Why is it that the simplest ideas seem the hardest to come by? But when someone does make the connection and turns a simple idea into action, we can only stand back in awe and think, "Why didn't I think of that?"
I just read about one Alfredo Moser, a mechanic in Brazil who wondered how he could bring light into his dark house during the day. His answer? A clear twoliter soda bottle fi lled with purifi ed water and a little bleach to inhibit algae growth. When installed into a home's roof, with sealant around it to keep out the elements, the invention refracts sunlight to generate as much light as a 50-watt bulb.
Illac Angelo Diaz, executive director of Philippines-based MyShelter Foundation, heard of Moser's idea and created Isang Litrong Liwanag—Filipino for " Liter of Light." Since its creation in 2011, the nonprofi t has installed 140,000 soda bottle lights in homes in Manila, as well in Colombia, Peru, Bangladesh, India, and ten other countries. People even earn small incomes by installing the lights. The organization hopes to install one million soda-bottle lights around the world by 2015.
Such epiphanies come in many forms. Think of Derek Pacqué, a graduate of Indiana University. While at a bar one night, Pacqué noticed that patrons were piling their coats on chairs because there was no place to hang them. Four months later, Pacqué had cleared $78,000 working with local businesses to store customers' coats during their nights out. That led to a stay in IU's incubator and an appearance on "Shark Tank." Today, Pacqué's startup CoatChex is attracting conference center clients nationwide. He saw a solution where most of us wouldn't even see a problem. "That's the simplest form of entrepreneurial thinking," says Donald F. Kuratko, director of IU's Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
In this issue, we explore the ways business schools are trying to develop thousands more Alfredo Mosers and Derek Pacqués. In "Idea Central," we look at how entrepreneurship centers are designing programs that produce entrepreneurial thinkers in all disciplines. "Bringing Ideas to Market" focuses on the U.S. National Science Foundation's I-Corps grant initiative, which supports programs at business schools that train inventors to commercialize ideas. And "Grooming Green Entrepreneurs" describes the University of New Hampshire's strategy to promote sustainability-focused startups throughout its region.
You'll notice our cover image depicts a light in a jar—apropos of Moser's fl ash of brilliance. But it also represents the excitement and energy business schools want to generate around entrepreneurship. They're training students to see solutions, not accept the obstacles they encounter as inescapable aspects of the status quo. In the process, business schools are lighting up the imaginations of a new generation of entrepreneurial thinkers who promise to make a real and lasting impact on the world.