Shape shifting systems

Moving from an ego-system to an eco-system in terms of creating a mutual evolutionary purpose instead of just settling for how things are.

Name: Maria von Euler
Title: Senior lecturer at Konstfack, Department of Design, Interior Architecture and Visual Communication

Hi and Welcome to SSES! Can you please tell us who you are?
My name is Maria von Euler. I’m a senior lecturer at Konstfack for SSES, Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship. I have a background as a journalist but eventually, I moved into design. I also have a long history of starting my own companies. After graduating from industrial design at Konstfack, I moved into a project that turned into a company here in Sweden, called Zound Industries, where we developed several brands within fashion headphones. I created the avant-garde brand and the first electronic brand made especially for women. I then started a consultancy within sustainability for products, services, systems and living labs. One of them involved several experts from diverse fields and ended up as an independent innovation arena for the sustainable food and food industry. And then we also needed to open an actual restaurant where we could be test, measure och develop the research outtakes. This spring I started as a senior lecturer at Konstfack for SSES.

How did you first hear about SSES?
During my time at Konstfack. I did not participate in any courses. However, my former professor Teo Enlund was talking very warmly about it. When Konstfack announced this position I really got a chance to dig into SSES, and it was beyond my expectations. It was actually the perfect forum for me, a transdisciplinary consortium of entrepreneurship focusing on bringing people together from different disciplines and talk about how to create the world that we want to live in. 

How come you think interdisciplinarity is important?
Because that’s where innovation happens. If you just stand in your own field, looking at your own things and just surrounding yourself with that, nothing new will come to you. But as soon as you open up and listen to completely new ideas things start to happen. I always say this to students. Don’t just look at your own sphere, but go as far as you can. Go to biomimicry, architecture, music, art or whatever to see things from new angles and ideas will grow differently. 

Do you succeed in making your students do that?
Sure! If they go beyond and look far away, they come back with new perspectives on things.

What is your expectation of teaching at SSES?
My challenge and ambition is to make sure that all the student’s knowledge is brought to the table. The magic will happen if everyone opens up their ears and hearts to listen to each other. To investigate what can be done. What can we do together? What do we want the future to look like and what questions can we ask each other? I want to encourage students to co-create transformation and change-making beyond climate-neutral and non-profit activities and help them to take actions in a purposeful direction with their gained responsibility, knowledge and power. 

Do you have any tricks for having people open up?
There will be activities so that they can feel comfortable and describe their field, knowledge and pay attention to each other. We can do that in several ways. I think that it’s important to work with your body when you feel a bit intimidated, to be more physical so everybody can relax a little bit. And then use the comfort in the group to open up even more.

Can you tell us a little bit about what course content you’re working on?
Yes. Sustainability for instance. I will talk more in terms of regenerative systems, regenerative co-operations, collaborations and exponential growth through innovations. The need to build the adaptive capacity of society in ways that strengthen the resilience and expand our communities’ creative potential naturally connects design thinking with business development. I am looking forward to connecting these areas in the name of sustainable innovation.

What’s your view on entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is about creating opportunities. Moving from an ego-system to an eco-system in terms of creating a mutual evolutionary purpose instead of just settling for how things are. Design, on the other hand, is concerned with how things ought to be. Creating what you strive for as an individual. And engage other people and learn from other people to make that happen.

It sounds very action-oriented?
Yes. I think that’s a responsibility we have today, to really think about your purpose and take action on that.

Has your view of entrepreneurship changed throughout the years?
I think it has changed in that I’ve become more clear on the fact that you cannot do everything yourself. It takes many different kinds of knowledge to create change. That’s why I believe co-creating is so important. And finding a way to create those spaces together with other knowledge is super important. Having an entrepreneurial mindset is a strong force. That’s something that everybody can learn and nurture. 

What is an entrepreneurial mindset?
It’s about creating innovations and opportunities that are for the good of as many people as possible. As an entrepreneur, I believe that you have the power to make changes. Being a changemaker is an entrepreneurial aspect. 

What do you think a school of entrepreneurship’s responsibility should be to society?
To empower students to collaborate between different disciplines. To encourage students and people to learn how they can create their opportunities. How they can come across with their ideas, innovations in collaboration with others. It’s also about leadership, in the sense of being more a steward rather than a captain. That you are in it together, with a vision, a goal. And you’re going to move this whole organization, this whole group, this whole idea, this whole opportunity into the future. To make it happen, make it grow. It’s also about encouraging students to take responsibility for what kind of world we want to live in.

What do you think differentiates you the most from your peers? Whether educators or researchers?
My pattern vision and lateral way of connecting the dots. It could be the fact that I’ve been doing so many different things. I’ve been working within fashion, food, as a journalist and in several fields as a designer. I’ve always worked transdisciplinary. For example, when I created the headphone brand, I used the process of a tailor or fashion designer and applied it on to electronics. How do you dress your face with a pair of headphones?  I’ve always been looking at other fields and tapping into what I’ve had in front of me. I’m a very curious person because that’s how you learn the most. 

Why is transdisciplinarity important to you?
Because the world offers so much more than what’s in front of you. Everything becomes a lot more complex, of course. But in the complexity, there are new things, mindsets, insights and learnings. I want to create a world where the whole planet can live together. Where we heal the environment. Where we can have a very pleasurable lifestyle. Where we can upgrade our lifestyle in terms of a sustainable mindset and make sustainable choices. Where we can upgrade and make profit, for example, from doing good, and I know that is not just a utopia. It’s about smart innovations.

What part of your personal or professional journey, has been atypical, uncommon or rare?
Maybe the way I connect the dots and let different areas of expertise that have not met before to engage, that always enhance the level of creativity. I think that the question is key in every sense of facing a new problem. What kind of problems do I want to solve? When trying to solve a problem, I look far away, meeting new experts. I can then rely on their expertise in that area and bring them into my problem. To the issue that we’re trying to solve.

Should today’s students be more entrepreneurial? If so, why?
Why not? We need a lot of game-changers and change-makers in our society today. We face large and complex issues. It’s good that we see the issues that we have. And raise the right questions, and collaborate to solve these issues. Having a change maker’s mindset is for me entrepreneurial and that also brings you back to your purpose. That collective intelligence is much wider and much more forceful than your individual intelligence. So in that sense, I believe it is important to be entrepreneurial. That’s how you can grow as a person, and how you can grow in a community.

Do you think everybody could be an entrepreneur?
Yes. That doesn’t mean that you always have to be the inventor. Being a part of an entrepreneurial team or journey is about making the change you want. But just see yourself in the larger system. What kind of knowledge do you have in this context? Who are you in this ecosystem? You don’t have to be a leader to be an entrepreneur.

You mentioned collective intelligence, could you elaborate on that?
I believe collective intelligence key in terms of entrepreneurship since we, as individuals, have so many blind spots. If we gather around an issue, for example, we will always be much more intelligent with seven different pieces of knowledge than just one. Creating the right conditions for that to happen is very important. I’d say interdisciplinarity and collective intelligence is the same thing. It is however a bit more complex than just working by yourself.

How do students at Konstfack view entrepreneurship in your opinion?
At Konstfack I think that some students have a precept against entrepreneurship in the sense that it’s about business and creating businesses. And capitalizing on ideas from a business perspective. I wish to teach students to open up for creating their own opportunities. Because when creating an art piece, or create a product design you want as many people as possible to enjoy and benefit from that. How do you do that? I think when you create art you want to touch people. You want people to feel something, you want them to see it, to experience it. How do you put your art piece into a world where that can happen? That’s when you have to be entrepreneurial. You don’t have to create a business. But as long as you want to affect people, as long as you don’t want to hold it to yourself you have to have an entrepreneurial mindset. You have to be a little bit courageous to be an entrepreneur. Because it’s a bit scary, putting things into the world for people to experience. I have a prejudice that it is a bit scary to deliver something to the world of what you have inside, in your own world. That is also something we are teaching. How do you go from your inner self to an artifact?

Will you teach your students to be courageous?
Definitely. Because I believe that whatever people hold on the inside can be beneficial for others. That’s why I think art is so important. Because it really touches people’s feelings and beliefs. You can move people’s belief systems, or spark behavioral changes. You can only do that if you’re being true to yourself. 

If you could conduct an experiment in entrepreneurship, what would that be?
I would investigate and experiment on the key components to collaboratively achieve a positive climate footprint through regenerative/sustainable entrepreneurship. To elaborate on how to go beyond climate-neutral and level the ambitions to where we, not only create beneficials for the planet but also fulfill peoples needs, which both generate positive behavioral changes and economic growth. There are so many beautiful benchmarks that we can look at. I want to investigate what they did, where did they succeed, what can we learn from that?

What are your hopes for the future in terms of entrepreneurship or entrepreneurship education?
It’s having the students define their own definition of entrepreneurship. Here at Konstfack too. That they feel like “Okay, what’s my purpose and how do I create that? How do I create opportunities for myself and my fellow students or other collaborations so that can happen?” But also, to remain relevant and competitive in the future, organizations cannot simply offer good products and services but must be able to deliver profound, meaningful and transformational value, creating a positive impact on a much deeper level.

Do you think we live in an entrepreneurial world? Is that a good thing?
I believe that within politics, I see that there have been many initiatives to drive and encourage entrepreneurial happenings. Yes, I’d say that we probably live in an entrepreneurial world. I think that’s positive because right now we need so many change-makers so we can get this planet on the right track. But having that said, we need to see ourselves as being part of society as an ecosystem rather than as an ego-system. Seeing the importance of collective intelligence, to collaborate. Then I believe entrepreneurship is something very fruitful that can bring a lot of good in the world.