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Entrepreneurship methods

​​​​​​Methods applied

ISMA 360® Method​


The effectuation approach​

​The effectuation approach

At a time when innovation is crucial, what do we really know about the best ways to facilitate it?  

One can often hear that the ability to innovate and create is a natural gift. Wrong! It is something that can be learned.

This can be affirmed by Dr Dominique Vian, associate professor of entrepreneurship at SKEMA Business School and a specialist in entrepreneurial cognition who spent more than ten years focusing on identifying and finding a solution to the key issues innovators face. Many people encounter obstacles and become discouraged. Through exchanges with entrepreneurs and those with an entrepreneurial mindset, he discovered that there is a specific type of questioning that leads to innovation.
The modelling of this pattern of questioning has helped shed light on how many innovative entrepreneurs think and navigate the complex labyrinth of the innovation process.

Expert innovators often follow this process partially; novices almost ignore it. His interaction with various entrepreneurs made Dominique realise that it was possible to model the necessary information, the nature of the invention at its origin notwithstanding.

​What is ISMA360®?​

ISMA360® is a method that enables innovative people to design a strategy without having to make a hypothesis about the future, but by analysing the facts and their direct consequences.

It is defined as:

  • A standard questioning which makes it possible to transform an invention into a market
  • A method that allows a novice to think like an expert

An approach that mobilises individual and collective cognitive "resources".​

​Theoretical underpinnings of the ISMA360® method​

​The method is based on two complementary theoretical frameworks for mapping and navigating complex and uncertain environments.

Navigating complex environments makes it difficult to predict the future. Moreover, any hypothesis on a final result to be achieved can prove to be unrealistic. While it is not possible to answer the question: “What do I have to do to reach this future?", the two questions relevant to an entrepreneurial venture become: “What do I know?" and “What can I do that is a direct consequence of what I know?"

This approach is particularly effective when it is impossible to set a final goal. This is the case when innovation makes no reference to a past; when it is disruptive. This logic of reasoning — available means and related possible effects — is called the effectual logic (Sarasvathy 2001).

​​Focal and Skice


The Focal method​

​Why Focal?

Any individual or organisation may be confronted with complex problems that seem impossible to solve. In such situations, the “usual" means to act on the problems that seem inappropriate or irrelevant.

Quite often, this situation is due to a poor representation of the context of action. By redefining this context, new means of action may emerge.

Our cognition (the way we think) is constrained by the context in which we think. Context is nothing but a category and our thinking is structured into categories. When we face a given stimulus, our brain spontaneously activates the category that seems most obvious to it. The brain then sees only what is available within this specific category, masking information in neighbouring or distant categories. We become partially blind.

By deliberately trying to visit other categories, we are actually accessing their information and are seeing possible new ways of doing things. We have unbridled our brains from the constraint of a non-optimal category.

What is Focal?

In response to this peculiarity of our cognition, Focal is an analytical method allowing navigation in a chain of categories (or contexts) to identify new levels of context offering new means of action.

How does it work?

Developed by SKEMA professors, this method is based on effectual logic, which analyses a succession of means and effects without the constraint of an a priori hypothesis of the final solution.

For further information:

The Skice method​

​Why Skice?

You have an innovation project, even at the idea stage. You ask yourself questions such as: "Should I go ahead or not?", or" Did I forget anything important?". Skice allows you to verify whether the innovation project is feasible or not.

What is Skice?

Skice is a coherence index to measure the gap between a mental projection of potential innovation and the reality of a market. It acts as a fantasy detector of this projected image. It also allows you to detect the strong and the weak points of the project, those on which everything is going well and those you need to pay attention to.*

Skice is an expert system that integrates the cumulative knowledge of 10 years of research on entrepreneurial cognition.

The core of this system was the subject of a doctorate thesis, defended in 2010, by Dominique Vian, associate professor of entrepreneurship at SKEMA Business School. Skice was created at his initiative.


Entrepreneurship tools/coaching methods​​


​Knowledge Entrepreneurship Toolkit (KET)​

​Based on SKEMA Ventures' experience in entrepreneurship education, a series of entrepreneurial tools and coaching methods were defined and transferred to SKEMA's partner incubators. This integrated toolkit is available online in Chinese and English.


​The DEFI software is part of KET. It is a financial planning tool for entrepreneurs. It has been designed by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. This simple and educational tool enables users to design an initial simulation within a few hours. Users can then refine the simulations and access in-depth financial analysis.

​Knowledge Growth Toolkit (KGT)​

​In the same spirit, entrepreneurial methods and content were built by SKEMA Ventures experts and made available to SKEMA's partner-incubators and accelerators to support the growth of startups.​


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