“5 Things I Learned at the European Innovation Academy”
by Thais Porsch*
If I told you that it’s possible to create a startup from scratch in three weeks, would you believe it? I wouldn’t either. That was, of course, until I learned about the European Innovation Academy—the world’s leading entrepreneurship and innovation program.
When I say learning about it, I mean actually experiencing it. Being part of the intense process of idealizing, pivoting, planning, pivoting again, and building a startup—even without knowing how to do it exactly—has taught me more than any classroom ever could.
First of all, I need you to know that this is not an article about how to build a startup in three weeks nor on how to develop a business model. Actually, it’s not even about entrepreneurship at all. These topics were just a small part of my experience in Portugal.
What I really learned and need to share can be summarized in the next five words and phrases.
Resiliency is “the capacity of an individual to deal with problems, to adapt to changes, overcome barriers, and resist the pressure created by adverse conditions”. If there’s one thing that the EIA teaches, resilience is the word.
Let’s start with the fact that I was in another country experiencing new languages, people from different cultures, as well as situations I’ve never been in before. Being far from home, flying alone, and wandering around Cascais’ windy days without a jacket shows that learning things by yourself is something that only happens when you’re out of your comfort zone. These little things made me grow as a person.
Norwegians, Americans, Canadians, Brazilians, Portuguese, and several other nationalities were represented at the EIA Summer Program. To be honest, there were languages that I couldn’t even recognize. Making friends from places you’ve never heard of before is one of the most enriching experiences in the world.
As a participant, you create a routine in only three weeks—a bit insane, I can’t lie. During my days in Cascais, I discovered Portugal, its behaviour, culture, and similarities/differences with my country, Brazil. In addition to the country itself, I had the opportunity to work with an international team. I was constantly surrounded by different perspectives and thoughts, a great reminder that the world is not our individual realities.
3. Learn by doing
Schools and colleges are focused on teaching through theory. The European Innovation Academy’s approach is the complete opposite: you learn by doing. This implies overcoming enormous challenges while also using the best of your soft skills.
Communication, leadership, and teamwork are in constant development during the program. You fail and succeed at every stage and this helped me learn to approach tasks from different angles.
4. Time management
I discovered that if I could build a startup in three weeks, I could do a lot of things in less time. At EIA, you need to think fast, as everything happens at an accelerated pace. This helped me tremendously with small tasks and the capacity to overcome procrastination.
Time is precious. I’ve learned that we need to define our priorities and call the shots. After the Innovation Academy, I feel as though I fit three months in one.
5. Better done than perfect
Perfectionism can certainly get you on your way, though people tend to consider perfectionism both a blessing and a curse. The excessive pursuit of perfection is actually a huge obstacle when creating a startup.
Going back to time management, I see that this was one of the biggest mistakes my team and I made. Little details that could be fixed later were put in front of big assignments. But, like with every experience, making mistakes is part of the process.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try your best and work hard. However, in three weeks, a simple MVP that works is worth more than a “perfect” idea.
Entrepreneur or not, this experience had a lot to teach. I didn’t finish the program with awards or being an expert in marketing, and those aren’t the reasons why I joined EIA. However, during those weeks, I had some small victories in my life, like dealing with “saudade” (a Portuguese word that describes the feeling of missing someone or something), creating a business canvas for the first time or, simply, going on an adventure. So, get out of your comfort zone and discover the world!
* Thais Porsch is a Journalism Student at PUC Paraná. in Brazil, and a Social Media Officer at the HAG.Group.