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 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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
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
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.
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
Play in a room full of puppies (especially golden retrievers)
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).
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.
This year’s USASBE conference, a gathering of hundreds of the best experiential entrepreneurship instructors from around the world, was a harrowing one for us.
We survived a strep throat breakout, an unimaginably poorly timed dead laptop, an all-nighter prepping exercise kits, and lost luggage.
Despite the challenges, or perhaps because of them, this was our favorite conference yet. We shared, we learned, and we got energized to improve our product and process to provide you and your students more value.
This award is recognition for the work we all do, for the feedback and engagement you have generously provided over the past few years.
The recognition is not an arrival point, but is validation we are on the right track, and an inflection point to co-create even more value for our students.
After winning the 3E competition, Justin and Federico quickly turned their attention (until 4am!) to assembling curriculum kits for our happy hour.
Despite just three hours of sleep, Justin (we call him The Champ!) brought his full high-fiving, chair-jumping energy to the competition the next morning, presenting our Toothbrush Design Challenge with an unparalleled passion that inspired the audience and judges. It was a sight to behold.
We also sat down for an hour-long, 1-on-1 interview with Steve Blank on the future of entrepreneurship education.
Thanks to your questions, we had a fantastic conversation that covered:
the ideal class an entrepreneurship major should include,
the weaknesses of customer development and Lean Startup,
the academic research around Lean Startup, and
how to balance exposing students to the harsh realities of entrepreneurship, while still making entrepreneurial skills accessible to all students
Click here for the full video as soon as it’s released!
And of course, we had a wonderful time hosting happy hour on Friday night. We celebrated our collective success, and enjoyed demoing some new ExEC lesson plans:
Thank you, for supporting us, for challenging us, and for sharing our passion with your students and colleagues. Our success doesn’t happen without you!
Florida was an amazing host, but we’re already planning for next year’s USASBE conference in New Orleans. We hope you join us!
If you want to introduce your students to the #1 Experiential Entrepreneurship Exercise, request a preview of ExEC here
“I can see this course will be the furthest thing from what I had anticipated – but in a great way!” – Jessie S. (student)
I learned about The Wish Game that Rebeca Hwang conducts in her Stanford entrepreneurship course, and my mind exploded with ideas for my MBA course! I threw out my plans for that course and redesigned the entire course around this one activity.
A Quick Review
Students write down big, specific wishes, such as being able to meet a celebrity, or visiting a certain place. The professor chooses one person to be the wish grantee, and the rest of the class works all week to deliver that wish at the beginning of the next class session.
This exercise is about hyper-collaboration, so all students benefit by working together under considerable constraints. I saw this as a powerful path to students learning entrepreneurial skills like ideation, customer interviewing, prototyping, selling, and mobilizing resources through iteratively practicing them.
Learning My Students’ Perspective
I purposely did not share my syllabus or any details of my class with my students prior to the first day. They tried (hard!) to get details, but I remained stoic in my refusal to ruin the surprise.
On the first day of class, I introduced myself, highlighting some details about me that show students I tend do things differently. The kind of details I shared:
I met my wife at a rest area while on the way to Grateful Dead shows
I hitchhiked from New York to Detroit
I have been banned from Canada
Here is my “Who Am I?” slide I show
All 27 students introduced themselves by sharing their name, favorite concert, and something unique or interesting about themselves.
I want to understand the context my students exist in when they are in my course, so I next put them through the Fears and Curiosities exercise. In this exercise, students post Post-It Notes on the wall that contain
the things they fear when thinking about life after their MBA, and
the things they are curious about when thinking about life after their MBA
What they fear most is not enjoying their job, not making enough money, and not being successful.
What they are most curious about relates to finding & enjoying their job, to maintaining & building new relationships, and to relocating/independence.
I explained to the students that the skills they would practice in this class would help them directly address those fears, and directly explore those curiosities.
I next wanted to understand how these students conceptualized “entrepreneurship” and “innovation”, so I showed this slide:
The students identified fairly typical topics, such as:
Ideas / opportunities
Customer and Market Research
We discussed why these topics, I added some of my own from my experience, and then I moved into introducing the course.
Students sat up straight. I saw the anticipation building in them. It was really cool to watch!
I explained the core skills I invited them to practice throughout the course:
After this point, just to build the anticipation to a fever pitch, I asked students how they were feeling. Aaron G. said
“I think this class will challenge me in new ways that I have not been challenged in before, and quite frankly, I imagine they are the things I need to work on most.”
Introducing The Wish Game
I finally introduced The Wish Game, explaining they would each come to class next week with three wishes and their name written on a piece of paper. I stressed these wishes needed to be specific, they should be meaningful, and they should be big, and let them know we’d come back to that to practice a bit so they understood better. Next I explained the following steps we would follow:
I saw blank stares of complete confusion, maybe dismay, a healthy dose of fear, and a pinch of regret here and there. But what I saw overwhelmingly was a mix of curiosity and excitement.
“This is the unknown. It scares me, but excites me at the same time. I feel safe because I believe Doan will be a good guide on this journey. But I also feel scared, because it is such a different way of learning. I can’t wait to get started!” – Michael (student)
There are a few ground rules I shared with the students:
Do nothing illegal, & nothing you wouldn’t tell your grandmother about face-to-face
I contribute $50 per wish, and each of them contribute $10 per wish. Unused funds roll over to the following week
If they want to meet somewhere other than our classroom to deliver the wish, they had to tell me by Sunday evening
Practicing The Wish Game
My three wishes would be:
Have a conversation with my sister Laura, who passed away in 1998
Walk on Saturn
Hit the winning shot of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game
I guided the students through brainstorming how they would deliver the Saturn wish next Tuesday. One student mentioned I would need a space suit, so they could buy a space suit costume from Amazon. Many students Googled facts about Saturn – one mentioned the temperature there is -178 degrees Celsius. Another student volunteered that they should fill the costume with ice so I would be REALLY cold.
Some students began discussing the possibilities of using virtual reality. They assumed someone built a program about Saturn, so I encouraged them to find out. They couldn’t find one so they abandoned that idea.
One students suggested rigging me up in a bungee apparatus and suspending me from the ceiling so I felt weightless. (Now we were talking!)
Once the buzz rose to a crescendo and I knew the students were thoroughly excited and engaged in brainstorming ideas to deliver my wish, I gave them their task for the next week. It was to pilot test their wish-granting skills with my son (he’s the good-looking one in the middle down there).
We chose the “See the Mona Lisa” wish. After collecting money, the students had $330 available to spend (I let the students know that if they had financial hardship, they did not have to contribute, so some did not). The class set about brainstorming again.
Some mentioned virtual reality. Some mentioned drawing it on the board. Others mentioned purchasing a replica. One woman asked if she could interview my son. I called him and they asked him questions about why this wish, what it was about the Mona Lisa he liked, had he been to France, etc.
Many of their questions were very ambiguous questions that my 13 year old son had some trouble answering, but some were pretty specific about what he liked about the painting. He mentioned he liked the simplicity. And he mentioned he liked bread and cheese.
Eventually, the class settled on trying to recreate the scene of the room in which the Mona Lisa sits.
A couple students mentioned they have been in that room, that the painting is actually very small, that there are tons of people there and you can’t really see the painting. Students made suggestions about bringing in tons of people, about playing French music, about having people mill around and speak French. The brainstorming and organization was understandably chaotic this first time.
Because I have 27 students in my class, many of them sat silent through this process and a few took the lead. I imagined this might happen, and secretly hoped it did.
I wanted students to feel left out, because I wanted them to come back next week and suggest I split the class in two and deliver two wishes each week (one per group). With 13 weeks in the semester and 27 students, delivering two per week would be great. I wanted the students to want to participate, and to design a solution where everyone could be more engaged. More on that later.
Delivering The Wish
Student did not contact me during the week, other than some fun texts of versions of the Mona Lisa they thought my son might like better than the original, like this one:
I arrived with my son before class and had him sequestered where he couldn’t see the students constructing the wish. I must say I was disappointed at their effort – here is what they brought:
A framed replica of the painting – but much larger than the real one
Baguettes and a variety of cheeses cut on a cutting board
Grape juice in plastic flutes (I told them no champagne, or they would have brought champagne)
A set of retractable belts like you see in airport TSA lines (to block off the painting)
They rested the painting on the whiteboard trough where the markers go, put the retractable belts in front of it, set a chair there, with the bread, cheese and drinks on a table next to it, played French music, and said I should bring my son in.
The next 5 or so minutes were probably the most awkward of my entire life. My son entered, wasn’t sure what to do, nobody said anything, he made his way to the chair, sat for a few minutes, ate some cheese, thanked them for the wish, and left.
We debriefed the experience. Students discussed their confusion, the chaos of brainstorming, and of delegating tasks. We talked about expectations of doing the minimum – doing what is safe – or of stretching for what seems impossible – doing what is uncomfortable. Students shared what they learned – some talked about how difficult collaboration is when the goal is uncertain.
Some talked about how important it was to talk to my son to understand why that particular wish is important to him. Others talked about the frustration of not knowing how they could and should contribute, and also about entrepreneurship being hard. I showed the lessons I hoped we learned (which we absolutely did):
I saw lightbulbs coming on about the potential of this exercise as a learning tool for entrepreneurship and innovation. A realization creeped across their faces that they missed an opportunity. As one student anonymously informed me after class,
“I am sorry we failed in delivering Ethan the experience he dreamed of. We fell short of our potential. Now we understand that we can go big!”
I urged them to take risks, to think big, to put themselves in the wish grantee’s shoes. We talked about how awesome it would have been for Ethan to walk into the room and actually imagine himself being in that room in the Louvre.
I challenged my students that they were capable of recreating that room, and that they missed an opportunity. Not an opportunity to make my son happy, but an opportunity to prove to themselves they could make it happen.
(I felt like what I imagine an Indiana High School basketball coach feels like after a HUGE halftime speech to energize his players).
Playing the Wish Game Again
One student did raise his hand and suggested it was really difficult for 27 students to feel engaged in one wish. Another student piggybacked on this and suggested we split the class into two groups, so that 26 students could have wishes granted instead of just 13. YES!!!!!
We split the class into two groups. I drew two pieces of paper. One had the following three wishes:
Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Repel down the clock tower at John Carroll University
Sail around the world
The group decided to deliver the wish about the clock tower. This is the highest point on our campus. It will be basically impossible for them to pull this off in reality because nobody is allowed in the clock tower (due to liability concerns), but I’m excited to see what they come up with for this!
The other piece of paper had the following three wishes:
Pitch at a Chicago Cubs game
Start a successful business
Win the lottery
The other group decided to deliver the wish about pitching at a Cubs game. Again, not at all possible to deliver in reality, but I’m excited to see what they come up with.
Thoughts on The Wish Game
The experience so far has been what I hoped. The students struggled to grasp the concept. Some jumped in and tried with my son’s wish. They failed at delivering an effective wish, they realized the potential they have, and became very excited .
As one student mentioned to me on the way out of class:
“We are 27 John Carroll University MBA students in an entrepreneurship class. If we can’t take advantage of this opportunity, shame on us. We are excited to do better”
In what I take to be a very good signal for the future of The Wish Game, 12 students emailed me after class Tuesday evening (after 10pm) with three new wishes and asked if they could update their wishes because their original ones were not big enough! This is going to be a fun journey.
An Added Wrinkle Beyond The Wish Game
I knew that The Wish Game wouldn’t be enough for an MBA level entrepreneurship course. I firmly believe it is a vessel in which students can practice critical entrepreneurial skills while practicing generosity and giving. But I was worried it would not be sufficient workload for them.
After we debriefed my son’s wish delivery and before selecting new wishes for the next week, I talked to my students about entrepreneurship in reality. I told them that most people start entrepreneurial projects, ideas, products, services as a side hustle. They had their 9-to-5 gig that paid the bills and gave them stability, but they practiced and built their passion in the off hours and on the weekends.
I told my students that The Wish Game was our 9-to-5 gig that paid the bills; each week they turn in a reflection on that week’s experience, that I grade with the following rubric.
Just like entrepreneurs who work on their side hustle, I want students to have the opportunity to work on ideas they are passionate about. I asked students to share a 30 second video in a discussion board on our learning management system about an idea they are passionate about.
Specifically, I asked them to state the problem they want to solve, what group of people experience that problem, and what their solution to that problem is. I asked students to watch every video, and let me know the top three ideas they want to work on.
This semester I will 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 will happen mostly outside of class time and will not be graded.
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.
Rebeca Hwang recently introduced us to The Wish Game – an exercise she uses in her E145 Technology Entrepreneurship class at Stanford University. We all want to increase the intensity and success of teamwork in our courses. Through this exercise, Rebeca accomplished just that.
After hearing Rebeca share about this exercise, our co-founder Doan Winkel realized it could be so much more. He saw it as a transformative entrepreneurship training ground. Doan transformed his upcoming MBA class into one semester-long Wish Game. He will be sharing his journey throughout the Spring semester – follow the journey to see how it goes.
The Wish Game As An Exercise
“Every week, I was looking forward to the Wish Game. It created a sense of excitement all around.” – ENGR145 Student
Step 1: Sharing Wishes
On the first day of class, Rebeca asks students to write down three wishes on one piece of paper. She encourages no boundaries here; examples Rebeca shared include meeting Mark Zuckerberg, or getting a job at Google.
Throughout her E145 Technology Entrepreneurship class, Rebeca chooses one person’s paper from a hat and the rest of the class, working as one, fulfills that wish. If one student significantly helps fulfill a wish, that student gets his/her wish fulfilled next. Paying it forward is a critical part of the Wish Game and an overall goal Rebeca has to WOW her students.
In Rebeca’s class, The Wish Game is about hyper-collaboration; if her students work together under considerable constraints, they all benefit.
Step 2: Planning the Wish
When a wish is picked, students interview the student whose wish was picked. Their goal is to dig beneath the surface of the chosen student’s wish. Rebeca reported that often what the chosen student wants isn’t exactly what they wrote on the paper.
Through this process, students build stronger relationships with each other, and understand the hopes and dreams of each other.
Students practice their interviewing skills each week as they work to better understand how to deliver a truly amazing experience for the chosen student.
Through planning and executing wishes, The Wish Game:
pushes students to think about what resources and assets they have,
pushes them to share those with peers
enables students to build lasting relationships, and
enables students to positively impact on each other.
The Wish Game as a Course
“When I heard Rebeca describe The Wish Game, I sat up straight in my chair and began scribbling ideas on my notebook. I immediately understood the potential this exercise had to be the perfect playground for my entrepreneurship students.” – Doan Winkel
Step 1: Sharing Wishes
The first thing Doan will do in Day 1 of his MBA class (held for 3 hours once per week) is to ask students to imagine their three biggest wishes. He will encourage his students to write down the ones that scare them or make them a little giddy when they imagine that reality. To model this, he will share his three big wishes:
Have a conversation with his sister Laura, who died more than 20 years ago
Step foot on Saturn
Hit the winning shot in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game
Step 2: Planning the Wish
Doan will invite students to talk through how they would plan his wish to step foot on Saturn.
He will push them to think creatively about how they would create that scenario. Doan will challenge them to get into an uncomfortable place in terms of what they think they can accomplish and what they think is possible. His main tool here would be “What if . . .” prompts to push the students to think bigger, or to believe they can execute their ideas.
At the end of this discussion, he will lay out the course structure, as follows, for each subsequent week:
Doan will pick a piece of paper at the beginning of Week 2.
Students will select a leader – a student in charge of strategy and execution.
Students interview the chosen student to better understand the desire for the wish, because often what people share about their hopes and dreams is only surface-level. Doan wants his students to practice digging deep beneath that surface to understand the impetus for the wish. By perfecting their interviewing skills, the students will be more capable of delivering value to their “customer” (the student getting the wish granted in this case).
Once students feel they have a good understanding of the true wish, Doan will excuse the chosen student for the week so the remaining students can plan the wish.
Students plan the wish and deliver it at the beginning of the next class (one week later).
Rinse and repeat; Doan chooses another student and the process begins again.
If one student significantly helps fulfill a wish, that student gets his/her wish fulfilled next. Otherwise, Doan will choose another piece of paper for the subsequent week.
Doan will encourage students to mobilize their resources each week. This could take the form of money (he will set the expectation that each student should contribute $10 to each wish). He will help students understand how to use their network. Perhaps people in their network could contribute advice, or materials, or participation.
Step 3: Assessing the Wish
Doan will assess students in two ways.
Each chosen student will write a reflection one-pager, sharing his/her perspective of the experience, and grading the accuracy and the impact of the delivered wish.
Each student who delivered the wish will write a reflection one-pager, sharing his/her perspective of the experience and grading their effort in that wish delivery.
The Wish Game as Entrepreneurship
What excited Doan so much about Rebeca’s Wish Game exercise was the possibility of his students practicing entrepreneurship skills while doing something impactful for others. Each week, students will practice, at minimum, the following skills that are critical elements of entrepreneurship education:
develop and evaluate ideas
iteratively prototype under time constraints
mobilize and deploy limited resources
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.
“This was by far the best course I have taken at Stanford, absolutely amazing curriculum.”
Rebeca explains the PBP is a way for students to apply the tools learned during their entrepreneurship course to something near and dear to their hearts…themselves!
To make the elements of the business model relevant, faculty force students to think of themselves as a company. Students do this assignment individually, and ultimately must figure out how they offer value to their world.
“The entrepreneurial process is at its core concerned with ‘the pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources already under control.’ This process is as applicable to your career as it is to starting a company. The goal of this assignment is to identify where you want to be and how you will get there. Do not worry about your current resources. Think about this with an entrepreneurial mindset.”
Most important of all, the assignment works, and Rebeca’s students love it.
“make sure you spend a lot of time on the personal business plan, it is worth it! I wish I had spent more time on mine, and will in the future because I think it’s very valuable to think about what your plans and possibilities for life are.”
“Through the personal business plan, it really helped reevaluate what I desire and would like to pursue in life.”
Below is an overview of the Personal Business Plan assignment. For full details, check out the complete lesson plan below.
The Personal Business Plan
Students write at most five (5) pages answering questions about their future vision (such as “What are your values?” and “What personal or professional skills would you most like to develop?”) and about their present plans and passions (such as “What opportunities could help you to achieve your future vision?” and “How will you reach, connect with or influence your customers?”). The full question sets are available in the lesson plan.
In addition to answering these questions, students include at least one exhibit within their five (5) page limit, which can be “any combination of graphics or quantitative analysis [they] desire”.
Examples of exhibits professors give students are:
A resume (current and/or future)
A decision tree showing paths to a number of future career options
A specific “short list” of attractive jobs, company names, and key audiences
Segmentation of different organizations’ readiness to accept your value package using Geoffrey Moore’s adopter categories
A chart addressing the risks, mitigation strategies, etc. associated with your Reality Test
Faculty give students required and recommended readings/viewings to help them prepare an effective Personal Business Plan, all of which are available in the full lesson plan.
In using sources, guide students with the following:
“Failure to use at least one concept from one of the readings will lower your grade. We will reward skill and creativity in applying the concepts with higher grades. On the other hand, don’t get carried away with citing too many sources. We are less interested in having you paraphrase what other people think and more interested in seeing how you think.”
Grading the Personal Business Plan
A team of two graders reads each PBP. One grades in detail, the other reads to make sure the first grader is not too difficult or too easy a grader.
Because this assignment is about trust at its core, students choose who grades their assignment.
Students are reminded that the grade is not an evaluation of their choice of career path or current life plan, and that only they can decide if their choices will bring them happiness and success.
Professor Tom Kosnik developed a robust grading rubric for this assignment, which is included at the end of the lesson plan.
Because this assignment is worth 20% of their grade, students take it very seriously. Because this assignment is about them and their future, students invest tremendously in it, and receive incredible value from doing it.
We are grateful to Rebeca Hwang, Tom Kosnik, and the faculty who teach E145 Technology Entrepreneurship at Stanford University for sharing this amazing exercise.
Because students are applying business model components to themselves, they deeply engage in learning these components and have a very clear understanding how to apply them.
Through this assignment, students will learn to see themselves as a company, and that they must continuously invest in and develop a plan for. They will also deeply embrace the tools and methodologies they learned in the course because they are applying them to their future. They will see that learning is meaningful when applied to a personal context.
Get the “Personal Business Plan” Lesson Plan
We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Personal Business Plan” exercise to walk you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.
It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.
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Rebeca Hwang works in one of the most competitive teaching environments, with some of the most demanding students in the country. In that context her entrepreneurship class achieves a stunningly high (96%+) positive feedback rating. Her evaluations include quotes like “one of the best classes at Stanford”. Students recommend her course to others by describing the life-long impact she’s had on them.
We wanted to learn how Rebeca creates such a transformative and highly regarded course. My colleague Justin Wilcox reached out for a conversation, and Rebeca graciously agreed to share some of her secrets.
During the conversation, we discovered several things Rebeca does differently in her ENGR 145 Technology Entrepreneurship class than most of us entrepreneurship instructors. Below we lay out four Rebeca-inspired-techniques to create a more engaging, challenging and life-changing learning environment:
Treat your students like customers (WOW! them),
Practice reciprocity culture
Provide in-depth feedback with objective rubrics
Most of us strive to create memorable experiences for our students. Few of us can actually WOW our students. Rebeca is one of those amazing few. She tells her course assistants
“We are not teaching a class, we are serving a customer.”
and that their goal is “to wow our customer, to understand and empathize with them, and how the content of what we are delivering to them is going to affect their lives.”
This principle of WOWing customers is the foundation upon which every other principle she adds to the class is built. Treating her students like she would treat customers creates a significantly higher quality learning experience for her students.
What is so impactful is that Rebeca models for her students how to treat the customers in their lives – namely, future employers, coworkers, friends, family members, partners, etc.
The Wish Game
“the Wish Game was amazing because our professor really went out of her ways to complete them, even though they were completely out of her job criteria.” – ENGR145 Student
“Every week, I was looking forward to the Wish Game. It created a sense of excitement all around.” – ENGR145 Student
One way she WOWs her students is through The Wish Game, which Rebeca uses as a path to teamwork and hyper-collaboration. On the first day, Rebeca asks students to write down three wishes on a piece of paper.
These can be anything at all. They have ranged from the mundane to the fascinating to the unreal. Examples are getting a job at Google, meeting Mark Zuckerberg, or meeting Steve Jobs (a real student request after he passed away!).
Every week Rebeca chooses one person’s paper from a hat and one of their wishes gets fulfilled. The entire class as a whole works to fulfill the wish. If one student significantly helps fulfill a wish, that student gets his/her wish fulfilled next. Paying it forward is a critical part of WOWing the students.
The Wish Game isn’t about competition, it’s about hyper-collaboration because if her students help each other, they all benefit.
After picking a wish, students start interviewing the student whose wish was picked. They want to find out what their wish really is, as often it isn’t exactly what is written on the paper. Through this process, students get to know each other, build stronger relationships with each other, and understand the hopes and dreams of each other.
This also helps students practice their interviewing skills, which are a critical skill they work to develop in the course. The Wish Game is fun, but it’s a powerful learning and growth opportunity as well.
The Wish Game pushes students to think about what resources and assets they have, and pushes them to share those with peers. It enables students to build lasting relationships, and to make a positive impact on each other.
Teaching & Modeling Reciprocity Culture
“Before this class, I never thought about how important being able to socialize and make friends is to being an entrepreneur, and mostly just focused on developing my technical skills in the hopes that one day I could use them to start a business. But as we learned in class, in order to get investors, employees, partners, and customers, being able to make friends is one of the most important skills of a successful entrepreneur” – ENGR145 Student
As a veteran of Silicon Valley and of entrepreneurial ecosystems, Rebeca understands that “networking and telling stories are such important components of entrepreneurship.” A big focus of her class is teaching students the fundamentals of what makes a working relationship last.
From day one, students are networking – they have to find team members during the first class session, they learn to talk about their skills and experiences, but also their failures and dreams.
Rebeca shares with her students the tactics to approach someone who is senior to them, and tactics to write an email so people will respond. She focuses intensely on very tactical networking skills that will help student succeed in their Silicon Valley surroundings and beyond.
The most valuable skill Rebeca teaches her students is the principle of reciprocity, which is
“the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by one country or organization to another.”
She urges her students to think, before meeting a person, what can they provide that person. In building a relationship it is important to have a strong willingness to learn, but it is equally important to listen well and to desire to give back.
Through a consistent message of reciprocity, Rebeca teaches her students that “those who succeed are valuable to the network.” She has found it is quite contagious in her students once she plants the seeds of this mindset.
“[this course] taught me that successful people are the ones who actually get out and try – and don’t even consider failure.” – ENGR145 Student
“I used to often not got to events or apply for opportunities because I thought I would fail anyway. But not trying is already a failure and if I try and fail, I may learn something in the process.” – ENGR145 Student
When Rebeca and her course assistants introduce themselves to students on day one, they start with “My name is ______, and I’m going to share a failure with you.” From the first moment, Rebeca works to make failure a part of her class’ culture, to normalize it for her students so when it happens they can navigate it as a learning experience.
Through a variety of experiences, Rebeca brings the realities of entrepreneurship into her course, including failure. She brings in a litany of speakers to share stories with her students.
These speakers are not typical entrepreneurs, but have all done amazing things outside entrepreneurship. Things like climbing Mount Everest without oxygen. Or running ultramarathons. Rebeca carefully chooses speakers who can teach her students that in anything in life, extremes aren’t necessarily bad in terms of dreaming and aiming high.
She wants her students to hear realistic stories of small failures and struggling to achieve big goals. Rebeca introduces them to the depression and founder suicide problems in Silicon Valley. She wants them to know about grinding it out, about sleepless nights, about not getting the meeting, or not getting the next meeting.
Failure is a major aspect of entrepreneurship, and Rebeca doesn’t shy away from this in her course. She wants her students to embrace failure as a reality and a chance to learn and grow.
In-Depth Feedback With Objective Rubrics
Assessment is something we all struggle with. How can we be effective and efficient? Rebeca found her magic combination in well-defined rubrics that students get ahead of time and personal in-depth feedback.
Rebeca gives her students all the rubrics on the first day of class. They therefore feel comfortable because they know their grade won’t be an arbitrary decision. They can see their pathway to the grade they want or need for graduate school, for a scholarship, or to keep mom and dad happy.
Rebeca spends roughly three (3) hours per day outside class working with students. This includes personal interactions, office hours, and always providing in-depth feedback on student progress and projects.
What Can You Do?
Rebeca Hwang’s formula for success in her course is WOWing customers, modeling reciprocity, normalizing failure, and using a very clear and personal feedback system.
We each approach our courses differently, due to our own backgrounds and experiences, and due to our institutional context and culture. Rebeca shows us that within the walls of our classroom, and within the minds of our students, we can achieve extraordinary results.
We can inspire our students, we can change their career trajectory, we can teach them skills to decipher their world. The list of gifts we can offer our students is endless.
Rebeca found a formula that has proven extremely successful; as one of Rebeca’s students said:
“If you are considering a future as an entrepreneur and don’t know where to start from, take this course. If you have an idea but are looking to explore how it can work in the silicon valley, take this course. If you just want to learn how to be a team player, take THIS Course!”
What is your formula?
The Nitty Gritty of Rebeca’s Class
Rebeca’s students are mostly upperclass undergraduate students, and roughly 1/3 are international students. Most of Rebeca’s these desire to start a company at some point, and they are a solid interdisciplinary mix of designers, creatives, engineers, and business experts.
Because some students have started companies and some have not, Rebeca’s students have different relationships with entrepreneurship; they have some exposure to it and are very interested in learning more about it, but they come to the course with different levels of expertise.
Rebeca doesn’t focus on building expertise in the usual conceptualization. Her students learn about the spirit of entrepreneurship; she approaches her class as giving students tools, methodologies, and strategies they can use in life. Students experience an emphasis on acquiring a skill set to decide what career to pursue and to solve problems in all aspects of their life.
Here is the full interview with Rebeca in case you would like to dive deeper on any aspects.
Who is Rebeca Hwang?
Prior to co-founding Rivet Ventures a venture capital firm that invests in male and female founders that target women-led markets, Rebeca Hwang co-founded YouNoodle, Cleantech Open, and Startup Malaysia. Rebeca was educated at MIT and Stanford and has been recognized as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and as one of the top 35 under 35 Global Innovators by MIT Tech Review.
Rebeca serves on the Global Board of Kauffman’s Global Entrepreneurship Network. She was born in Seoul, raised in Argentina and educated in the US, and has worked closely with several countries on their national startup programs, including Malaysia, South Korea, Spain, Iceland, Chile and Mexico, and was a member of the Board of Advisors of the Mexico-U.S. Entrepreneurship and Innovation Council.
Recently listed by Forbes as one of their 20 inspiring young female founders to follow on Twitter, Rebeca is a frequent speaker at global conferences on entrepreneurship. Her TED talk on the power of diversity within yourself has been viewed nearly 1.5 million times.
Want More from Rebeca and Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Program?
We’re running a series of blog posts highlighting Rebeca’s outstanding class, including a number of exercises she runs in her class. Subscribe below to ensure you get those.
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Want More Engaging Exercises?
The Updated Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC)
At least that’s what we’re trying to do. The feedback from our pilot professors tells us we are doing pretty well. There have been hiccups, and learning moments, but our agile team and processes have allowed us to respond promptly and create an engaging user experience for both professors and students.
Now in Over 40 Universities
At this point last year, our the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) was in roughly 20 schools. Strong demand for a structured, experiential, 15-week entrepreneurship curriculum has doubled the number of universities we’re in.
Of course, being a new venture determined to help students learn how to create new ventures, we’re adamant that we…
Practice what we preach!
We gather feedback from professors and students after each lesson. Through this, we focus on how they felt teaching the lesson (professors) or completing the lesson (students):
We interview professors multiple times during the semester. Our team invites students to talk with us so we can learn more about how they feel living the curriculum, what we are missing, and what we are doing well.
We work tremendously hard to gather, analyze, and constantly make updates for next semester, not “next revisions” like traditional textbooks. The ExEC you see today is a result of our vision and assumptions, continuously tested with students and professors around the world.
While we gather a ton of feedback from our professors, but perhaps the best way to sum up their perspective is what Dr. Chris Welter had to say:
“It’s the software I’ve been looking for for 3 or 4 years . . . I really appreciate the ability for students to get their hands dirty”
New Professor Platform
After practicing what we preach and talking extensively with our professors, it was clear we needed to make some changes to our Professor Portal. We practice what we preach in building our product.
Our original professor-facing version was Google Docs, Slides, and PDFs:
It worked as an MVP and allowed us to test a variety of our assumptions, but ultimately our professors told us Google Docs was too cumbersome to use, and to print from.
So we built a brand new professor platform for our entrepreneurship curriculum! We are currently beta-testing this platform and will roll it out in Fall 2019:
We deliver each of our 31 lessons in a standard format, that includes six core elements for easy navigation and execution for our professors:
1. The Goals and objectives of that lesson. We frame each lesson in practical terms for our professors so they quickly understand why the lesson is important, and what their students will learn.
2. An overview showing where that lesson fits into the scheme and flow of the overall curriculum. We understand it is useful to always understand the big picture – where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going. We also map our entrepreneurship curriculum flow onto the Business Model Canvas to highlight what lessons are applicable for particular boxes on the Canvas.
3. An overview video explaining the lesson, and Google Slides for classroom use. Our goal is for our professors to succeed, and that means providing information and tools. Some use slides and some do not, but we offer them just in case. We know some prefer videos to long text, so we offer both, just in case.
4. Instructions for how to prepare before class, including all the necessary resources. Experiential education is really difficult to execute. We provide our professors with a ton of direction to prepare for each lesson. We want them to succeed, and we want their students to remember each and every learning experience throughout the entrepreneurship curriculum.
5. A minute-by-minute exhaustive outline for delivering the lesson during class. What can we say, we are a but obsessive at times. But we figured more detail was better than less detail.
6. Instructions for what students could and should be doing after class. Let’s be honest – what happens after the class is just as important to a student’s learning experience as what happens within the confines of the particular class period.
While testing our first version, one need we heard consistently from professors was guidance on how to assess their students. They loved the experiential nature of the exercises, but they were not always clear on how they could help students understand their progression through the understanding and application of that content. So we built an Assessment Guide into our updated entrepreneurship curriculum to help our professors provide quality feedback to students throughout the process.
During the semester, students progress through 5 Validation Check-Ins. These are basically progressive pitches that act as the main opportunity for assessment. We give our professors rubrics and detailed guidance on how to assess the students’ documents and pitches.
Our goal with assessment is not just to help professors provide a grade, but to help professors provide meaningful and timely feedback to students.
One of the other pieces of feedback we got early on was that professors wanted to use us as the sole resource for their class. To do that though, we needed to add some breadth, in addition to our depth.
We feel confident we cover idea generation, customer interviewing, business modeling, and prototyping comprehensively, but what about finance, legal issues, branding, etc.?
So we conducted an extensive analysis of entrepreneurship curriculum, textbooks and syllabi, and interviewed dozens of the most respected entrepreneurship professors and entrepreneurs. Our goal was to understand what information would be most useful for students beyond our core offering. From that research, we developed an extensive Resource Guide that currently includes 17 modules.
These modules are by no means an complete exploration of the particular topic. Instead we offer an overview of the topic, a deep dive into some of the basics and the critical components of the topic, and then recommend an extensive list of curated resources and readings of that particular topic.
We want our professors to feel comfortable knowing if they recommend their students go through one of our Resource Guides, they will emerge with a solid understanding of the topic and how to apply that content to their context.
We are not the experts all of these topics, but have done considerable research to better inform our professors around these topics of interest. What we offer within each resource guide is an evolving list of additional resources (articles, books, videos, etc.) for students to continue their learning of a particular topic, or for professors to use as additional resources.
This Resource Guide is an evolving offering. As we hear from professors using our ExEC curriculum, or the community of 3,200+ professors reading our blog, that a certain topic is critical in entrepreneurship education, we will build a Resource Guide ourselves, or invite subject-matter experts to help us build one.
Our last major update is integrating with Canvas, D2L, Moodle and Blackboard. In our first version, students and professors had to download and upload documents, assignments, slides, and other materials. We heard loud and clear that this was not a great user experience.
We now offer the capability of uploading all our content neatly into the four learning management systems mentioned above. This will greatly reduce the setup time for our professors, and will provide a more comfortable learning process for the students.
As you can see, we have been hard at work learning what works and what doesn’t with ExEC. We constantly gather feedback from students and from professors. With this feedback, we strive to provide the ultimate experiential learning opportunity to entrepreneurship educators.
Now’s Your Chance!
We’ve been updating our curriculum and platform based on feedback from hundreds of professors and thousands of students. If you are looking for a fully structured, experiential entrepreneurship curriculum, with 15 weeks of lesson plans that students love, an in-depth complementary Resource Guide, and a comprehensive Assessment Guide, you should check out ExEC.
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Over the last year we learned what you and the rest of our community of over 3,000 entrepreneurship teachers want to make your classroom environment more engaging and rigorous for your students.
Here, we share our entrepreneurship professor’s 5 favorite lesson plans. These transform students’ experience through experiential lessons around ideation, customer interaction, and prototyping.
5. Syllabus Co-Creation
In our Syllabus Co-creation lesson plan, we provide an interactive experience to engage your students by turning their problems into your syllabus. This is a powerful way to launch a semester by creating for students an authentic feeling of what it’s like to be the customer.
Our goal with this lesson plan is to give you a way to make entrepreneurship relevant to all your students. We provide a roadmap to show how what you’ll teach will be relevant to them right now. Specifically, through this exercise, you’ll show students:
You care about their problems and fears
They will learn the skills to solve their problems
Students will see exactly how and when they will acquire the skills to address their biggest problems and fears during your course.
Your students will be engaged, because you will be engaging them.
A great way to follow up the Syllabus Co-Creation is our Why Business Plans Fail lesson. During this day, students experience the marshmallow challenge to understand why business model experimentation can be more effective than business planning.
While variations of the Marshmallow Challenge have been around for a while, we found the vast majority of students have still never done it.
Students will experience the pitfalls of hidden assumptions first-hand so they can more easily validate their business model assumptions later in your course.
This class will be fun and high energy for you, and your students. Our lesson plan guides you through two iterations of an 18 minute, fast-paced construction challenge where students learn that invalidated assumptions lead to failure. Your classroom will be loud, it will be full of anxiety and excitement, and ultimately full of failing and the glorious learning that comes from it.
Our goal with this lesson is to introduce a high-intensity activity that teaches students:
The pitfalls of business plans
Why assumption identification, and assumption validation, are critical to creating success companies
Why iterations and experiments are the key to validating their business assumptions
Most people think the heart of entrepreneurship is the idea. 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 one of 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.
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.
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.
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.
By far, our most popular lesson plan 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:
Upscale 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.