Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

You’re an innovative professor. You read blog posts about teaching entrepreneurship because…

You care about engaging your students.

It’s the same reason you’re always on the lookout for new tools to integrate into your class, and it’s the reason you’ve thought about (or have) ditched your textbook in favor of your own lesson plans.

The downside is, creating your own experiential curriculum from scratch is:

  • Time consuming. Researching and developing a full course of high-quality lesson plans that teach real-world skills, and are assessable, takes a massive on-going investment.
  • Disjointed. Every new tool you integrate into class runs the risk of creating a more inconsistent experience for students.
  • Redundant. This work has been done by others, it doesn’t make sense for you to roll your own from scratch.

So instead of starting from scratch, consider building on a strong foundation…

ExEC: Structured Experiential Curriculum

We’ve spent the last two years developing, and testing, the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) – a comprehensive, and structured, curriculum.

Because ExEC is written by a unified team of modern entrepreneurship teachers who practice what we teach. ExEC provides a consistent structure throughout 15-weeks of exercises:

Structure weekly courses

ExEC’s 25+ detailed lesson plans, exercises, and assessments provide the foundation for your entrepreneurship course, so you can teach real-world intra/entre-preneurial skills like:

  • Idea generation
  • Problem validation
  • Customer interviews
  • MVP development
  • and more…

…in a rigorous way, that can be consistently assessed.

Classroom-Tested

ExEC has been tested with thousands of students at dozens of Universities, including:


The results demonstrate the power of a structured, experiential approach. One student said:

“[ExEC] made me look at the creation of a product in a different aspect than I have before. It allowed me to think of solving a problem and not just creating a product to create one. It needs to be something that people will actually use. It made it easier for me to be creative and think more like an entrepreneur.”

Similarly, one professor reported:

“More than anything, I’ve enjoyed that we have spent 4-5 weeks exploring the issue of problem solving. In previous classes, students have been convinced they had the right solution to a problem by week 2 and no matter what research they found, they wouldn’t pivot appropriately given the new evidence.”

But like we teach our students, positive responses don’t mean we’re done. To ensure we continue innovating, we’re constantly on the hunt for new resources to include, and improvements to make, so…

ExEC is Always Up To Date

We collect feedback from students and professors on every exercise in ExEC, about how it felt completing, and teaching it:

We collect feedback on every exercise from professors and students

We use that data to inform what changes we need to make to ExEC for the next semester. With ExEC, you’ll always provide your students with relevant, and engaging, experiences.

Collaborate with Other Professors

When you use ExEC, you’ll also join a community of other modern professors using the curriculum so you can ask questions:

And share best practices and success stories:

Don’t Go It Alone

If you want to teach real-world, entrepreneurship skills in an experiential way…

You are not alone.

There’s a growing group of professors out there like you, and we’re here to help!

ExEC can be the structured, experiential curriculum that forms the foundation of your course. Next semester, spend less time compiling disparate resources, and more time consistently helping your students develop and apply their entrepreneurial mindset.

Try ExEC this Fall

Request a preview of the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum today and make this Fall the most engaging semester of entrepreneurship yet!

Problem Validation: The One Topic You Must Teach

Problem Validation: The One Topic You Must Teach

You’re preparing for fall classes, staring at your syllabus, worrying:

  • Should I teach prototyping or legal formation?
  • Where do I fit in startup marketing?
  • What about IP law or valuation?!

A 16 week semester is far too short to teach everything we want in our entrepreneurship classes. This article will help you prioritize what to teach, because there’s one topic that matters more than any other:

Problem validation is the most important topic to teach in entrepreneurship. Click To Tweet

Problem validation is critically important; everything else in entrepreneurship flows from it. You can’t overlook it when prioritizing your schedule.

Why Problem Validation?

There are 3 reasons you must teach problem validation in your introduction to entrepreneurship, capstone, and your graduate entrepreneurship courses:

  1. It’s the most important aspect of entrepreneurship.

    Customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to problems. Your students can’t figure out what customers will buy unless they validate problems.

    entrepreneurship, teaching, problem, solution, idea
    Once your students understand how to validate problems, they’ll quickly see how the rest of a business model falls into place.
    Every aspect of business models flow from problem validation, so it’s imperative we teach our students how to do it well.
  2. Problem validation cannot be read. It must be practiced.
    If they have to, students can learn other topics like valuation, IP law, legal formation, and marketing outside the classroom. There are endless blogs and videos that cover the basics of every topic in entrepreneurship…except problem validation.
    Students cannot learn how to talk to customers by reading about it. Your students have to experience asking the right customers, the right questions.

    Students learn problem validation, by doing problem validation. Click To Tweet

  3. You’re their only teacher.
    No one else in your students’ academic career will touch the subject of problem validation.
    Your accounting and finance colleagues can help them with revenue modeling. Engineering professors can help them with product development. Your business law colleagues can help them with legal formation and IP issues.

    But problem validation, this thing that is so important to entrepreneurship, will only be covered by you.

    If you have to cut something from your schedule, cut anything but problem validation. Make sure you’re teaching this because nobody else is, and because it is the most important aspect of entrepreneurship!

    No one will teach problem validation, except you. Click To Tweet

Workshop: How to Teach Problem Validation

It’s critical we don’t just talk about problem validation. We must teach our students how to do it, and to do it the right way.

(Note: surveys are not the right way 🙂 )

If you want help with that, we’re hosting our first free, 1-hour, online workshop on June 22nd, 2017. We’ll talk about the three phases of problem validation:

  1. Problem hypothesis
  2. Problem discovery
  3. Problem confirmation

We will teach you these three phases, and we’ll show you engaging exercises you can run in your class to teach them.

Teaching Problem Validation teaches business model validation

Join us if you want to learn how to teach this subject that every entrepreneurship teacher needs to teach, and teach well!

We will send a video recording of the workshop to anyone who registers, but you don’t want the video. You want to show up live, because it will be an interactive workshop. To see and experience the exercises, you’ll want to be present.


What’s Next?

We will be sharing more exercises to teach customer interviewing soon! Please subscribe here to get that post in your inbox.

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Teaching Failure Through Currency Testing

Teaching Failure Through Currency Testing

Learning from failure is one of the most important skills our entrepreneurial students need to learn. It’s also one of the most difficult to teach.

We can talk all day about running experiments and testing assumptions, but ultimately they’re a waste of time if our students can’t successfully extract learning from failed experiments and invalidated hypotheses.

The trick to teaching failure is that our students have grown up in an environment where they are taught to avoid failure at all costs. They are taught to fear failure.

In fact, many of your students’ previous teachers leveraged a fear of failure to compel your students to behave a certain way: do busy-work, memorize lists, etc.

In entrepreneurship education, we need to change the perception of failure. Click To Tweet

As entrepreneurship educators, we need to create safe places for our students to engage with failures, so they can practice extracting knowledge from them.

As our students develop their failure analysis skills, they will:

  • Fear failure less – they will realize on a personal level that they can learn more from failure than from success.
  • Increase their confidence – entrepreneurship is less scary when you know even if one experiment fails, you’ll succeed in creating the foundation for the next.
  • Take calculated risks – which are prerequisites to thriving in an innovation economy.

Failure Always Invite Learning

Fast Forward Their First Failure

The Currency Testing lesson plan below will guide you through creating a constructive experience for your students to learn from their first entrepreneurship failure.

In our last exercise, your students launched an MVP, without a line of code. (If you haven’t read that exercise, you’ll want to now. Not only is it a blast, you’ll need to know it for this Currency Testing exercise).

Once they’ve learned that they too can launch a product, you’re ready to show them…

Launching the product is easy. It’s selling the product that’s hard.

In fact, it’s so hard, your students will likely fail their first time around, just like most entrepreneurs, which is the point of this exercise.

By fast-forwarding their first failure, you’re going to turn your students from first-time founders, into “serial entrepreneurs” 🙂 After satiating their drive to “build something” your students will realize…

The only thing more fun than building something, is building something people want. Click To Tweet

As your students begin to focus less on what they want to build, and more on what other people want to buy, they’ll be eager for you to teach them problem validation.

The Currency Test

At the heart of this exercise is something called a “Currency Test.” A currency test is simply an experiment where entrepreneurs test if customers are willing to pay some form of currency (e.g. cash, attention, data, etc.) in exchange for a product.

A currency test is a much more powerful experiment than asking customers, “Would you use this?” or “How much would you pay for this?” because it’s forces them to put their money where their mouth is. Where it’s easy for a customer to say, “I’d definitely use that” to a hypothetical product, entrepreneurs will learn how customers really feel, when they’re asked to break out their wallets.

Best of all, the results of a currency test are always helpful.Either the test succeeds and the entrepreneur validates demand for their product, or it fails and the entrepreneur gets to ask what’s preventing their customers from buying, so they can improve their next iteration.

Your students will conduct their currency test using the MVPs they built.

When they struggle to get currency (which they will, because like most first-time entrepreneurs their MVPs were more product-focused than customer- and problem-focused), their experiment will fail. They’ll be wondering why they couldn’t find customers for a product they thought was such a good idea, and at this point they’re primed.

Having experienced their first entrepreneurial failure, they’re now ready to hear:

  1. Why being problem-focused is essential in entrepreneurship.
  2. Why talking to customers before building is the key to success.
  3. The value of identifying marketing channels.
  4. How important marketing copy is.

And most importantly, they’ll learn from personal experience…

We learn more from our failures than we do our successes. Click To Tweet

The Failure Postmortem

After their failures, the lesson plan will show you how to walk your students through the most powerful part of this exercise: “The Currency Test Postmortem.”

In the postmortem, students answer questions related to what they learned about their customers and problems, and about marketing and selling their product. They’ll also begin to see first-hand the value of problem validation and testing their business model assumptions.

The postmortem also will model an approach to analyzing failures they can use in your class, as well as throughout their careers to overcome failures they and their products, teams, and companies will encounter in the future.

Increase their Grit

If you want to change your students’ relationship toward failure, if you want to instill in them the skills they need to not just recover from failure, but thrive because of it, give the Currency Test Lesson Plan a shot.

And remember the entrepreneurship proverb…

Teach a student how to fish; she’ll eat for a lifetime. Teach a student how to fail; she’ll innovate global food distribution... providing sustainable food sources for half the world’s population at a fraction of the cost while employing thousands of previously unemployed and under-employed. You should do this one.

😉

Get the Lesson Plan

We’ve created an experiential, 45-minute, Teaching Failure Lesson Plan to help you prepare your students to learn from failure. It encapsulates everything we’ve talked about above plus a few surprises!

Get the lesson plan


It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it.

All we ask is that you leave us some feedback on it the comments below so we can improve it!


What’s Next?

In a future article, we will provide a checklist for you to plan an experiential entrepreneurship class! Please subscribe here to get that post in your inbox.

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Intro to Problem Validation

Intro to Problem Validation

If you’re like most of us entrepreneurship professors, after you help your students come up with great startup ideas, you ask them to fill a business model canvas or a lean canvas with their assumptions. Now you want them to validate those assumptions. 

The canvas is great at illuminating all the assumptions students have about their business, but it won’t help them actually test those assumptions.

Imagine if students could take a few quick steps to know if they were on the right track. How can we get them there? Ideally, we teach them an entrepreneur’s version of the “scientific method” so they can:

  • Identify their business model hypotheses,
  • Develop experiments to test those hypotheses,
  • Analyze the experiment results to (in)validate their hypothesis.

5 Steps to Problem Validation Expertise

Many entrepreneurship students struggle to validate the problem they are solving for their customers. While they often understand why validation is important, they don’t know how to test their assumptions, especially when it comes to the critical problem hypothesis.

Here are some quick ways to help them practice hypothesizing their customers’ problems, and validating those hypotheses.

  1. Make a hypothesis: Students hypothesize about the most intense problem the other students’ in their entrepreneurship class are experiencing. They write down what they think other students in your class would say when asked, “What is the hardest part about this class?” (e.g. “The homework is too time-consuming”).
  2. Define a success metric: Before asking their peers the question above, each student writes down the number of interviewees they think will report the problem they’ve written down (e.g. “If 3 out of the 5 students I interview say the homework is too time-consuming, I will have validated my hypothesis.”).
  3. 1-Question individual interviews: Students ask 5 other students in their class,

    “What is the hardest part about this class?”

    For each interview, they write down the name of each student they interviewed, and their biggest challenge.

  4. Analyze their results: Students analyze the answers they’ve written down and tally up how many of their peers reported the problem they hypothesized. Any students who invalidated his/her hypothesis, should highlight the most common problem they heard.
  5. Discuss as a class: Students share their experiences interviewing and being interviewed, the most common problems they heard, how many people validated/invalidated their hypotheses, and what surprised them most about the responses they heard.

Problem Validation Teaching Points

No matter the outcomes of the experiments, you can highlight several teaching points.

  • If a student’s hypothesis is validated: Talk about why it’s a great idea to start a company that “scratches your own itch.” When they are a member of their customer segment, they know the problems and can empathize with their customers.
  • If a student’s hypothesis is validated: Highlight the power of interviewing. If that student built a company to solve their hypothesized problem, that company would have failed. Since they took the time to test their hypothesis, they are much more likely to succeed in building a company.
  • If they find no pattern in the problems they heard? You can talk about what happens when interviewing customers across customer segments. Students learn that “problem noise” creates confusion and you can discuss how developing niche customer based on some criteria (gender, major, age), and re-interviewing those niches can help to find a consistent pattern.

The 1-Question individual interviews exercise above is powerful for a number of reasons.

  • It helps students ease their way into customer interviewing, by talking with a group of people they are comfortable with.
  • It facilitates a discussion about talking to other people about their problems, and what it’s like to have someone asking the students about their problems. The typically enjoyable experience of being interviewed (i.e. having someone ask about, and listen to, your problems), gives your students a sense of what it will feel like for their eventual interviewees. Students typically assume their interviews are inconveniencing their interviewees, but you can use this exercise to highlight that more often than not, customers enjoy being interviewed because someone is genuinely interested in help them solve a problem.
  • By asking about your students’ biggest challenges, you’re modeling the behavior you want to see in your students – you’re collecting data about your customers’ problems!
  • You have the opportunity to talk about why it’s far less important to be “right” than it is to run the experiment. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whose assumptions were validated, and whose were invalidated; what matters is the real-world data collected about customer problems. In this way, invalidated assumptions aren’t “failures.”

Invalidated assumptions provide as much valuable information about the market as validated assumptions.

For more details, check out our complete Intro to Problem Validation lesson plan below.

What Entrepreneurship Students Learn

To summarize, through the six steps outlined above, students learn:

  • How to develop a problem hypothesis.
  • How to develop success metrics for that hypothesis to ensure it’s testable.
  • Why it can be helpful to “scratch your own itch”.
  • Why talking to customers before they start a company is so important.
  • How to not lead or bias their interviewees (by asking about problems, not products).
  • It is not pleasant to be interviewed.
  • It is more important that their hypotheses be tested, than they be right.

Imagine your students leaping from an idea and the basic assumptions underlying their business model to (in)validating assumptions through real time engagement with potential customers. They are now able to describe the problem in the customer’s own words. What if your students understood how to use the information they gather from customer interviews?

Just as entrepreneurship students need to validate problems to create solutions people will buy… 

We as entrepreneurship educators need to validate student problems to build an engaging learning environment.

Download our Problem Validation Lesson Plan

We’ve created an experiential, 45-minute, Entrepreneurship Problem Validation Lesson Plan that encapsulates everything we’ve talked about above.

Get your lesson plan

Use it as a basis to teach your students to:

  • Develop a testable hypothesis
  • Practice defining success metrics for their experiments
  • Validate their assumptions by talking to potential customers
  • Analyze their experiment results

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it.

All we ask is that you leave us some feedback on it the comments below so we can improve it!


What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we talk about teaching your students to conduct high quality, real-world customer interviews in an engaging and approachable way!

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