consulting and investment firm based in Lexington, Massachusetts in the United States. His research, teaching and professional activities address two focal areas: 1) experimental methods, instrumentation, and sensor design, and 2) innovation management, particularly in the context of entrepreneurship and engineering education. Prior to Purdue and Innosight, he spent five years as a strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company and also worked as a geotechnical engineer for Haley & Aldrich. Dr. Sinfield is a frequent speaker on the management principles that can be employed to more predictably drive innovation and serves on the innovation advisory boards of multiple companies. He is the co-author of The Innovator’s Guide to Growth: Putting Disruptive Innovation to Work (Harvard Business Press, 2008), and has published in business periodicals such as Sloan Management Review, Marketing Management, IndustryWeek, and Financial Executive, as well as in an array of peer reviewed scientific journals.

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From Entrepreneur to Designer: The Transferable Design and Problem-Solving Principles of the Entrepreneur


The competencies and outcomes of entrepreneurial activities spark the interest of many stakeholders across innovation ecosystems – governments, companies, entrepreneurs, and educational institutions alike. Typically, those of an entrepreneurial bent are sought after for their ability to create new ventures and deliver multiple forms of societal value, such as creating jobs, bolstering the economy, and translating technology into real world applications. Yet, beyond these outcomes, at the core of entrepreneurial activities is a qualitatively distinct design and problem-solving approach; and thus an entrepreneurial mindset has the potential to be a powerful philosophy to scaffold thinking and solve problems in any domain. However, very little has been explicitly written about how this mindset and problem-solving philosophy could map to domains in which new ventures are not a desired outcome.

This paper focuses on synthesizing and distilling the design and problem-solving strategies of the entrepreneur to make them broadly applicable beyond business centric contexts. The paper reviews multiple literature streams in entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial expertise, effectuation, and entrepreneurial opportunity recognition, problem-solving and decision-making using Boyer’s scholarship of integration lens as a guiding approach/methodology. This method places value on integrating insights into new language and frameworks that unify concepts often dispersed across domains. Emphasis is placed on the meta-design (problem solving) principles of entrepreneurs and their applicability across contexts, synthesizing such principles in a proposed theoretical framework of “entrepreneurship as a problem-solving philosophy.” The applicability of this framework across domains is then exemplified using case studies of non-venture related pursuits in which case actors seem to have applied the aforementioned generic design principles to their specific domains. Overall, the paper complements current research streams in entrepreneurship by helping further characterize the entrepreneurial mindset, while simultaneously opening a new research direction, thus enriching the engineering education space and related fields.

Solis, F., & Sinfield, J. V. (2016, June), From Entrepreneur to Designer: The Transferable Design Principles of the Entrepreneur Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26970

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