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Pivoting the Wish Game: The Reality of Entrepreneurship

Pivoting the Wish Game: The Reality of Entrepreneurship

“Can I take this class again?”

The student wasn’t asking because she enjoyed the class so much. She was asking because she realized she missed the opportunity. This is confirmation that I am creating a powerful experience for my students. And confirmation that I need to do a better job introducing it.

As we near the end of the semester, I see changes in my Wish Game course experiment. It began as a grand vision, with a ton of anxious excitement from me and my students.

It is morphing into a transformational experience for students.

Let’s catch up on the wishes and experience over the past month. I learned a few valuable lessons over these weeks:

  • I can give student too much agency (I need to provide closer guidance)
  • Singular focus on granting wishes all semester is probably too much; balance is better
  • Students prefer safety
  • Maybe wishes for others would be a better learning experience than personal wishes

Granting Wishes

A few weeks back, as is our pattern, we were granting two wishes per week. This particular week the two wishes were:

  • Take the money that would be spent on a wish to a casino and let it ride on blackjack.
  • Be on stage with Skrillex and Marshmello at Ultra Music Festival in Miami.

The first was extremely straightforward. As students interviewed the grantee for this one, they tried to encourage her to pick a more challenging wish, but she stood her ground. She loves the energy and excitement of the casino. The group granting her wish handed her $150 cash the night of class and she and two classmates headed to the casino. She reported back that she taught her classmates about blackjack and roulette, and ended up winning a few bucks along the way.

Image result for blackjack creative commons

This wish presented no problem in terms of execution. It did, however, present problems within the group. There was some conflict about whether to grant the wish the grantee asked for, or to go bigger and get creative. I have been encouraging the students to think big, to take a risk. But in this case, because the grantee so adamantly stated she just wanted cash to go to the casino, the group delivered the wish. Through customer interviewing, the students understood the grantee’s desire for the emotional experience of a casino trip, and they granted it.

The other wish that week was for a student to be on stage with Skrillex and Marshmello at Ultra Music Festival in Miami. This wish was technically possible because that festival was happening in the future from the week they were granting this wish. The students got right to work interviewing the grantee to understand why he wanted this wish.

As I always do, I encouraged students to use their network to actually accomplish this wish.

I pointed out that one John Carroll alum, who was just on campus speaking not long ago, was a very successful DJ – Mick Batyske. I gave the students his cell number and encouraged them to reach out as he would likely have some connections to the festival organizers and/or Skrillex and Marshmello. They did not reach out!

The group decided pretty quickly it was too expensive – airfare, lodging, festival tickets, etc. As far as I could tell from conversations I overheard and from reflections I read, they did not consider or act on the possibility of asking for donations or hustling up some alternative solutions. They quickly moved from the big plan (deliver the actual wish) to a skeleton of the wish. This group ended up putting on a Marshmello “show” at one student’s house – they created some ambiance with music, lights, had pizza to eat. They also got the grantee a Marshmello hat.

Image result for marshmello creative commons

What Went Wrong

I pound at students that their network is much larger and easier to activate than they think. Coworkers, John Carroll alum, high school friends, family connections, hometown connections, and the list goes on. I get disappointed watching students spend 30 minutes in class brainstorming how to execute delivering a wish. They don’t spend much time strategizing how to activate their network.

This week I realized (duh!!) I should model that for them.

I committed that during the last group of wishes I would pick one wish and grant it myself, showing them how it could be done. I hope this lights a fire as they realize what could have been, and encourages them to take the risk, to dive in the next time an opportunity presents itself.

Next Wishes

The next wishes proved some interesting lessons for myself and the students.

  • Travel to Ireland.
  • Have Chipotle for life.

For the trip to Ireland, the group quickly learned that the grantee doesn’t have a passport, and is very anxious about flying (having never flown before). They quickly ruled out actually sending him to Ireland that week 🙂

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Through their interviews, they learned about his connection to Ireland, his dreams of what a trip there would entail, and highlights that would be meaningful to him. After a week of planning, they did their best to recreate the feel of Ireland in a room through decorations, music, and scenery. They also provided the grantee some gifts to commemorate his “trip” – a wool blanket, some Guinness, an Irish stone. The grantee was beaming as they showed a Photoshopped slideshow in class of his “trip” to the magical Irish destinations he dreamed of going.

The next wish was considerably more difficult – the student wanted Chipotle for life! Some students discussed what “for life” means – I can’t blame them for looking for the easy path. Eventually, the group coalesced around trying to actually grant the wish. They asked me about approaching the President of John Carroll to send a letter to the CEO of Chipotle. I advised them that would not be very realistic, especially within a week.

The students did reach out to another member of the leadership team at John Carroll to send a note to the Chipotle CEO. The response was a fantastic learning lesson for us all:

Thanks for reaching out.  I am not inclined to get involved in this activity as I don’t see any realistic role that I could play.  I don’t know the full context of your assignment but I would offer the following observations.
  1. The Ignatian characteristic of men and women with and for others, is meant to be directed at the poor and marginalized in our society, so not applicable in this context.
  2. Asking Chipotle executives for free food for an MBA student doesn’t appear to be a very compelling rationale on the face of it.  What is in it for them or their company?  If you are going to make this pitch, you’d better be creating value for them.  Would you make this a viral video, etc.?
During debrief, we had a rich discussion about Jesuit values, about privilege and philanthropy, about right and wrong, and many other related topics. It opened my eyes to the potential danger in this exercise, in terms of encouraging students to be very selfish and to expend resources on seemingly frivolous gifts.
We as a class decided after much discussion that the exercise was not about the selfishness of wishes, but about the generosity of granting wishes.

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I encouraged students to think small to go big with this wish. I often hold myself back from offering suggestions. As my frustration with their inability to go big grew, I couldn’t hold back this time.

I encouraged them to figure out the Chipotle meal the grantee likes (let’s say it costs $6), and how many weeks he will be alive (let’s say 2,500). I then suggested each member of the group ask 10 people to each buy one $6 Chipotle gift card, and to ask those people to each ask 10 people to buy one, and so on. If they each started with 10, that would immediately be 140, and if each of those got 10 more people, that would be 1,400, and so on. Ultimately, they reported it didn’t work because their friends didn’t want to contribute money. Ultimately, they didn’t sell it. Instead, they bought him a $150 Chipotle gift card.

This wish provided a great learning opportunity on a much deeper level, but also a reminder that the students are still struggling to get uncomfortable and really push their boundaries of what is possible.

Adjusting the Pace

Students brought up that if they had two weeks to do wishes, they could deliver more impactful experiences. In their minds, time was the most valuable resource, which they were lacking. After some very rich discussion about evaluating and leveraging resources, we decided that each of the two groups (14 students in each) would deliver wishes every other week. The caveat was that each group had to deliver two wishes every other week so that each student got a wish during the semester.

Fun Note: Students argues that since wishes were due every other week, they should only have to turn in reflection papers every other week. When I told them those papers every other week would be worth double (so the total course points stayed the same) they balked. I explained that everyone benefited under this because they had to write 1/2 as much for the same grade and I had to grade 1/2 as much. But they chose to keep writing the reflection papers each week.

A New Pace of Wishes

We jumped into this new pace of granting four wishes every other week. The next wishes were:

  • Dive with great white sharks
  • Meet Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns quarterback and 1st pick in the 2018 NFL Draft)
  • Play a round of golf at Augusta National Golf Club with Tiger Woods
  • Drive a Jaguar F-Type 2016

These wishes seemed to me to be quite challenging. The students seemed invigorated because they had more time to plan and execute – I hoped that meant they would be able to deliver a more impactful wish experience.

Each group of ~14 split into two groups of ~7 and started interviewing grantees and planning for wish granting. For the shark diving wish, the group found out that the grantee had a trip planned with her husband to Thailand in the summer. They found a company near where they would be in Thailand that offered swim-with-the-sharks package, although not with Great Whites.

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The group gave the grantee enough cash for her and her husband to purchase a package, and gave it to her in a bag that included suntan lotion, a snorkeling mask, and an underwater disposable camera. It was a very thoughtful presentation, and the grantee expressed sincere gratitude about their thoughtfulness to enhance her trip with her husband. She promised to send pictures with the sharks!

Meeting Baker Mayfield was going to be tough, because since it is the football off-season, he is not in Cleveland at the time. However, two students had connections to Baker through friends, so I was excited that they may be able to pull something off.

Image result for baker mayfield

I’m always doing what I can to create a safe space for them to go big. In this case, I would wander by the group brainstorming and say things like “he could use a private jet to come back” or “maybe the Browns will fly [the wish grantee] out as a PR stunt”. Ultimately, the students didn’t reach out to Baker, but just handed the grantee an authentic Baker Mayfield jersey. I was disappointed that they seemingly mailed it in.

During the debrief we discussed how they could have been more persistent with their network, and how it’s OK to do that as long as it’s respectful and transparent.

The next wish to be granted was to play round of golf at Augusta National Golf Club with Tiger Woods. This wish approached the realm of impossible more than any other, and the students quickly knew it. This is one of the biggest celebrities on the planet, and this is the most exclusive golf course in the world. And the Master’s was fast approaching.

Image result for amen corner augusta

The students quickly decided it wasn’t going to happen, so they set about with Plan B. In interviewing the grantee, they discovered his passion for playing golf, and for learning from people he plays with, from watching videos and live golf. They realized the two elements of this desire were to play an exclusive golf course and to play with someone who was really, really, really good.

Their Plan B wasn’t half bad. They purchased a framed picture of a famous hole at Augusta National Golf Club, and gave the grantee a t-shirt with Tiger Woods’ mugshot printed on it. They used their connections to get him and a friend a round of golf at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

The last wish from this batch was to drive a Jaguar F-Type 2016. The team tried contacting rental agencies, but could not find any in the area that had this particular car.

They next contacted Jaguar dealerships, but they won’t allow test drives of this car without a hefty fee. One student found this car for rent about an hour away on Turo.com (I never heard of this site, but it’s an incredible marketplace!). After much discussion with the owner, they realized he required at least a 2-day rental, and with all the fees it would have been close to $700. Additionally, they discovered the driver needed to be 25 (for insurance purposes) which the grantee wasn’t. One student offered to drive to rent it and chauffeur the grantee around, but the expense was just too high. When it came time to present the grantee’s wish in class, the group had nothing. They explained their process and apologized for failing. It was awkward, and a shame the grantee left without anything.

This experience enabled a deep discussion about failing. The students didn’t feel good about being the only group to not deliver some form of the wish. The grantee was gracious, but I could tell he was disappointed. We discussed how failure happens all the time, and is a learning opportunity. The group learned that part of their failure was waiting until the last minute; they iterated through many plans, but because they waited until the last minute, they ran out of time and were unable to do anything.

Another Batch of Wishes

The next batch of four wishes were

  • Visit the Amalfi coast in Italy
  • Get $3,000 for a Jeep for job in Uganda (this grantee had raised $6,000 already and needed $3,000 more to purchase the Jeep)
  • Play a round of golf with Charles Howell III
  • To learn to ski and own a cafè

The groups attacked the wishes with their usual gusto. They sat down to interview the grantees to understand the motivation for the wish. The class seemed energized – perhaps it was better to give them longer to grant the wish!

For the Amalfi coast the group discovered the grantee was going to be in Italy this summer with family. Taking a creative approach, they planned out a few days in the Amalfi coast region for the grantee and a guest and presented her with a detailed agenda and enough cash to cover the cost of all the activities.

They planned all the details based on the information they gathered from interviewing the grantee – job well done!

The group granting the wish to get $3,000 for a Jeep for the grantee’s job in Uganda faced an uphill battle. $3,000 in two weeks isn’t easy. They immediately decided on doing a GoFundMe campaign – check it out here. They interviewed the grantee, but realized as they started building the campaign that they needed more information and a video. The group struggled with communication issues – they couldn’t get all the information they needed, and had difficulty producing a high quality video. Eventually they launched the campaign, but not until right before the class when they were to present it. They explained that they started the GoFundMe, and would keep it open through the semester, hoping to generate $3,000.

I did not hear much about promotion. The group focused on execution and getting the campaign live, but neglected planning promotion efforts to drive interest in and traffic to the campaign. They could have utilized campus media to spread the opportunity to students, faculty and staff. Social media provides another valuable outlet to share the goal with their network, as well as with JCU alum and other parties who might be interested in supporting. The group shared how surprised they were at how complicated this effort was. We discussed how people see the “skin” of an effort – the website, the landing page, etc. but we don’t realize the work it takes to create that “skin”. The students now understand how much effort goes into designing, launching, and promoting a crowdfunding campaign. Lesson learned!

The next wish was to play a round of golf with golf professional Charles Howell III. Another golf wish! One student in the group working on this wish had a few contacts that he thought could help make introductions to Charles. I did not hear much in the way of interviewing this grantee, as I think this group focused almost immediately on executing actually getting a round of golf set up with Charles.

Image result for charles howell iiiUnfortunately, the group didn’t pull this off – instead, they gave the grantee two rounds of golf at a local exclusive club. I was disappointed in this effort, or lack thereof, and at this group honing in on one idea almost instantly and not being willing to budge from that idea, or developing alternative plans.

I need to do a better job of motivating students to challenge themselves.

For the last wish of this bunch, the group granting the wish wanted to try to grant two. The first was the grantee (who is from the Middle East) wanted to learn to ski. Since the weather turned to spring, this wish wasn’t physically possible at the time, so the group wanted to add a second wish to the docket. The group purchased two passes to ski lessons at a local ski resort for next season and checked off that wish. The second wish was the grantee wanted to own a cafè. The day they granted the wish, in a room next to our classroom, they set up a mock cafe for the grantee to provide coffee and pastries to the students in class. In this way, the grantee got to “run” a cafe for an evening. The grantee was overwhelmed at the generosity of receiving two wishes – this feeling is what the experience is all about!

Last Batch of Wishes

As we near the end of the semester, we have one last batch of wishes to be granted:

  • Visit New York City
  • Do goat yoga
  • Get a Brooks Brothers custom suit
  • Be a billionaire

I am personally taking the wish of visiting New York City, and have challenged the class to outdo me this time! I want to show them how I, as one person who is nobody special, can use creativity and my network to actually grant the reality of a wish.

Image result for new york city

I acknowledge that traveling to New York City from Cleveland is easier to manage than traveling to Ireland or the Amalfi coast of Italy. But the lesson here is the process of ideation, leveraging resources, and iterating. I’m already off and running with activating my network to make this dream come true – this student is from Tanzania and has some very personal and deep reasons for wanting to visit some places in New York City. While interviewing this grantee, I became so motivated to create this impact for her – I can’t wait to report back on how it all went. And on whether the class took my challenge!

Want To Follow Doan’s Journey?

We will run one last blog post wrapping up Doan’s journey through his semester-long Wish Game Course this Spring.

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2019’s Top 5 Free Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

2019’s Top 5 Free Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

“Your posts help me keep my students engaged – they and I thank you!” – ExEC Curriculum Professor

Based on the popularity of our 2018 Top 5 Lesson Plans article, we’ve update our list based on feedback from our fast growing community of now 4,600-strong entrepreneurship instructors.

The following are all lesson plans we’ve designed to transform your students’ experience as they learn how to generate ideas, interview customers, prototype and validate solutions.

5. Idea Generation vs. Problem Generation

Many of our students believe an idea is the heart of entrepreneurship. In this lesson, we shatter that assumption, and replace it with an appropriate focus on customer problems.

We want your students to develop ideas that are more feasible, impactful, and creative.

This is the toughest challenges entrepreneurship professors face. Student ideas tend to be a repetition of low-impact or infeasible mediocrity. You want more from them. We can help! We focus your students on problems in this lesson, because the best business ideas come from problems.entrepreneurship, teaching, problem, solution, idea

After this lesson, your students’ ideas will be:

  • More feasible because they’re focusing on serving people they care about.
  • More impactful because they’re paying more attention to problems than they are products.
  • More creative because they’ll use those problems as inspiration.

View Idea Generation vs. Problem Generation Lesson Plan

4. Personal Business Plan

In this exercise, shared with us by Rebeca Hwang from Stanford University, students create a business plan about themselves. Students approach themselves as a company, and apply the tools they learned during their entrepreneurship course to understand how they add value to the world.

Students answer questions about their future vision and about their present plans and passions. One of our professor’s favorite components of this exercise is that students choose who grades their personal business plan (and that our colleagues at Stanford provide a very robust rubric)!

teaching entrepreneurship personal business plan

Through this exercise, students:

  • Learn to see themselves as a company,
  • Learn they must continuously invest in and develop a plan for their future,
  • Embrace the tools and methodologies they learned in the course because they are applying them to their future,
  • Understand learning is meaningful when applied to a personal context

View Why Business Plans Fail Lesson Plan

3. Teaching Customer Interviewing

We consistently hear from faculty that teaching customer interviewing is their biggest challenge. In this lesson plan students use a combination of ExEC Customer Interviewing Playing Cards, with an online collaborative quiz game (Kahoot), to learn:

  • What their problem interviewing goals should be and should not be
  • What questions they should and should not ask

customer interviewing teaching entrepreneurship

Students then get an interview script template they can use as the basis for their problem discovery interviews.

This exercise teaches your students:

  • What objectives they should and should not attempt to accomplish during a problem discovery interview and why,
  • What questions they should and shouldn’t ask during a customer discovery interview and why,
  • What a comprehensive interview script book looks like

View Customer Interviewing Cards Lesson Plan

2. 60 Minute MVP

One of our most popular lesson plans is the 60 Minute MVP. During this class, students launch an MVP website, with an animated video and a way to take pre-orders, in an hour with no prior coding experience. One of our professors told us after running this exercise:

“One student described it as like a Navy Seal mental training exercise. Not sure it was that intense, but they were amazed and proud that they got it done.”

Your students will love this class period; they progress from the anxiety of the challenge confronting them (build a website in 60 minutes) to the elation of their journey (launching a website they built in 60 minutes). This exercise creates tremendous energy in your classroom. Students create something real.

On the lesson plan page you can view an example video students created in about 20 minutes, built around actual customer problem interviews:

You can also view a great example of a website built in just 60 minutes:

Your students will create landing pages like thisUpscale dining at its finest!

Some critical learnings for your students are the true meaning of Minimum Viable Product (MVP), that it’s easier to launch a product than they thought, and that the easiest thing about building a business is launching that product.

View 60 Minute MVP Lesson Plan

1. Teaching Customer Observations

During our years of research on what topics entrepreneurship professors struggle to teach, we heard “customer interviewing” over and over again. Our ExEC curriculum includes a robust method of customer interviewing, but customer observation is another great way to gather customer information. So we developed our Teaching Customer Observations lesson plan to help students learn learn the value of seeing how their customers experience problems, as opposed to imagining their customers’ problems.

In addition to our community thinking this is a powerful experience in the classroom, this exercise also won first place in the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises Awards at the USASBE 2019 Annual Conference!

This exercise positions your students to observe customers in their natural settings. This allows them to discover new business opportunities and increase their empathy and behavioral analysis skills.

Our goal with this exercise is to teach students to have an empathy picture/analysis that frames the problem they are trying to solve before they jump to a solution. Having this clear picture will allow them to come up with better creative solutions.

During this two-class exercise, your students will experience customer empathy and how to plan and translate an observation experience into ideas for products and services. This will provide the following benefits:

  • Introduce students to a powerful tool to gather information on customer experience in real life situations. This allows students to avoid predicting customer behavior by actually observing it.
  • Students practice how to listen with their eyes in order to understand what people value and care about, & what they don’t.
  • Provide a common reference experience for expanding on topics later in the course.

View Teaching Customer Observations Lesson Plan

Want 15 Weeks of Lesson Plans?

If you are looking for a fully structured, experiential entrepreneurship curriculum, with a semesters worth of lesson plans that students love, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

We’ve done the work for you.

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Changing How You Teach Entrepreneurship: Georgann Jouflas

Changing How You Teach Entrepreneurship: Georgann Jouflas

It’s hard to engage students who are simply taking a class.

Like hundreds of educators, Georgann Jouflas was trained to teach entrepreneurship in Steve Blank’s Lean Launchpad methodology.

 

Like hundreds of educators, she struggled to adapt that curriculum from Stanford University and University of Berkeley MBA students to teach her students.

 

Georgann teaches at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado. The views are spectacular.

So are the students! Georgann eventually came to understand that Stanford and Berkeley MBA students are trying to launch actual companies, whereas her students are taking a class. One or two every so often might want to try starting a business. Because of the different motivations and contexts, she struggled to adapt the Lean Launchpad approach to teach her course.

Georgann struggled to create meaningful learning experiences for her students.

Teaching A Typical Entrepreneurship Course

At Colorado Mesa University, like many other campuses around the world, Georgeann is teaching an entrepreneurship course, not an accelerator cohort. She needed a curriculum that was a better fit for students taking an entrepreneurship course.

She wanted to teach her students how to discover their passion and how to solve problems, not just work with ideas.

Georgann’s students needed to deeply engage with understanding the power of hidden assumptions, and how to prototype.

teach entrepreneurship

She wanted her students to understand the importance of customer interviewing, but more importantly, she wanted them to learn how to interview customers.

She knew gathering information from customers was critical, and that her students weren’t really learning that under her current course structure.

Georgann found her students faking validation; they would not get out of the building to interview customers each week because they were not comfortable interviewing people. She felt like a failure because she couldn’t get her students to get out of the building and conduct their interviews.

So, she decided to switch to teach with a new, fully experiential curriculum:

teaching entrepreneurship

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

15 weeks of structured plug-n-play experiential modules covering idea generation, problem validation, customer interviewing, prototyping, financial projections, and more!

The main value to Georgann is that ExEC coaches students into a comfort zone with interviewing customers so they actually do it, learn from it, and gain confidence.

“[I tell my students] if they get good at talking to people . . . listening to their clients, and asking questions, that’s a tremendous skill. So I’m really happy with that. Before they were doing that but they weren’t really doing it, and now we’re validating that they’re doing it.”

Why Teach with the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum?

At the end of each semester using the Lean Launchpad, she was really frustrated with the experience of teaching the course. She didn’t believe her students were learning as much as they could or should, and weren’t very engaged in the learning process. A colleague of hers was sharing her excitement with Georgann about this new way she was teaching her entrepreneurship course. Her colleague was talking about a buzz of activity, about a classroom filled with engagement and excitement, about students deeply learning core entrepreneurial skills. Her colleague shared that she was using ExEC. Georgann got excited about creating this learning environment for her students.

We asked Georgann to share what she likes about using ExEC in her entrepreneurship course:

“The main thing I love is that it really gets [the students] out interviewing people. It gets them comfortable with the process.”

Georgann also shared that she enjoys working with the plug-and-play modules, because they are very easy to follow and to use. She feels empowered because she gets plenty of background material and then the applied exercise with each lesson plan. Perhaps more than anything, Georgann reports that she enjoys the experiential nature of the curriculum, because she isn’t left having to think up what exercises to use to engage the students in the learning.

“Interviewing customers is so far out of their comfort zone, but the interview script generator is tremendous. Before they didn’t know what to ask, so they just didn’t do it. Now they feel more comfortable.”

Georgann rediscovered the excitement of teaching entrepreneurship. Her students enjoyed learning the skills an entrepreneur uses to build something someone wants.

Here is the full interview with Georgann that digs much deeper into her experience searching for a new curriculum and adopting ExEC.

If you have problems with students

  • Not engaging
  • Lacking confidence doing their interviews
  • Faking their interviews

request a preview of our ExEC curriculum here.


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Entrepreneurship Syllabus: Experiential Learning Across the Curriculum

Entrepreneurship Syllabus: Experiential Learning Across the Curriculum

The nerve center of any entrepreneurship course is the syllabus.

The syllabus creates a student’s first impression. It sets a tone for the course, and for the relationship between professor and student. A syllabus conveys information about expectations. It is a contract between professor and student.

We would love to see your syllabus built in an entrepreneurial way. But we know that’s not always possible. We asked our community of over 4,000 entrepreneurship educators to share their syllabi, and based on the common courses we saw, we developed a few syllabus templates you can use. Each syllabus injects experiential learning into your course from the first day until the last.

Your students will be engaged from the first experience in your classroom!

Each sample syllabus outlined below focuses on a variety of readings, examples, discussions, and experiential exercises students can use to explore and apply the principles of entrepreneurship in a variety of courses. 

Creativity & Innovation Sample Syllabus

Creativity is one foundation of successful businesses. Whether in the for-profit, not-for-profit, or public sector, organizations need employees who are creative thinkers and can thrive in an organizational climate that fosters innovation.

DOWNLOAD YOUR SAMPLE SYLLABUS

Introduction to Entrepreneurship Sample Syllabus

Entrepreneurship can be considered a process of economic or social value creation, rather than the single event of opening a business. This course focuses on opportunity recognition, assembly of the financial and human resources needed to develop the idea, and launching the new venture.

DOWNLOAD YOUR SAMPLE SYLLABUS

New Venture Creation Sample Syllabus

Creating a venture is one manifestation of entrepreneurship. Students in this course will have the opportunity to develop an entrepreneurial toolkit that allows them to successfully innovate in whatever professional life they choose to lead. This course focuses on problem identification and solving, customer interviewing, and prototyping.

DOWNLOAD YOUR SAMPLE SYLLABUS

Social Entrepreneurship Sample Syllabus

Social entrepreneurship can be explained as the practice of identifying, starting and growing successful mission-driven for-profit and nonprofit ventures. These organizations strive to advance social change through developing innovative solutions to problems that plague communities, cities, countries, and systems.

Through experiential exercises, guest speakers, and classroom dialogue, students will learn to think and act opportunistically with a socially-conscious business mindset. Topics will include problem identification, customer interviewing, prototyping, financial projections, business modeling, and storytelling.

DOWNLOAD YOUR SAMPLE SYLLABUS

MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation Sample Syllabus

In this experiential, hands-on course, students will learn the customer-development approach to building products and services. More specifically, students will learn how to systematically identify and test assumptions to make decisions to pivot, proceed, or restart based on customer insights and evidence gathered.

DOWNLOAD YOUR SAMPLE SYLLABUS


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we talk about our evolving experiential curriculum, how to teach students about financial projections, and how to enable your students to tell a story people will remember!

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Toothbrush Design Challenge

Toothbrush Design Challenge

Invalid assumptions are the root of most business failures. It’s important our students understand how easy it is for everyone, including them, to make them.

In just 15 minutes, this interactive exercise will help your students understand why they need to validate their business assumptions.

Winner of the 2019 Excellence in Entrepreneurship Exercises Competition

We introduced this exercise to our community here as part of a larger series of exercises. You all helped us tweak the exercise into a format that won the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises Competition at USASBE 2019!

Given the success of this exercise, we wanted to provide an overview so you know how and why you might engage your students with this exercise.

Overview

We have two goals with the Toothbrush Design Challenge exercise:

  1. Give your students the experience of making hidden assumptions
  2. Help your students learn why it’s so important to validate assumptions

For more details on this exercise, check out this lesson plan.

The Exercise

Form teams of 3 or 4 students. Give each team an adult toothbrush.

Their assignment is to design a child’s toothbrush. The design must include at least the following elements:

  1. Color scheme
  2. Dimensions

The color scheme element is really a red herring. The colors they choose are irrelevant. We include the color scheme requirement to ensure students are not solely focused on the dimensions element. The dimensions are where students will unearth hidden assumptions, and create an ineffective product based on those hidden assumptions.

Hidden assumptions will likely cause students to design a toothbrush with the wrong dimensions for children. They will assume a smaller hand needs a smaller toothbrush.

Display the slide below that contains hand size data. Give students 3 minutes to design a child’s toothbrush.

The Debrief

After 3 minutes, ask teams whether their child’s toothbrush was larger or smaller than an adult’s. Most teams will end up making a smaller toothbrush. This is a very natural and logical assumption based on the hand size data we presented them. It is the assumption very experienced product designers at toothbrush manufacturers made, so your students are in good company!

Your students likely designed a child’s toothbrush that would fail in the market based on hidden assumptions. Show this video, where IDEO partner Tom Kelley drives home the importance of acknowledging and testing hidden assumptions:

Reflect on what hidden assumptions they made, and why they made them. Point out that many toothbrush manufacturers made the same invalid assumptions many of them made in terms of a smaller hand needs a smaller toothbrush.

Discuss how students could test their assumptions to determine their validity. Steer them toward observing customers using a product or service, and toward prototyping the product or service.

This exercise is fast, fun, and engaging for students. We designed it as a flexible experience that you can use to introduce various topics, such as:

  1. Why companies fail
  2. Planning vs. experimenting
  3. Business model canvas

If you want to introduce your students to a curriculum of these kind of award-winning experiential exercises, request a preview of our ExEC curriculum here.


Get the “Toothbrush Design Challenge” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Toothbrush Design Challenge” exercise to walk you, and your students through the process, step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we talk about our evolving experiential curriculum, why educators are adopting this curriculum, and how to enable your students to better identify opportunities!

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Practicing Entrepreneurship By Granting Wishes

Practicing Entrepreneurship By Granting Wishes

“An entrepreneurship class should be alive.”

“An entrepreneurship class should be scary.”

“An entrepreneurship class should be a new experience.”

As I was reimagining my MBA entrepreneurship course, I kept these thoughts top-of-mind. I wanted to set an example with my class – to create an experience that solved my customers’ problem.

My customer? Students.

My customers’ problem? Disengaged learning.

I stumbled across Rebeca Hwang and her Wish Game idea. My students were in for an experience unlike anything they’d ever had in a classroom.

Because the experience is so different from their typical learning environment, it has been painful at time to watch them struggle to grasp the concept of learning entrepreneurship through granting each other’s wishes.

Wishes To Date

My students have granted 12 wishes so far. I’ve written about 7 of them already:

  • See the Mona Lisa
  • Pitching in a Chicago Cubs game
  • Repelling down the John Carroll University clock tower
  • To make homemade wine
  • To own a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year bourbon
  • Play in a room full of puppies (especially golden retrievers)
  • Visit Greece

During these wishes, students have struggled with thinking big, with practicing entrepreneurial skills of ideating, customer interviewing, prototyping, and mobilizing resources. They deliver wishes, but I push them to keep aiming higher, dreaming bigger, failing faster.

As with most skills, with practice, they are getting better not just at execution, but at creating experiences.

The new wishes are:

  • An American baby shower
  • Tickets to the Ellen show, play a game & win a prize (2nd wish is 2 tickets to Disneyland)
  • A male, black & tan miniature Dachshund puppy
  • Be driven in a Rolls Royce Phantom

The first two showed my students’ execution capability. One Kuwaiti student is about 7 months pregnant, with her 4th child, and wanted an American baby shower. In her culture, I discovered, they do not have a celebration prior to the baby’s arrival. Given she’s in America, and I gave permission to dream big, this is her dream. Her fellow students attacked the wish with their now typical gusto.

I couldn’t stop smiling as they interviewed the wish grantee to understand her culture & her reasoning for wanting an American baby shower. The students are beginning to master customer interviewing! They asked about celebrating her previous children and about her expectations. This wish brought a new level of excitement to the class. As one student mentioned,

“I get it. I can deliver joy to someone while practicing entrepreneurship. How cool is that? What other subject offers that kind of opportunity?”

To be honest, this wish wasn’t a difficult one to execute – buy cake, flowers, decorations, presents. Play Pregnancy Price is Right. The students didn’t need to do much in terms of ideation for this one because the wish was to deliver something typical. Typical is what the grantee wanted, typical is what she got, but feedback from her confirmed that my students nailed it:

“This was my first and best baby shower. I was really needing this feeling to overcome my homesickness. It’s something beautiful to remember during my studies.”

Wish Game Baby Shower

The other wish that week took an interesting turn. The grantee had two wishes that fit well together:

  1. She is a HUGE fan of Ellen Degeneres, so wants to attend the Ellen Show, play a game on the show and win a prize.
  2. She is from Tanzania and wants to visit Disneyland before returning home.

Students in the group delivering this wish again nailed the customer interviewing, understanding her motivation for these particular wishes. I’ve encouraged the students to drill into the emotions driving the desire for a particular wish. Because if they cannot deliver the specifics of a wish, they can develop a plan b, or c, or d, or q.

They can prototype, like entrepreneurs.

This group contacted Ellen with our story as much as they could over the week – multiple form submissions, emails, and calls every day from everyone in class and from lots of other students and friends. They also worked on getting Disneyland tickets, airplane tickets, and hotel reservations donated. None of this happened, so their plan b was to buy a $300 Disney gift card, recreate the Ellen Show in the classroom (complete with a dude in a wig playing Ellen), and played Blindfolded Musical Chairs. Of course they fixed the game so the grantee won, and her prize was the gift card.

Debriefing the Wishes

Both groups felt so energized after these wishes. They nailed the interviewing. They felt they delivered a good idea, but also acknowledged they weren’t taking a risk with their ideas yet.

I push, and push, and push some more to get them beyond their fear and lead them into the uncertainty of big ideas.

We talked about how far they had come from the first wishes, and how far they had to go to deliver true awesome. I often forget what it is like to be ~20 years old. Stumbling through an uncertain present and staring into an uncertain future. Wanting to show confidence, but not feeling confident. It’s my job to build that confidence, by guiding them into uncertainty, supporting them while they struggle with it, and giving them the tools to reflect on it powerfully.

The Next Wishes

One of the wish grantees wanted a male, black & tan miniature Dachshund puppy. Her other wishes were to pay off her student debt, or to have a year’s rent in a nice apartment in downtown Cleveland. The group went with the puppy. As with the baby shower, this wish is really all about execution. The group got right to work to find a puppy – apparently this isn’t the most common kind of puppy to find. But they did it!

wish game puppy

One member of the group negotiated the price down to $300 – they are finally figuring out they can mobilize their financial resources to make wishes come true. The grantee met her puppy (she named him Morty) but she won’t be able to take him home for a couple weeks, until he is at least 8 weeks old.

The other wish in this class was the grantee wants to be driven in a Rolls Royce Phantom. His other wishes were to meet “the” Michael Jordan (I particularly liked how he intentionally included “the” so nobody could play games with just any Michael Jordan) and to call an offensive play for the Cleveland Browns. The group decided to go with the Phantom. I hadn’t heard of this car, but after looking at pictures and videos, I understood where his wish came from.

wish game rolls royce phantom

The group delivering this wish ignited their network to find Cleveland folks who owned this car. Unfortunately, they did not find any during the week. They did, however, realize they knew someone who worked at the local Rolls Royce dealership, so when the weather improves, they will work to get the grantee a test drive. They did buy the grantee tickets to the auto show in Cleveland over the weekend, where he can go see this car.

Future Wishes

The next two wishes on deck are:

  • Take the money that would be spent on a wish to a casino and let it ride on blackjack
  • Be on stage with Skrillex and Marshmello at Ultra Music Festival in Miami

One will challenge the group to actually deliver it, and that other will challenge the group to enhance the wish beyond the obvious to deliver a memorable experience.

 

PS – here is an updated picture of Morty at home with Katie!

Want To Follow Doan’s Journey?

We will continue to run blog posts highlighting Doan’s journey throughout his semester-long Wish Game Course this Spring.

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Customer Interviewing Card Game

Customer Interviewing Card Game

Students don’t like customer interviews, but they do like games!

So we combined the two to make customer interviews more fun and approachable.

Our updated method of teaching customer interviews is using ExEC Customer Interviewing Playing Cards with an online collaborative quiz game to show students:

  • What their problem interviewing goals should and should not be, and
  • What questions they should and should not ask

Fully Engaged Class

When you run this exercise, your students will be fully immersed in the lesson as they hurriedly sort cards into different piles and compete with one another using their phones to see who can correctly answer the most questions, the fastest.

Here’s what it looked like when we presented it at USASBE:

And here’s what one of the professors who tested this lesson part of our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) reported back:

Big hit tonight! Lots of competition!

Really got through on true purpose of problem discovery and what questions to ask / not ask. They are in much better shape going into interviews than my prior students.

– Jen Daniels, Georgia State University
Give the Customer Interview Cards lesson plan a shot. It’ll add a boost of energy to your course and your students will love it.

Step 1: Prepwork

To set students up for success, they need to do a little prework. Have your students watch this video on what to ask during customer interviews.

You need to do a little prework yourself:

  • Print and cut one set of Customer Discovery Interview Cards for every two students.
  • Get familiar with Kahoot; watch this Kahoot demo video, and review the Kahoot questions here.
  • Review the answers to the Interview and the Objective cards here and print a copy for your reference.
  • Print out one copy of the final interviewing script for each student.

Step 2: The Setup

Prior to this class session, familiarize your students with the purpose and he value of customer interviewing.

Pair students up, give each pair a set of the gray “Problem Interviews Objective” cards, and give them a few minutes to find the six objectives they should achieve during customer discovery interviews from the 12 objective cards.

Customer interview cards

You also need to set up Kahoot and project that on the screen. Turn all the game options off except for the following, which should be turned on:

  • Enable Answer Streak Bonus
  • Podium
  • Display Game PIN throughout

customer interview

Find detailed instructions for setting up Kahoot in the full lesson plan.

Step 3: Play the Warm-Up Game

Project Kahoot on the screen and read the first objective question aloud. Students use their phones to indicate if it’s a good or bad objective for a customer discovery interview based on how they categorized their cards.

After all students record their answer, you have an opportunity to discuss why a particular objective is good or bad for a customer discovery interview. Students will generally have different opinions for each of the 12 objectives.

This warm-up game is an opportunity for rich dialogue to help students deeply understand the purpose of customer interviews.

Progress through all 12 objectives, discussing each one as you go. Kahoot displays a live scoreboard – congratulate the winner after going through 12 objectives, but let everyone know this was just a warm-up game. The real game is next – to determine what are good and bad interviewing questions.

Step 4: Play the Real Game

Students now know what their customer interviewing objectives should be. Hand out the 24 Customer Interviewing Question cards, and students should identify which 9 questions are ideal to ask.

customer interview cards

Now start the Questions Kahoot game and have students join. Lead students through the same process you did with the Objectives Kahoot.

Students record their answer in Kahoot about what are good and bad Problem Interview questions. This is another powerful opportunity to discuss why a particular question is good or bad for a customer discovery interview.

Kahoot displays a live scoreboard – congratulate the winner after going through all the questions.

Crown the Customer Interviewing Champions! Reward them with some prize. Make a big deal of this to let students know how important customer interviewing is to entrepreneurs.

Step 5: The Interview Template

Your students now have a strong understanding of customer problem interviewing objectives and good questions to ask. It is time to give them an interview template they can use to connects all of the dots.

If you use this exercise as a part of the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC), we provide an interview template for your students to use. Otherwise, you can create your own.

After playing the warm-up and the real game, students understand why they should ask the “good” questions.

Students also understand why they should not ask many of the questions they would intuitively think to ask.

Review each question to ensure they understand:

  • How to ask the question, and
  • Why they should ask the question

Now is your chance to answer any questions or fears your students have before sending them out into the field to interview actual customers! But have no fear, your students are well-prepared with solid questions that will help guide their ideation.

If you want to help your students deeply understand why and how to interview customers, get the full lesson plan by clicking below!


Get the “Customer Interviewing Cards” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed “Customer Interviewing Cards” lesson plan. This exercise walks you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.

 


What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we will share a companion exercise to the “60 Minute MVP” exercise. This will help students understand why it is critical to engage customers prior to launching!

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Finding Early Adopters: The Mechanical Pencil Challenge

Finding Early Adopters: The Mechanical Pencil Challenge

Entrepreneurship students often struggle getting their first customers interviews because they lack a functional definition of Early Adopters.

This exercise uses mechanical pencils, and a 10-minute competition between students, to introduce Early Adopters in a way that not only contrasts them with Early Majority and Late Majority customers, but also demonstrates where and how to find a business model’s Early Adopters.

We are very proud that this exercise was a finalist in the prestigious USASBE 3E Competition, which recognizes the best experiential entrepreneurship exercises at the USASBE 2019 Conference!

The key questions this lesson plan answers are:

  1. Who is the target for our customer interviews?
  2. How and where do we find people for our customer interviews?

Prepare Finding Early Adopters Exercise

You’ll need to bring four mechanical pencils to class – one to represent each of the four sections of the Diffusion of Innovations curve:

You’ll need to bring four mechanical pencils to class – one to represent each of the four sections of the Diffusion of Innovations curve:

  1. One with several full sized pieces of led in the body of the pencil (Laggard)
  2. One with a single piece of led inside (Late Majority)
  3. One with several small (½”) pieces of led (Early Majority)
  4. One with a single piece of led that is just barely too short to be usable. Here’s a quick video on how to prepare it. (Early Adopter)

Introducing Early Adopters

Introduce and define each of the following Diffusion of Innovation adopter categories to students: 

  • Early Adopters: the first people willing to try your product or service. There are a few of these people, but they are vitally important to the success of your business. These people are so hungry for a solution to their problem they’re willing to try anything…including an unproven product like yours.
  • Early Majority: this is the larger influx of people who will make your product a success. These people have a problem you can solve, but they’re not desperate for a solution like the Early Adopters. They’ll need some convincing (by an Early Adopter) before they’re willing to try your product.
  • Late Majority: just behind the Early Majority, the next wave of customers will sustain your business over time.These people have a problem, but they don’t know it. They need to be educated that they have a problem before they’ll become your customer.
  • Laggards: this group is generally not interested in your offering, or may join the party very, very late in the game. Typically they don’t even have a problem, so they’ll only reluctantly become your customer.

Next it’s good to walk through the worksheet below, so students better understand how to identify and find early adopters.

Finding Early Adopters

First hypothesize a problem, such as “I’m afraid of losing my dog”, and the customer segment would be new dog owners. (Note: when working through this worksheet, remind students that their success will come from winning over their early majority as customers, but to get there, first they need to acquire their early adopters.)

Early Adopter Behaviors

Next, hypothesize early adopter behaviors, which are actions someone would take to solve the hypothesized problem. Ask your students for examples of Early Adopter behaviors for the hypothesized problem “I’m afraid of losing my dog”. Potential answers:

  • Get dog obedience training
  • Buy “invisible fence” dog collars
  • Get chip implanted in dog
  • Buys engraved dog collar with contact info
  • Searches google for ways to keep dog from running away

Confirm behaviors offered by students are related to the hypothesized problem. For example, “Goes to the pound to look for their dog” is more likely the behavior of someone who has already lost their dog, not someone who is “worried about losing it” in the future.

Externally Observable Early Adopter Behaviors

To validate there are Early Adopters for their problems, students will actually talk to people trying to solve the problem. In other words, they’ll need to actually find these people and ask them about their problems.

In order to do that, they will need to find people already trying to solve their hypothesized problem. To find people trying to solve the their hypothesized problem, your students will need to come up with Externally Observable Behaviors for their Early Adopters.

Externally Observable Behaviors are similar to the Early Adopter behaviors they’ve already written up. The difference being that an Early Adopter Behavior could be an action that someone takes alone at home that your students would never know about, so they won’t be able to find them taking that action to talk to them.

Externally Observable Behaviors on the other hand are actions people take that your students, personally, can observe so they’ll know where to find those people to talk to them.

For example…

  • Having trouble controlling dog at a dog park
  • Buying invisible fence dog collars or engraved dog tags at pet store
  • Asking on Reddit how to keep dog from running away

Finding Early Adopters: The Mechanical Pencil Challenge

Note: You will need four volunteers for this exercise.

Have the four students come to the front of the room where you have a desk setup for each of them. On each desk, place a piece of paper, and one of the mechanical pencils you prepared before class. Note: Place the “Early Adopter” pencil in one of the middle seats that everyone can easily observe.

Ask your volunteers not to touch their pencils until you’ve told them to do so (you may need to remind them of this several times 🙂 

Ask your volunteers to sit down, and ask the rest of the class to stand up and join you around the four volunteers.

Now ask the class to imagine you were starting a company serving “students who take tests” and the problem you hypothesize they face is,

“I love mechanical pencils because I can erase my mistakes, but they always break or run out of led in the worst possible moments.”

To solve this problem, tell your students you’ve created a new, more reliable, high capacity pencil that holds 4x as much lead as a normal mechanical pencil.

Now tell your standing students that before them are four potential customers for your new product:  

  • A laggard,
  • a late majority,
  • an early majority, and
  • an early adopter

Have the standing students form groups of 2 or 3 and ask them, “If you were a new company selling this new high capacity pencil, and you only had enough marketing resources to advertise your pencil to one of the four people, how would you figure out which one to advertise to?”

Give them 30 seconds to figure out a strategy to determine which of the four is the Early Adopter. Ask several of the groups to offer their strategies. Then ask the standing students, can you tell which one is the early adopter right now?

Answer: No, because you’re observing your customers sitting there, you’re not observing them in a situation where they would encounter or attempt to fix the hypothesized problem.

Ask your standing students, how might we be able to tell which one is the Early Adopter?

Answer: By asking them to write something, particularly something in a high stress situation.

Tell your volunteer students that you’re going tell them a letter of the alphabet and you’ll give each of them extra credit if, and only if, they can write down 20 words in 30 seconds that start with the letter of the alphabet you’ve assigned them. When you say “go”, using only the paper and pencil you have provided them, they must write down at least 10 words that start with the letter “S.”

“Go!”

At this point all four of your volunteers should start feverishly writing, or at least trying to. The early adopter student should start behaving in a way that is clear their pencil is malfunctioning. This is exactly what we want. In fact, at one point the student may even extract the led, ditch the pencil body entirely, and try and complete the task while pinching the led between his/her fingers.

If the “Early Adopter” student asks for a new pencil, or complains theirs is broken, encourage them to try and fix the problem and complete the task.

No matter what happens, even if the Early Adopter student doesn’t get all 10 words written, consider giving them extra credit for participating.

Advanced Version:

You can add extra layers of sophistication to this exercise by trying to “sell” a solution to the Early Adopter’s problem by offering a working pencil in exchange for some percentage of their reward. For example, if you’re offering them 10 extra credit points, you can “sell” them a working pencil in exchange for one or two fewer extra credit points.

To see this modified version in action, watch this video:

Debrief the Finding Early Adopters Demo

With your class still standing around the volunteer students, ask them if they wanted to talk to someone about the emotions related to malfunctioning mechanical pencils which student should they talk to?

Answer: The “Early Adopter” student. The one who just experienced and tried to fix the problem.

Tell your class that there are early adopters all around us all the time; we just need to observe them in the contexts where they are experiencing, and trying to fix, problems.

Now ask your class, what do they think would happen if you had built your new pencil solution and tried to sell it to one of the other three students who weren’t Early Adopters?

Answer: None of them would have bought your pencil. We don’t buy products that don’t resolve an emotional need for us.

Use this example to emphasize why it’s so important to identify the right customers to target. If you can’t find the people who are trying to fix a hypothesized problem, you can’t find people to buy a solution for it.

Now ask your students what would happen if you sold your fancy pencil solution to the early adopter, and the next time one of the other three people’s pencils broke, our early adopter let them borrow their new fancy pencil solution?

Answer: The person with the broken pencil would now be experiencing the problem, and may be emotionally motivated to buy a solution to it, likely becoming your customer.

Emphasize to your students that this is how successful companies become successful. They don’t start by trying to sell fancy pencils to everyone. Instead, they sell to a small group of people experiencing an intense emotion – their Early Adopters. Then the company’s early adopters help the company sell their solution to members of the Early Majority, Late Majority, and the Laggards through referrals and social proof.

Ask your students, what if after several attempts of observing students using mechanical pencils, you never saw someone trying to solve problems with their pencils running out of led?

Answer: The time might not be right for a new “high capacity mechanical pencil.” Maybe pencils hold enough led as it is. Maybe students have other problems that are more pressing and deserve more attention than a high capacity pencil. This might not be the best business to build at this time – and it’s better to find that out before designing and manufacturing the new pencil, than it is after.

Drive home for students that just because you fail to find people trying to solve a problem doesn’t mean you fail. In fact, failing to find people trying to solve a problem is a faster way to succeed, because you won’t waste time trying to solve a problem that no one cares about. Instead, you can “pivot” to solving a more pressing problem, one that people will pay to solve.

Continue Defining Early Adopter Externally Observable Behaviors

Have your students return to their desks and continue with the Your Early Adopters worksheet.

Ask them where you might find people actively seeking a solution to their fear of losing their dog. What are the externally observable behaviors for your early adopters?

Potential Externally Observable Behaviors:

    • Attending dog training classes in the park
    • Buying invisible pet fence at pet store
    • Taking dogs to the vet for chip implantations
    • Getting dog collars engraved at pet store
    • Asking for advice on how to not lose your dog on Reddit

Note for your students how every externally observable behavior has a location where you might be able to find these early adopters.

If you want to help your students find the right people to interview, use an exercise that was a finalist in the prestigious USASBE 3E Competition by clicking below!


Get the “Finding Early Adopters: The Mechanical Pencil Challenge” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed “Finding Early Adopters: The Mechanical Pencil Challenge” lesson plan. This exercise walks you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.

 


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More Wish Game: Entrepreneurship in Action

More Wish Game: Entrepreneurship in Action

“I look forward to The Wish Game every week – it’s so exciting to learn like this.” – J.L. (student)

A Quick Review

In my MBA course, I am running the Wish Game all semester, based on an exercise I heard about from Rebeca Hwang. Students wrote down 3 big, specific wishes on the first day, such as being able to meet a celebrity, or visiting a certain place. I choose two people to be the wish grantees each week. The rest of the class works all week to deliver those wishes at the beginning of the next class session. 

This exercise is about hyper-collaboration, so all students benefit by working together under considerable constraints. Student learn entrepreneurial skills like ideation, customer interviewing, prototyping, selling, and mobilizing resources through iteratively practicing them.

The First Wish

My students didn’t do a very good job with their first wish, which was a test one for my son (to see the Mona Lisa). When brainstorming ideas, they began to think creatively, to stretch their boundaries of what was possible. But when it came time to deliver the wish, it was disappointingly simple, non-engaging, and awkward.

We debriefed how it could have been a more impactful experience for both my son and for them. They could have created the room to match the actual room the Mona Lisa was in. Cleveland has an incredible art museum. They could have reached out to see how they could help (maybe providing space, or design help, for instance). The students felt good accomplishing the delivery, but also felt bad that it wasn’t a more powerful experience for my son. I read in their weekly reflection about the need to

  • organize and delegate more effectively,
  • share ideas quickly, and purposefully engage the entire group,
  • more quickly try (prototype) an idea
  • keep the wish grantee’s emotions in mind, as a motivating factor

“Our group wants to WOW! our classmate who we’re delivering a wish for. Now we know how hard we have to work to make that happen.” – M.A. (student)

The First “Real” Wishes

Once I split the class into two groups, I chose two wishes, one for each group to grant. The first week I chose the following:

  • pitching in a Chicago Cubs game
  • repelling down the John Carroll University clock tower
Administration Building (ca. 2003), John Carroll University

From observing groups in class, each group did a much better job of interviewing the wish grantee this time. They asked deep questions about why that particular wish, about the specific sights, sounds, smells, emotions, memories, etc. surrounding the desire for that particular wish. I could see the energy and the excitement in the students as they started to grasp how powerful this experience could be, if they gave themsevles to it!

For the wish to pitch in a Cubs game, the group created a player in the MLB The Show 18 video game, and plugged in a Playstation to the classroom screens. The grantee had requested walk-up music (country music, unfortunately!), but due to some technical glitches the group wasn’t able to play it exactly when he entered the room.

The grantee was wearing his Cubs jersey, had steamed hot dogs with ketchup and tomato waiting for him, and pitched an inning as himself on the Playstation.

For the second wish, repelling down the JCU clock tower, the group right away asked the JCU President for permission to either repel down the clock tower, or to at least take the grantee to the top of the clock tower. Both options were denied by the university’s Director of Regulatory Affairs and Risk Management. The group apparently struggled mightily after this point with how to deliver the wish if they could not get him into the clock tower, so they defaulted to purchasing him a John Carroll University flag and a framed picture of the clock tower.

Debriefing the Wishes

I could tell both groups felt a bit defeated, particularly the clock tower groups. I encouraged them, and gave them permission, to not hold themselves back. They needed a pep talk, and I delivered. I understand it is really difficult to think, within an academic course, in such a way to deliver amazing experiences. Students reminded each other that they were letting each other down, they shared that they knew they could dream bigger, and could put more effort into execution.

“We could have done more, and should have done more. We just didn’t believe in ourselves.” B.H. (student in the group delivering the clock tower wish)

The class brainstormed some ideas for them to allow themselves to share crazy ideas. Many students mentioned they didn’t want to seem too crazy, or sound stupid, or set the group up for failure. As one student opened up and was vulnerable in debriefing, others supported him or her, noting that it was good to share and that it helped them all succeed.

I left that class feeling disappointed, but also optimistic that they were catching on.  This experience is about letting go of assumptions and safety, and giving themselves permission to practice critical skills that will help them succeed in their future. I think they are starting to understand that.

Ultimately, I want to create a safe space where they can dream really big, they can try and fail, and they can give memorable moments to each other

The Next Wishes

The next wishes I pulled from the bag were:

  1. To make homemade wine
  2. To own a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year bourbon

My hope was for the groups to continue to grow their confidence to stretch and deliver a richer, more creative experience each week. What I discovered this week was that they still, basically, hit the easy button. I can’t say I blame them – who knows what I would be comfortable doing had my MBA professor thrown this curveball course at me. I realized I have my work cut out for me to push them off the cliff so they can learn to soar.

For the make homemade wine wish, the easy button was to purchase the student a kit and directions to actually make wine at home. A few members of the group explained what everything was, where they got it, and their thought process behind the wish delivery.

From Fermented Grapes (https://www.fermentedgrape.com/making-wine/)

In the wish grantee’s reflection, I learned that his family made wine for many generations, but stopped recently. He wanted to learn more about making wine so his family could make wine together. What a fantastic experience that would be! I asked him for feedback after he received his wish. He said all the requisite pleasantries, thanked the group for the thoughtfulness, talked about how excited he was to try it out. But I knew from his reflection that he was excited to smash grapes and really dig into it. I have a feeling he was a little disappointed. I know I was; my students are stuck at easy.

Purchasing the supplies to deliver a surface-level wish is easy. Creating an emotional experience within a wish delivery is really, really, really hard.

The second wish this week was the student wanted to own a bottle of Pappy van Winkle 23 Year bourbon from the Buffalo Trace Distillery. This group could not deliver the wish on Tuesday, because they did not get a shipment of some things they needed (they and I blamed the Polar Vortex!) so they will deliver this wish the following week.

In reading their reflections, I discovered they first investigated actually purchasing this bottle of bourbon. They quickly realized it was far too expensive for their budget (NOTE: each student contributes $10 each week and I contribute $50 each week, and what isn’t spent rolls over. At this point, there is nearly $700 as teams have spent very little). The next option they investigated was very interesting.

Apparently, someone suggested they purchase an empty bottle, fill it with cheap bourbon, and seal the bottle. A long discussion of ethics ensued, and the group eventually decided they would do the right thing. I think what they ended up doing was to purchase a few empty bottles of various bourbons the student mentioned he wanted to own, and then purchase him a gift card to a local bar for a few glasses of the particular bourbon he wants. Again, they hit the easy button. They purchased empty bottles, and called around to find a bar that served this particular bourbon.

Debriefing the Wishes

We talked again about ideas for creating more value for the wish grantees. I encourage students to put themselves in the grantees shoes. I want them to imagine the excitement as the anticipation builds, not knowing exactly what the wish will look and feel like. And then I ask them to imagine the feeling when it doesn’t live up to expectations, let alone WOW! them. The looks and the nods tell me they hear what I’m saying, and they understand why I am pushing them. But I wonder if they really get the opportunity?

Again, I urge them to think big, to not keep their visions limited to the classroom space. The students keep thinking that they must deliver the wish in the classroom, but I remind them they can deliver it somewhere else, they just need to capture pictures or videos to share with everyone else because the entire class can’t go.

“We keep thinking like business students, not like entrepreneurs. I know we are too focused on executing and not enough on being creative. Between the 13 of us in our group, we have so many resources, and such a large network, but we haven’t tapped into it yet.” A.S. (student)

We don’t talk about the bottle of bourbon wish because he doesn’t know what is in store. But we brainstorm ways to push the proverbial envelope with the wine-making wish. I explain they could have had the student who wanted to make wine smashing grapes in a barrel. Or they could have sent him to a vineyard, or at least called people who run vineyards to get ideas and possibly collaborate.

The Next Wishes

The next wishes I pulled are

  1. Play in a room full of puppies (especially golden retrievers)
  2. Visit Greece

I hope they can go big. As I observed the groups interviewing, they again asked great questions of the grantee, to understand why this wish was so important, and what aspects were most important to focus on. The group working on the puppies quickly started calling kennels and shelters, and I believe even found an Uber-for-dogs kind of service that would deliver dogs. Their ideation and quick action is promising.

The group delivering the Greece wish seemed to focus on creating the Greece vibe in the classroom. I heard them talking about food, about renting furniture, about scents, about sand and sun. I’m eager to see if they actually transform the classroom into a Greek scene (particularly Santorini, which the grantee specifically mentioned).

Santorini Greece, by Pedro Szekely

What I am asking my students to do is something very new and scary for them. I want them to learn in an innovative way. Different is scary, I get that, so I do everything I can to give them the space and safety to try and to fail, to learn and to push further next time. They are still dipping their toes in the water. I hope soon they will decide to jump into the deep end, because I know they can swim. And even if they can’t, I have plenty of life preservers.

Beyond The Wish Game

I invite my students to work on a side hustle during the semester. I told them is The Wish Game is like their job, their 9-to-5 gig. They have to be there every day, it’s what pays the bills. But like an entrepreneur, they can also work on the side on an idea they want to start and grow.

Some students engaged this opportunity, others have not. I’ve given them tools to

  • identify a problem they are passionate about solving
  • identify who early adopters are for a potential solution
  • interview early adopters to validate a problem exists
  • pivot the problem and/or the early adopter segment
  • build an MVP landing page

A few students connect with me outside class asking for feedback and guidance on their side hustle. I see many of them working on something, but similar to a real scenario, they don’t spend much time on it because life takes over and this gets pushed aside. We debrief each week what some are doing, what they are learning, they ask me questions about various assumptions and curiosities they have around starting a business.

I give my students the tools through our learning management system and guide any of them who want guidance through the journey of turning their ideas into reality. This is an opportunity for them to engage or not, to make choices about how they spend their time and resources. Much like an entrepreneur must decide how to spend her time – with family or building a business – and his resources – on a vacation or building a business.

Want To Follow Doan’s Journey?

We will run a series of blog posts highlighting Doan’s journey throughout his semester-long Wish Game Course this Spring.

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Customer Interviewing: Valuable In Any Context

Customer Interviewing: Valuable In Any Context

As we highlighted previously, customer interviewing is a critical aspect of entrepreneurship. Whether starting a business, or working within a business to develop new products, understanding the experience of potential customers is necessary to deliver capture value in the marketplace.

Students need to practice customer interviewing in a variety of contexts. This helps them hone their skills, but also helps them realize the variety of situations where they can apply this skill in their career path.

The following exercise is an adaptation of the “Retooling Products to Reach New Markets: The Lindt Candy Dilemma” exercise Dr. Kimberly Eddleston at Northeastern University developed and shared here. We adapted it slightly to focus more on the customer interviewing opportunity.

Step 1: Explain the Activity

Pass out Lindt Lindor Chocolate Truffle Balls to students. I explain that when I was younger I would see these at my grandparents’ house during the holidays, and that you hated them when you were a kid. I want to create the expectation that the target market for these are the elderly during holidays.

Note: This is not Lindt’s targeting strategy. It helps me to create the learning lesson I’m looking for by creating the opposite customer persona from the one for whom I will ask them to design.

I instruct students to retool the chocolate truffle ball for a new audience – my son. I give them the following characteristics:

  • American boys age 10-14
  • Love candy & chocolate
  • No allergies
  • (really!) hip/cool parents
  • Always multitasking

I show them this picture of my son, and tell them this is my son, so they have a visual of their intended customer.

It is important to show them a picture of a new customer they can contact. If my class is during a time when my son is available (i.e., after his school), I will allow groups who ask to call my son to interview him. If my class happens when my son is in school, if groups ask to interview him, I answer questions on his behalf.

I direct students they will deliver a 90 second pitch for one product they develop based on the Lindt Lindor chocolate truffle ball that appeals to my son. I tell students they cannot develop any sort of M&M type candy, as this is the easy path.

My son judges the product pitches and picks a winner (if he is available he joins me for class, if he is not available I record the pitches and he watches them that night). Students include the following in their pitch:

  • Product name & tagline/slogan
  • Product concept/description (user experience, packaging, etc.)
  • Value proposition (the benefits the customer should expect)
  • Drawing of the product/packaging

Step 2: Launch the Activity

Organize students into groups of 4 or 5 members. Give students 30 minutes to develop their new product offering. Students will ask many questions about what they can and cannot do. For instance, they ask if they can change the wrapper, or if the new product has to have the filling, or if they need to include multiple flavors.

I will not answer most questions, as I want them operating under considerable ambiguity. I reply to all questions that their job is to create a version of the product that aligns with Lindt’s product portfolio but that is appealing to my son.

During this stage, students often spend far too much time on the idea generation phase. I walk around the room, reminding them of the time left. This creates some urgency for them to move beyond idea generation and complete all aspects of the assignment.

Students know they are designing a product for my son. If they ask me about my son’s preferences, I will sidestep those questions. I want students to not get information from a second-hand source, but to realize they have access to the actual customer. Some students ask to talk to my son, so I call him and let the team talk to him (if he is available).

If my son is not available, I will answer questions on his behalf as honestly as possible. If my son is available to judge at the end of class, I put him in a different room during the class, so students do not know he is there. All students will easily conclude they can interview him if he is in the room during the activity.

I want to make it possible, but not easy, for students to gather information directly from their intended target customer; I want them to take a risk and ask if they can call my son.

Students typically figure out or guess that my son is into video games. Those who talk to him, or ask me, find out he is a big fan of playing Minecraft. Many of these teams begin designing chocolate in the shape of Minecraft items (i.e., chests, animals, Steve, etc.) These have been the most common concepts from my students. I see a wide variety of tweaks to this general strategy – some include coupon codes for extras in the game, some include colored filling.

Teams who do not interview my son or I create a variety of products they think will be attractive to preteen boys. Ideas have included products themed around Fortnite or some other video game, Disney, Legos, Harry Potter, sports, emojis, etc. These are drastic failures as my son is singularly focused on gaming.

Some students have younger brothers or nephews who are the same age as my son. These groups often design a solution for those boys. Some will even call and interview their relative.

What they forget is that I told them the customer is my son. If his interests differ from those of their relative, they will design an ineffective product for my son.

Students who effectively interview my son or I realize the product my son wants is something he can easily and cleanly eat while playing video games. Winning products usually include packages that conveniently sit beside him or in his lap during gaming and include some sort of dunking product functionality.

Note: this will change drastically based on the person you choose as a new customer. Generally speaking, girls want a different product than boys, gamers want something different than athletes, etc. That is a valuable learning lesson to reiterate during debriefing.

Only one group in the many semesters I have conducted this exercise asked for feedback on their prototype. Because most groups spend so long on idea generation, they do not have time for multiple prototypes. This group, however, Facetimed my son multiple times with a variety of prototypes, each time gathering valuable feedback on his wants and needs. This group won by a landslide in that class. This is a valuable learning lesson to reiterate during debriefing.

Step 3: The Pitches

If my son is available, I bring him into the room and students pitch to him. If he is not available, students pitch to me, I record pitches and let them know my son will judge pitches that evening. Each team presents their product name, slogan, description and value proposition while showing their drawing.

After the pitches, if my son is in the room, he chooses the winner and explains his justification. If my son is not available, he watches the pitch recordings at night and looks at the drawings I bring home. In this case, he chooses a winner, and records a debrief video that I share with the class.

Step 4: Debrief the Exercise

This exercise forces students to reimagine an existing product instead of creating a new product. The key learning is about customer interviewing. I recommend using this exercise after students have been practicing interviewing around new ideas/products. This allows you to show them the value of interviewing in a new context, which reiterates this most important skill to entrepreneurs.

As Kimberly offers in her original post,

“Other entrepreneurship topics that this exercise effectively supports include the discussion of product life cycles, turning creative ideas into innovations, how to grow a business by reaching new markets, types of product development projects (i.e. derivatives, platform, breakthrough), creating a total product offering, and image compatibility in developing an effective advertising campaign.”

Discussion questions to ask students include:

  • What was the most difficult aspect of retooling the product? Why?
  • Did you think about interviewing my son? Why or why not? If you thought about it, and did not interview him, why not?
  • Did you think about asking my son (or I) for feedback on your prototype? Why or why not? If you thought about it, and did not ask him (or me), why not?
  • What lessons did you learn about new product development?

The main points to reiterate during the debrief:

  • If you know your customer segment, interview them! Don’t guess what they want, ask them what they want.
  • Do not get lost in idea generation. Quickly gather feedback on ideas/prototypes from your customer.
  • Customer wants/needs and jobs-to-be-done will differ drastically between target groups.

Get the “Customer Interviewing: Valuable In Any Context” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Customer Interviewing: Valuable In Any Context” exercise to walk you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.

 


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