Strictly Enterprise Challenge


Last night I had the pleasure of sitting on the judging panel for the Centre for Entrepreneurship at Dundee Uni’s Enterprise Challenge final. An inspiring night watching young people pitch business ideas.

Together with my co-judges I watched 15 Teams pitch for a share of £1500 prize money. This was the culmination of 7 weeks extra-curricular work allowing students to develop sought-after enterprise skills. As I took my place at the end of the bench, I couldn’t help thinking, “so, am I Craig or Bruno from Strictly Come Dancing?” whilst the first team took to the floor in Lecture Theatre 4.

The most impressive and inspiring aspect was that every team pitched confidently and competently. Picture yourself at a young age, in a large lecture theatre, in front of your peers and a judging panel! How would you have coped? Now imagine doing that in a foreign country in a foreign language. Huge kudos to all the people who pitched and especially to the courageous ones doing so in their second language.

There were winners of course, that was the point of the final, however this blog goes out to those who did not technically win. You have the chance to turn this experience into something more valuable than the prize money.

Innovation is not about getting straight to the winning post. Innovation, like Strictly, relies on mastering the art of the PIVOT. The ability to elegantly change direction without losing momentum. You see all the ideas presented had at their heart an original thought, a creative spark. What the teams need to do now is REFLECT on all the feedback and advice they received. Study this alongside everything else they have learnt through their Enterprise Challenge and think, “what next for our idea?” Kill? Pivot? or Continue?

What really separate the winners from the losers is the ability to embrace learning and change direction, to pick ourselves up and turn perceived failure into fuel to drive the next stage. This approach is known as “Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) cycles of learning” and is business as usual in the world of innovation. You have to learn to love it! There is no short cut. You need to fail, learn and then repeat the cycle again and again. The faster you fail the faster you learn, but only if the failing has purpose to enable you to reach your goal.

Driving home, I couldn’t help but ponder, what if we ran this like Strictly and the teams came back weekly, mirroring real-life innovation, and those who are successful are the ones who do the most, learn the most and pivot elegantly?

And what did I learn? Turns out I am more like Craig than Bruno.

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