Effectual Thinking → Corn Muffins

More than once, I’ve heard arts entrepreneurship educators, including me, reference the Chinese proverb about experiential learning: “give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” To teach fishing entails providing opportunities for the students to cast their own lines, coaching them as they do so. Yesterday, I started to teach fishing (really, arts entrepreneurship) by turning the class time over to the students for an idea generation workshop. They are taking an effectual approach to arts entrepreneurship, which means they begin with their means (who they are, what they know, who they know, and, I would add, what they have on hand) to develop venture ideas – and ultimately an arts-based enterprise – from those means.

However, I didn’t want to go into the class empty-handed and also wanted to provide a real-world lesson on effectual decision-making. For me, that meant baking. Some of the best lessons for life can be learned in the kitchen where experimentation often – but not always – leads to delicious results. My means:

  • Who I am: someone who values from-scratch cooking/baking – no mixes here!
  • What I know: I know how to cook and, to a somewhat lesser extent, bake
  • Who I know: I know every food blogger on the internet (I don’t mean this literally, but I do have access to the knowledge of every food blogger on the internet)
  • What I have on hand: Corn masa, left over from a feast of Georgian food I had cooked up for a New Year celebration.

Knowing a student would also be having a birthday, I wanted to find a sweet corn muffin recipe that used masa flour (while I know how to bake, I had never baked with masa and needed some guidance). I couldn’t find something that fit just right, but I came across a recipe for a corn muffins filled with an ancho jelly. I leveraged a contingency – another effectuation technique – and substituted what I did have on hand: strawberry preserves. Who doesn’t like strawberry jam with their muffins?! The recipe as written is incomplete – cooking time is not indicated. This is where “what I know” became an important means toward the “end” of delicious muffins. I know muffins usually take 15-18 minutes, so I went with that. I tested the hypothesis of “doneness” using a toothpick (hypothesis testing being the core principle behind the Lean Launch method we will be using to implement our effectual thinking). After 18 minutes, I had delicious jelly-filled corn muffins, and my students had a snack to fuel their creative thinking. [If you would like to read the prompts the students were given for the workshop, you can download that here]


About lindaessig

Linda Essig is Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA and principal/owner of Creative Infrastructure LLC. The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of Cal State LA. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix.
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1 Response to Effectual Thinking → Corn Muffins

  1. Pingback: A Creative Enterprise Strategy Model | Creative Infrastructure

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