Published: July 13, 2020


At a gathering of rising voices from international basketball, Erick Mueller, executive director of the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship, discusses how an entrepreneurial mindset solves business challenges.

The International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the world’s governing body for basketball is activating their mission to develop professional women basketball leaders. In June, they launched Adelante, a six-week virtual program featuring inspiring and informative sessions designed to find, educate, and support the development of emerging women leaders in the Americas. Among its featured speakers were Jenny Shipley, first female prime minister of New Zealand, Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall and Leeds’ own Erick Mueller.

Mueller gave an abridged version of the business plan development process and discussed finding opportunities via an entrepreneurial mindset. More than 40 participants from 32 federations—including the North, Central, South America and the Caribbean—attended the hour-long event.

“Working with women leaders from 30+ countries and helping them implement programs to empower women in their own countries was a blast,” says Mueller. “Attendees were dynamic, energized, and they contributed unique and creative perspectives.”

Venture Planning Fundamentals

Mueller’s challenge was compressing months of teaching and years of insights into one session, including time for breakout activities and Q&A. He chose to focus the discussion on solving business challenges. This approach resulted in the opportunity to cover a broad range of information while making it applicable to each participant’s situation.

He used fundamental approaches such as the importance of collecting customer feedback/discovery of new product or service and using the business planning process to mitigate risk and increase probability of success. In addition, he reinforced the idea that taking small steps, even as simple as talking to five people about an idea, can improve the probability of success.

“Plan, then act!” says Mueller.

Toolkits for Impact

It was the exercise on customer discovery that really galvanized participants. They were noticeably energized from the knowledge they were gaining by simply asking a few questions. After that moment, Mueller saw their confidence grow and a more positive outlook became apparent throughout the remainder of the session.

He also stressed to participants that they were not alone. “There is an entire entrepreneurial community ready to help and support [your] efforts.”

According to Mueller, the participants were appreciative of the tools they learned to move their ventures/programs forward and were very eager to apply them and grow their impact.

President of FIBA Americas Carol Callan wrote, “As we designed Adelante, a program to identify and support future female leaders in the Americas, an important component is real-life education to assist the participants as they transfer the advice of experts into practical projects for their individual national federations. Erick offered an enthusiastic approach with proven ideas to validate their projects. He also provided a boost of confidence so they could move forward as a valued contributor to the growth of basketball in their countries.”

Looking back, Mueller shared, “It’s just super cool that we, as a university, can make such a positive impact by empowering folks (FIBA, WNBA and others!) to create positive change in the world via the entrepreneurial way of thinking.”

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