Browsed by
Category: Lesson Plans

Financial Projection Simulator [ExEC Online: Express Pack]

Financial Projection Simulator [ExEC Online: Express Pack]

To help with the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve fast-tracked the development of new online-ready exercises – which you can use individually or as a set – called the ExEC Online: Express pack, available free through June.

Our second lesson, Financial Projection Simulator (FPS), is ready for you to use!

Making Finance Fun

Even in the best of times, students struggle to engage with and understand the financial elements of entrepreneurship. Of course, this topic is critically important, especially during times of economic uncertainty like we’re facing now.

To help make entrepreneurial finance more accessible to all students, we designed our Financial Projection Simulator to teach financial modeling, with a fun, game-like experience.

Encourage Experimentation

The Financial Projection Simulator leads students through an experimentation process where they make different assumptions about their financial model, including their:

  • Product price
  • Cost of Customer Acquisition
  • Employee salaries (including benefits & taxes)
  • Initial capital investments
  • Etc.

And as they enter their assumptions, the simulator automatically calculates the financial sustainability of their business, giving students a Red, Yellow or Green assessment:

teaching finance in entrepreneurship

This question-based approach forces students to think through the major elements of a financial model in an approachable way. Plus, the real-time feedback encourages students to get creative, iterating their business model until they find one that’s profitable.

Engage Your Students

Like all of our lessons, the Financial Projection Simulator uses several resources to create an experiential, interactive experience for students online, including:

  • Step-by-step videos for students
  • Overview videos for you, like this:


When combined, these tools create an engaging experience for your students (even when they’re learning about finance ;).

Get the Financial Projection Simulator

Get All Four Free Lessons

The ExEC Online: Express Pack is a collection of free, interactive, online entrepreneurship lessons available through the rest of this term that you can easily plug into your class individually or as a set.

In addition to Financial Projection Simulator, we’re releasing three other exercises that are not only engaging, but particularly relevant in this time of uncertainty:

  1. Problem-Inspired Idea Generation: We know customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to problems – and right now people’s problems have changed dramatically. This exercise will show your students a systematic way to identify new opportunities inspired by their customer’s real-world problems that is particularly helpful during times of disruption like we’re experiencing right now.
  2. How to Interview Customers: Now that business model assumptions have been flipped on their head, it’s more critical than ever that students learn how to effectively talk to customers to discover what problems they’re facing. A person with the skills to learn about how this new world will effect people individually, is a person that will thrive during this, and any future dramatic changes. This lesson will help students understand how to find customers to talk to, what questions to ask, and most importantly, why asking them will form the basis of a successful business model.
  3. 60 Minute MVP: The key to thriving in the face of high uncertainty and limited resources is efficient experimentation. This exercise will show your students how to quickly launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to measure demand for their products/services. Plus, even outside the entrepreneurial context, in a future where online, remote-enabled work will likely be in demand, this is a great opportunity for students to learn how to build websites and create animated videos.

We’ll be making each lesson plan available as soon as it’s finished, so if you’re interested in using any of the exercises from the ExEC Online: Express Pack, please fill out the form below.

Due to the accelerated pace we’re releasing these lessons, the first iteration of the ExEC Online: Express Pack is designed for use in colleges/universities in the US and Canada. Future iterations will be accessible to students across a wider range of environments.

Regardless of who or where you teach, we welcome you to request access and we’ll notify you if, and as soon as, we’re able to bring your students on board!

Get All the ExEC Online: Express Pack Lesson Plans (Free)

Know an Entrepreneurship Instructor?

If you know anyone who these new lessons might help, please invite them to participate! You can:

Thank you for all the work you’re doing teaching, and supporting, young people during this challenging time – we’re grateful to have an opportunity to support you, and look forward to helping you however we can!


Join 8,000+ instructors and get new lesson plans via email!

Problem-Inspired Idea Generation [ExEC Online: Express Pack]

Problem-Inspired Idea Generation [ExEC Online: Express Pack]

To help with the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve fast-tracked the development of new online-ready exercises – which you can use individually or as a set – called the ExEC Online: Express pack, available free through June.

Our first lesson, Problem-Inspired Idea Generation, is ready for you to use!

Idea Generation is a Skill

Customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to problems – and during this crisis, people’s problems have changed dramatically. This exercise will show your students a repeatable way to generate business ideas, inspired by their customer’s problems, that will become the foundation for opportunity identification skills they can use throughout their careers.

3 Steps to Better Ideas

Problem-Inspired Idea Generation creates an experience where students:

  1. Learn why great business ideas come from problems.
  2. Brainstorm people they’re passionate about solving problems for.
  3. Hypothesize, and prioritize, those peoples’ problems.

Those hypothesized problems kickstart your students’ customer discovery and/or solution ideation processes, resulting in more meaningful, and more feasible business ideas.

Engage Your Students

Our goal is to create highly interactive, experiential exercises. You can review this lesson to see how it can help you engage your students online with tools like:

  • Interactive Digital Worksheets your students can fill out and turn into you online
  • Video overviews for students
  • Sample slides for you to use with any live, or recorded, videos overviews you’d like to (optionally) produce for you students
  • Assessment recommendations

Get the ExEC Online: Express Pack

Get All Four Free Lessons

The ExEC Online: Express Pack is a collection of free, interactive, online entrepreneurship lessons available through the rest of this term that you can easily plug into your class individually or as a set.

In addition to Problem-Inspired Idea Generation, we’re releasing three other exercises that are not only engaging, but particularly relevant in this time of uncertainty:

  1. How to Interview Customers: Now that business model assumptions have been flipped on their head, it’s more critical than ever that students learn how to effectively talk to customers to discover what problems they’re facing. A person with the skills to learn about how this new world will effect people individually, is a person that will thrive during this, and any future dramatic changes. This lesson will help students understand how to find customers to talk to, what questions to ask, and most importantly, why asking them will form the basis of a successful business model.
  2. Financial Projection Simulator: With a global recession looming, it’s essential our students understand the elements of a robust financial model, and how to develop a sustainable one. This exercise makes finance approachable by turning what would normally be an overwhelming series of numbers, into a game-like experience that enables students to experiment with many different financial models.
  3. 60 Minute MVP: The key to thriving in the face of high uncertainty and limited resources is efficient experimentation. This exercise will show your students how to quickly launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to measure demand for their products/services. Plus, even outside the entrepreneurial context, in a future where online, remote-enabled work will likely be in demand, this is a great opportunity for students to learn how to build websites and create animated videos.

We’ll be making each lesson plan available as soon as it’s finished, so if you’re interested in using any of the exercises from the ExEC Online: Express Pack, please fill out the form below.

Due to the accelerated pace we’re releasing these lessons, the first iteration will be designed for use in colleges/universities in the US and Canada. Future iterations will be accessible to students across a wider range of environments.

Regardless of who or where you teach, we welcome you to request access and we’ll notify you if, and as soon as, we’re able to bring your students on board!

Get All the ExEC Online: Express Pack Lesson Plans (Free)

Know an Entrepreneurship Instructor?

If you know anyone who these new lessons might be help, we welcome you to invite them to participate. You can:

Thank you for all the work you’re doing teaching, and supporting, young people during this challenging time – we’re grateful to have an opportunity to support you, and look forward to helping you however we can!


Join 8,000+ instructors and get new lesson plans via email!

Free Online Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

Free Online Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

We know the transition to teaching online can be overwhelming. We want to help.

We’ve fast-tracked a subset of the ExEC Online exercises you’ll be able to use free through June 2020!

The ExEC Online: Express Pack will be a collection of free, interactive, online entrepreneurship lessons available through the rest of this term that you can easily plug into your class.

We’re specifically releasing exercises that are not only engaging, but particularly relevant in this time of dramatic uncertainty:

  1. Problem-Inspired Idea Generation: We know customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to problems – and right now people’s problems have changed dramatically. This exercise will show your students a systematic way to identify new opportunities inspired by their customer’s real-world problems that is particularly helpful during times of disruption like we’re experiencing right now.
  2. How to Interview Customers: Now that business model assumptions have been flipped on their head, it’s more critical than ever that students learn how to effectively talk to customers to discover what problems they’re facing. A person with the skills to learn about how this new world will effect people individually, is a person that will thrive during this, and any future dramatic changes. This lesson will help students understand how to find customers to talk to, what questions to ask, and most importantly, why asking them will form the basis of a successful business model.
  3. Financial Projection Simulator: With a global recession looming, it’s essential our students understand the elements of a robust financial model, and how to develop a sustainable one. This exercise makes finance approachable by turning what would normally be an overwhelming series of numbers, into a game-like experience that enables students to experiment with many different financial models.
  4. 60 Minute MVP: The key to thriving in the face of high uncertainty and limited resources is efficient experimentation. This exercise will show your students how to quickly launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to measure demand for their products/services. Plus, even outside the entrepreneurial context, in a future where online, remote-enabled work will likely be in demand, this is a great opportunity for students to learn how to build websites and create animated videos.

We’ll be making each lesson plan available as soon as it’s finished. If you’re interested in using any of the exercises from the ExEC Online: Express Pack, please fill out the form below.

Due to the accelerated pace we’re releasing these lessons, the first iteration will be designed for use in colleges/universities in the US and Canada. Future iterations will be accessible to students across a wider range of environments.

Regardless of who or where you teach, we welcome you to request access and we’ll notify you if, and as soon as, we’re able to bring your students on board!

Get the ExEC Online: Express Pack

Know a Teacher?

If you know anyone who these new lessons might be help, we welcome you to invite them to participate. You can:

Thank you for all the work you’re doing teaching, and supporting, young people during this challenging time – we’re grateful to have an opportunity to support you, and look forward to helping you however we can!


Join 8,000+ instructors and get new lesson plans via email!

Teaching Entrepreneurship Online: 5 Common Mistakes (and how to Avoid Them)

Teaching Entrepreneurship Online: 5 Common Mistakes (and how to Avoid Them)

Successful Online Classes

As many of us transition our classes online, growing pains will abound. We wanted to provide a quick summary of the most common pitfalls you’re likely to run into so you know how to avoid them.

5 Online Teaching Mistakes to Avoid


Mistake #1: Weekly assignments

If you have weekly assignments, in other words just one touchpoint per week where students are expected to turn something in, you’re inviting time management challenges for your students. This can be especially true if students are new to taking online classes; they’re not used to planning out their weekly schedule around finishing assignments. Couple that with other work and class commitments and in all likelihood, they will wait until the last minute to get their work finished.

Solution: Multiple touch points each week.

When transitioning our own in-person curriculum online, we’ve found it helps set our students up for success by having at least 2 touchpoints per week. For example, we have assignments due on Tuesday and Thursday. Alternatively, you can set up your course so that assignments are due Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Whatever you decide, break up the assignments into smaller chunks to help avoid any time management problems your students may have. This will help keep them on track and reduce their tendency to cram.


Mistake #2: Not Using Groups

We often hear from professors who teach online that they don’t feel as connected to their students, or they worry their students don’t feel connected to them. Additionally, we’ve heard from students that they don’t feel connected to other students when taking an online class. 

If you’re avoiding group work because you’re teaching online, you’re missing an effective tool for fostering a connection between your students. 

Group work can seem daunting to set up, assess and grade online, but it doesn’t have to be. And since group work is a powerful tool to combat disconnection in an online classroom, it’s worth the effort. Here are a few of our proven methods for creating a successful group.

1) Reflection Groups

Reflection Groups are small groups of students (3-4), who meet up “face-to-face” online via Zoom, Skype, Facetime, etc. to reflect on individual experiences they’ve had during the class. This provides an explicit opportunity to reflect, and take notes about their reflections, with peers from the class, helps drive student thinking deeper. It also helps them connect with other people in their class and fosters a more profound connection since it provides space for them to share their reflections of their experience, rather than simply sharing right/wrong answers.

For example, in our classes students meet with their reflection groups to discuss:

  • Their fears and curiosities about life after graduation
  • The biggest failures they’ve encountered in their lives so far, and what they’ve learned from them
  • Successes and struggles they’ve had with individual assignments

Creating groups isn’t difficult. All Learning Management Systems (e.g. Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, Brightspace, etc.) have functionality for creating student. While technology like Zoom, WhatsApp, Facetime, and Skype make it really easy for students to meetup. This makes it simple to leverage group work and increase your student’s feeling of connection.

What can feel a little more daunting about online groups is grading/assessment. Here’s how to tackle that: 

2) Team Work + Individual (Video) Reflections

Have the students complete their exercises together, but have them turn in individual reflections. 

In our classes, we encourage students to work together but require each student to submit their own video-based reflections on the work they’ve done. These videos (which we limit to 1 – 3 minutes), speed up the assessment process, cutting down on overall assessment time while ensuring each student is developing their own skills.


Mistake #3: Not Using Webcams

Webcams establish an instant face-to-face connection which is incredibly helpful in establishing a connection with your students. We recommend, whenever possible, using your own webcam, and to encourage your students to use webcams themselves. 

When we ask for student submissions, we have them use a tool called Loom, which is an easy-to-use browser extension which allows students to simply record their screen and capture their webcam at the same time. We’ve used Loom thousands of students and have had great results.

Loom lets you see your students (establishing a connection) and gives you a real insight into what they’ve been working on. We’ve found this is an invaluable tool in discovering how well they understand the concepts being taught in class. It also leads to a deeper level of understanding of the material because students will need to be able to write about the subject as well as talk about it concisely. We do recommend setting time guidelines for the videos. For example, we have students make videos 2-3 minutes long. This reduces the amount of time needed to go through the videos.


Mistake #4: “Read and Regurgitate” Discussion Boards

Typically, discussion boards are used as a way to ensure students complete some reading by asking students to reflect on what they’ve read, and possibly comment on another student’s post. Most of the time, this leads to students simply summarizing what they read and writing similar comments on fellow students’ posts. Unfortunately, this doesn’t lead to a lot of in-depth discussion or reflection. 

Discussion boards are optimal when people are presenting diverse viewpoints as opposed to all reflecting similar ideas. 

We recommend using discussion boards for personal reflections. For example, instead of asking students to go through an experience and describe what the experience was, have them talk about their personal challenges that came up with the experience. Ask what they learned most as a result of the experience. How are they going to apply that skill going forward?

Making personal comments creates a connected feeling in the class as students read other people’s responses. They get to know each other better and you get a sense of if they’re really understanding what you want them to take away from the material.

Discussion boards can also be used for students to pitch business ideas. You can even have students form teams around pitch ideas. Any experience you can create where students are leveraging different ideas is a great place to use discussion boards.


Mistake #5: “Class-Based” Thinking

It’s hard enough to create an engaging classroom in-person. Going online can feel even more daunting because we don’t have the opportunity for real-time interaction with students.

That said, there’s a little-known benefit to teaching online that can be used to create extremely engaging experiences.

When teaching in-person classes, it’s normal to have your thinking centered on “classes.” Whether a 75-minute class, 90-minute class, etc., we know that we have X-amount of things we want to cover in that amount of time. However, an online class doesn’t have the same time constraints.

We have found that it’s helpful to shift from a “class” structure to focus on creating “ah-ha” experiences for our students. Start by thinking about the ah-ha moments you have in your in-person classes and write out all of the interactions you have with your students that lead up to that moment. Then start translating each of those interactions online. Once you start thinking on an “interaction” level, as opposed to a “class” level, it’s much easier to… 

Structure your course around creating “ah-ha” experiences.

As we created the online version of our in-person curriculum, we’ve had to tease out the interactive moments between instructor and students and rethink the time frame of these interactions. For example, in an in-person class, the professor can provide a prompt and the students respond in real-time and the entire lesson may only take 30 minutes. Online, this same lesson may span two weeks as the professor provides a prompt, awaits student responses, provides counter-discussion or reflection, etc. While this takes longer calendar-wise, we have found it is possible to create just as engaging of an experience for online students as we have in-person, by focusing primarily on these interactions.

For example, in the first class of our curriculum, we have students write out on post-it notes their fears and curiosities after they graduate. We then have them share their fears and curiosities with someone sitting next to them. We then create post-it note clouds around common themes they share. Then our instructors take those common challenges and map them into their syllabus. Some common fears are:

  • How am I going to find a job?
  • Is my job going to pay enough?
  • Am I going to like my job?

Professors then take these common problems or themes and point towards the places in the syllabus that will help address them. Students then realize, “Oh, even if I don’t want to be an entrepreneur, here’s what I’m going to get out of this class or entrepreneurial skills.” This whole process takes roughly 30 minutes in-person. 

The online version, on the other hand, is more drawn out. First students fill out a survey that says “here are my fears and curiosities.” Then they utilize the aforementioned reflection groups where they’ll talk about their challenges. Then the instructor takes the survey results and makes a video response connecting the dots between their students’ challenges, and their syllabus. So, the interaction takes longer in terms of calendar time but creates the same “ah-ha” moment as students realize the value entrepreneurship skills can have on their lives, even if they don’t see themselves becoming entrepreneurs. 

Takeaways

Transitioning to teaching online can be challenging, but it can also be extremely effective. If you want to make sure your students:

  • Avoid cramming
  • Feel connected to you and your other students
  • Engage fully in your class

We recommend:

  1. Having multiple touch points per week
  2. Group assignments w/ individual reflections
  3. Everyone record videos with webcams
  4. Use discussion boards for personal reflections
  5. Replicate your interactions, not your classes, online

If you’d like more tips on running successful online classes, subscribe here to get the next one in your inbox.

Join 8,000+ instructors and get new lesson plans via email!

If you have any suggestions to fix the mistakes above or want to recommend any mistakes we missed, please let us know!

In the meantime… 

We Need Your Questions!

During this time of uncertainty, we want to hear what challenges you’re running into, and questions you have. We’re eager to experiment with ways to serve the teaching community, but like good innovators, we want to make sure we’re solving real problems.

What's Your Biggest Teaching Challenge?

In my role as USASBE President-elect, I’m hosting a USASBE Virtual Town Hall on March 25th, where we’ll discuss your challenges in detail. Answering the question above, or clicking the image below, will register you for the discussion, and make sure you get the recording afterward.

Register Here for the USASBE Town Hall

Our Curriculum

If you’re looking for a structured, comprehensive, and engaging experiential entrepreneurship curriculum you can run with your students in person, or online, check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

Used at more than 80 colleges and universities, ExEC helps students feel connected with you, and one another, while they learn practical entrepreneurial skills regardless of their career path.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

 

Preparing for Class During the Coronavirus

Preparing for Class During the Coronavirus

As the Coronavirus spreads, more and more schools are transitioning to online classes.

If you’re asked to teach entrepreneurship online, know that we’ve accelerated the development of ExEC Online due to the outbreak. If you’d like to use it, please reach out and we’ll see if/how we can be most helpful.

creativity lesson plans

Fortunately, teaching with ExEC Online takes relatively little prep – much of the teaching material is already prepared – and student engagement is at least as high as in-person classes.

For more information on teaching entrepreneurship online with ExEC, click here.

Otherwise, please stay as safe (and stress-free) as possible, and let us know if there’s anything else we can do to help.

Tech Tools to Increase Engagement

Tech Tools to Increase Engagement

It’s no question: technology is shaping how or students engage (or don’t) with us.

From the apps nagging our students for attention during class to the learning management systems (Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, etc.) we and our students are asked to wrestle with, technology is absolutely altering how we interact with our students.

That said, when leveraged the right way,

Technology can be a way to increase engagement in the classroom.

In this post, we share some of our favorite tech tools you can use to flip the script on technology and use it to re-engage your students.

Active Learning vs Passive Listening

The first thing to know is that lectures are the antithesis of engagement. If your class is full of:

  • Glazed eyes
  • Distracted fidgeting
  • Lethargic discussions

Remember that it’s not that disengaged students don’t like to learn, the truth is most students love learning. They just hate listening.

Ask yourself, what do Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Netflix all have in common? They are all visual-based technologies that our students have grown up with and spend far more time “learning from” than they do lectures.

Now ask yourself, are your bullet points genuinely more compelling than their latest Instagram story?

If the answer is no, the next question to answer is:

How do you create an active learning experience for your students?

If you’re looking to shift from a “sage on the stage” class to an active learning environment, Kahoot! is a great tool to use.

How to Leverage Kahoot! In Your Entrepreneurship Lesson

Gamification is a great way to increase engagement in class. Using technology like Kahoot! you can create multiple-choice competitions that foster engagement or as an assessment tool. 

Here’s what we love about Kahoot! in the classroom:

  • Produces real-time competition 
  • Encourages instant collaboration
  • Boosts energy with a real-time leader board that students love seeing their names on
  • Inspires discussion among all students

Kahoot! works by showing students a series of multiple-choice questions on your projector and each student (or team of students) uses their smartphone to quickly answer each question. Teams are awarded points for correct answers, and the faster they answer, the more points they get and after each question, they can see how well their team is doing compared to other teams in the class.

If you want to easily try Kahoot!, we’ve actually integrated it into our free Customer Interviewing Cards Exercise. This lesson plan was presented at USASBE 2020 and teaches valuable customer discovery skills.

Give it a shot and you’ll not only teach your students what questions to ask (and questions avoid) during customer interviews, you’ll do it in an engaging way with full class participation.

Nothing Compares to Learning by Doing

Another way to engage students is to have them teach themselves by creating a “learn by doing” experience. For example, if you want to teach students about the power of Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), why not use Wix and Powtoon to have your students create their own during class?

Wix: Launch Websites (No Student Experience Required)

Wix is a free and user-friendly website creator. Some of the features we’ve found helpful when using in our lesson plans include:

  • Drag and drop editing
  • Pre-built templates
  • No technical skills required

Powtoon: Your Students Can Create Explainer Videos

Powtoon is an incredibly useful tool to make simple explainer videos fast. Here are some of the features that make Powtoon a useful teaching tool:

  • Wide-variety of templates
  • Change elements with a simple click
  • Animate a video in minutes

While you can plan an entrepreneurial lesson using Wix and Powtoon, we’ve found they can be combined for a powerful lesson. You can try our 60-Minute MVP this semester to introduce your students to Wix and Powtoon so they can see how quickly and easily they can start testing demand for new products, even if they have no tech or video editing skills.

This lesson plan was a finalist in the USASBE 3E competition, and it’s one of the most popular on our site. We hope you give it a shot – not only will it use technology to teach your students new skills, they’ll be completely engaged while they do it.

Design an App Prototype Without Technical Skills

So many of our students want to build apps, but most of them will lack the technical skills to even prototype their apps. Marvel changes that. 

Marvel is an easy to use app that lets your students quickly prototype their app designs by first drawing them on paper, and then simply taking pictures of their designs with their phone, but that’s not all!

Here are some of the exciting features you can leverage in the classroom:

  • Design easily with Marvel’s UI builder
  • Perform usability testing with a simple link
  • Get customer/usability feedback immediately

Marvel is free to use and is perfect to encourage design thinking and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. We created our Marvel App Lesson Plan below to introduce you to this new entrepreneurial teaching tool.

 

Click Here for Our Marvel App Lesson Plan

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Incorporate Technology in Your Entrepreneurship Class

When used well, technology can transform your classroom into an experiential, fully-engaged experience for your students. If you’d like to learn more about the technologies we use in our entrepreneurship lesson plans, click to learn more. We hope that it supports the work you do in the classroom, and if you and your students enjoy, check out the full Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC).

Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

If you’d like more lesson plans like this, subscribe here to get the next one in your inbox.

Join 8,000+ instructors and get new lesson plans via email!

2019’s Most Popular Lesson Plans

2019’s Most Popular Lesson Plans

“This approach to learning is just what students need.” – Eric Liguori, Rowan University

From enabling students to discover ideas that are meaningful to them to improving customer interviews, we design lesson plans to enhance engagement and improve skill-building. The following are our 5 most popular lesson plans from 2019 to transform your students’ experience as they practice generating ideas, interviewing customers, identifying early adopters, and validating assumptions.

5. Increase the Quality of Your Student’s Ideas

One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurship professors tell us is inspiring students to come up with ideas that are impactful or solution-centered. 

How do you get your students to focus on problems, not products?

So often, students are attracted to low-impact products without a clear idea of who their customer is, much less why they would want to buy into the idea. We want them to understand that customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to their problems.

Student Idea Generation Lesson

The Student Idea Generation lesson plan sparks your student’s idea generation so they can identify what problems they want to solve. 

Rather than leading a brainstorming session in which students develop business ideas on their own (which can result in unactionable ideas), the Student Idea Generation lesson plan:

  • Instructs students how to pinpoint the customers they’re passionate about helping
  • Leads the students to identify the biggest challenges or problems they want to solve for these groups

In this lesson plan, students first discover the customers they are passionate about helping and the problems/emotions they want to help them with. Students then determine solutions they can use to create a successful business.

After this lesson, your students’ ideas will be:

  • More focused because they’ve identified the specific group they want to help
  • More practical because they’ll be solution-focused
  • More innovative because they’re inspired to solve problems

View Idea Generation Lesson Plan

4. Transform Your Student’s Customer Interviews

Nothing can make some students more uncomfortable than not knowing what to ask during customer interviews.

A number of factors make a student wary of conducting customer interviews, including:

  • Talking to strangers gives them anxiety
  • They’re nervous because they’ve never conducted an interview and want to get it right
  • They don’t understand the benefit of interviews in the first place

Because customer interviewing is so critical to building solutions people want, customer interviews are an integral part of the entrepreneurship curriculum. We designed the Customer Interview lesson plan to eliminate the barriers students have around performing customer interviews.

This comprehensive lesson plan includes materials to prep before class, and step-by-step instructions for leading the lesson. After the lesson, students will walk away understanding:

  • Their role in the interview
  • What makes a successful interview
  • Preparation for real customer interviews
  • Specific interview questions

The benefits of this lesson plan are two-fold:

  • Takes the guesswork out of customer interviews for the students 
  • Minimizes preparation for the instructor

Get the “How to Interview Customers” Lesson Plan

3. Experiential Exercise for Teaching About Early Adopters

Another problem professors shared is teaching students how to identify early adopters. Early adopters are vital for the success of any product or service, but students often struggle in understanding the concept of an early adopter.

Students understand the definition of Early Adopters easier if they’re led through this experiential exercise.
Identifying Early Adopters Experiential Exercise

The Finding Early Adopters lesson plan features a mechanical pencil challenge that introduces the concept of an early adopter and contrasts it with early majority and late majority customers. This exercise also demonstrates where and how to find early adopters.

This exercise was a finalist in the prestigious 2019 USASBE 3E Competition, which recognizes the best experiential entrepreneurship exercises at the USASBE Annual Conference.

After this lesson plan, students will be able to answer:

  • Who is the target for customer interviews?
  • How and where to find the best prospects for customer interviews?

View the Finding Early Adopters Lesson Plan

2. Coaching for Entrepreneurship Students

While valuable, team projects can be a source of great anxiety for students. Many students working in teams:

  • Worry about their final grade
  • Fall behind with the coursework or understanding of the content
  • Are bored because their team has surpassed other teams’ progress

Team projects can be problematic for professors to successfully meet students’ diverse needs. The How to Coach Your Students lesson plan provides a differentiated learning experience using individual team coaching sessions that provides a positive and productive team experience for all students.

Popular Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans
Individual coaching sessions allow students to quantify the skills they’ve built and identify next steps.

Similar to a daily stand-up approach to scrum meetings, this lesson walks you step-by-step through a process to perform a Stand-Up Coaching session in 1 of 2 ways and discusses the pros and cons of each technique:

  • Coaching through simulation
  • Private team coaching

After this lesson, students will:

  • Shift from searching for the right answer to asking the right questions
  • Focus on learning rather than earning a specific grade
  • Feel better equipped to prepare for their final presentation

View the “Coach Your Students” Lesson Plan

1. The True Meaning of Minimum Viable Product

The 60 Minute MVP remains one of our most popular lesson plans. During this hour-long experience, students launch an MVP website, with an animated video and a way to take pre-orders, without any prior coding experience. 

“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.” –  ExEC Curriculum Professor
Minimum Viable Product Experiential Exercise

This class is the ultimate combination of engagement and skill-building as the students navigate each task. On the lesson plan page, you can view an example of a video students created based on actual customer problems in about 20 minutes.

After this class, your students will understand:

  • The true meaning of Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  • It’s easier to launch a product than they assume
  • Launching a product lays the foundation for their entire business

View 60 Minute MVP Lesson Plan

Bonus: The Power of Customer Observations

In addition to teaching customer interviewing techniques, we developed a Teaching Customer Observations lesson plan because it helps solidify the student’s understanding of the importance of understanding their customer’s problems. In this lesson plan, students experience first-hand the value of seeing how their customers experience problems rather than just imagining certain scenarios.

Customer Observations Lesson Plan

The goal of this lesson is to teach students to have a clear picture of their customer’s problems before they try to come up with a solution. 

After this class, students will understand

  • The value of observing customer behavior rather than trying to predict it
  • How to listen with their eyes to improve empathy for what their customers value and care about

In addition to the positive feedback we’ve received from the community using this exercise,

this lesson won first place in the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises Awards at the USASBE 2019 Annual Conference!

View Teaching Customer Observations Lesson Plan

Want an Experiential + Structured Curriculum?

If you’re looking for a comprehensive, tested, experiential entrepreneurship curriculum to use next semester, that fully engages your students, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum and we’ll get you set up!

Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

Get our Next Free Lesson Plan

We email new experiential entrepreneurship lesson plans regularly.

Subscribe here to get our next lesson plan in your inbox!

Join 8,000+ instructors and get new lesson plans via email!

Differentiated Learning in Entrepreneurship

Differentiated Learning in Entrepreneurship

If your students are anxious about their grade, or about making appropriate progress in terms of learning and mindset, this lesson plan is for you.

With this lesson plan, you will calm your students’ anxiety, and effectively prepare them for their final presentation.

One of the biggest reasons students disengage in experiential entrepreneurship classes is that different teams progress at different speeds.

  • Teams who fall behind can get discouraged when the class progresses to topics that are not yet relevant to them.
  • Teams who quickly validate an assumption can get bored if the content of the class stalls their progress.

One of the most successful remedies we’ve seen to this problem is to provide students with differentiated learning experiences, via individual team coaching sessions.

Every coaching session should be a moment where students can measure the skills they’ve built so far in order to learn what to do next.

What is a Coaching Stand-Up?

First, what they are not:

  • They are not a formal presentation where everyone in the class is presenting the same material
  • They are not a graded performance based on the progress the team has made on their startup idea.

A coaching stand-up is a graded performance based on the process the team has navigated for their startup idea.

The best way to think about Coaching Stand-ups, is to imagine your class more like a startup accelerator, where you are managing a portfolio of companies. Regardless of where they are in the process, it’s your job to help each company take the next right step for them.

With this perspective in mind, you see how Coaching Stand-Ups turn into:

A chance for you to provide individualized feedback to student teams, specific to the challenges they are facing.

Coaching Stand-Ups 101

Coaching stand-ups should happen frequently during the course. There are two options for how to run a Coaching stand-up, or you can blend the two:

  • Student teams conduct a final presentation simulation in front of their peers
  • Student teams meet w/ the instructor one-on-one (either in class or outside of class)

We found great success in conducting these Coaching Stand-Ups after students have gone through customer interviewing, problem validation, and begun their solution ideation.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each session so you can decide which best suits your class and students.

Class presentation by students

Coaching Through Simulation

Coaching students through a presentation simulation provides the following benefits:

  • A more structured format can be helpful in preparing students for the final (graded) presentation.
  • The pressure of looking good in front of peers can motivate students to put together higher quality work.
  • Creates a classroom culture where peers are providing valuable feedback to one another.

This strategy, however, does have its drawbacks. This approach can create an environment where teams are competing with one another rather than focusing on their own progress. Additionally, peers can get bored listening to other presentations and feel that the time would be better spent if they could work on their own projects.

Team Private Coaching

Alternatively, you can provide coaching by teams meeting with you, either during a class session or outside of class. Providing your students feedback using this method provides the following benefits:

  • The meetings can be more idiosyncratic, based on the needs of each team.
  • Teams are less likely to compare their progress to one another.
  • Instructors can be more candid and hands-on with each team.
  • Students appreciate the individualized instruction.
  • Teams who are not presenting can continue with their work.

We recommend conducting private coaching stand-ups for the reasons stated above.

Help Students Prepare For Coaching

In preparation for a Coaching Stand-Up session, ask your students to prepare a presentation using the guidelines below.

We strongly encourage you to give students autonomy and flexibility in how they prepare for these sessions to allow them to rise to the challenge or fail to do so, and learn how to do better in the future.

Assessing a Stand-up

Assessing a stand-up is based off the process the students are going through and how well they understand and reflect upon the process. It’s not about their progress and how far they have gone, but instead is about the questions they are raising and the reflection process. It is critical to make this clear to students ahead of time as the focus on process not progress will be new to many students.

Prior to the Coaching Stand-Up, give students the following format to follow in their presentation, whether they will be in front of the class, or just with you. These meetings should last approximately 5 minutes for each team.

Why We Call It a Stand-Up

We refer to this as a stand-up because students should stand up during the entire meeting to keep it short and efficient, much like the daily stand-up approach to scrum meetings.

Set the Context (30 seconds)

Share what the team is trying to do. What challenge is the team trying to address?

Previous Feedback & Actions Taken (1 minute)

Summarize the team’s progress to-date. Encourage teams to start with what has gone well (i.e., the positive) before discussing the things that did not go as expected. Be sure to discuss any previous feedback they received from the instructor or other students, judges, or potential customers, and what actions have been taken to address this feedback.

Discoveries (2 minutes each)

Share the discoveries of any research/experiments conducted. Each experiment should be discussed separately, using the format below:

  1. What assumptions were we making that need to be validated?
  2. What experiment did we conduct? (e.g. customer interviews, publish the landing page, solution interviews, etc.)
  3. What have we discovered? Share the main lessons learned.
  4. Why this discovery important for our team? How does it change our Business Model Canvas?

Students should also bring additional data and information to ensure they are prepared to answer questions that the instructor and/or audience might ask about their experiments and conclusions.

Question (30 seconds)

Conclude the presentation by sharing a question for the audience. The question should seek the audience’s input on the most important things that the team should work on next.

Teams should not ask the audience a question that can be answered by saying yes or no (e.g., Is this product a good idea?).

We want our students to move away from looking for a single right answer and instead have a mindset of continuously building, measuring and learning.

As such, instructors should evaluate the students on the question they pose and their reflection process. If appropriate, the audience should share their thoughts on the question posed by the team. Then ask the presenters to share their thoughts on this question. Last, so you do not influence others, share your thoughts.

If the Coaching Stand-Up is conducted in front of peers, encourage their peers to try to help the presenter by providing feedback.

General Coaching Stand-Up Tips:

Specify for your students whether all team members must present during a Coaching Stand-Up or if teams are free to choose which team members will present.

Encourage students to explain things simply and clearly so that everyone will be able to understand it. Remind them of the Albert Einstein quote: “If you can’t explain it to a 6-year old, you don’t know it yourself.”

You should document the feedback provided to each team so that changes between successive coaching stand-up sessions can be tracked. You can create a formalized feedback document to share with the students or to document the feedback for internal purposes only. A feedback template is provided in the lesson plan.

The big challenge of a stand-up is that they can take too long. This is, again, why we make students stand up during the presentations. We recommend everything is strictly timed, which will help students communicate their ideas more efficiently and help ensure you are not spending too much time talking with individual teams.

When to Run Coaching Stand-Ups

  • We found conducting stand-ups at the following points during the course are most effective:
  • Before customer interviews. Make sure their interviewing strategy is right and they are talking to the right customer.
  • During customer interviews. After the first round of customer interviews, check in to make sure students are on the right path.
  • After customer interviews. Make sure your students know how to analyze customer interviews.
  • Before running an experiment. Make sure the experiment will test what the students want to test.
  • After the first experiment. Help students understand how to analyze their results.

Reducing Student Anxiety

The type of individualized instruction you provide during a coaching stand-up reduces student anxiety. You are speaking directly to them, very clearly and succinctly, about a very specific task or skill, so students receive very clear feedback on a very specific point.

Coaching Stand-Ups are one option to provide your students clear feedback as they progress through their learning journey. This lesson plan provides you one method to accomplish the following goals:

  • Move students away from searching for a single right answer and instead focus them on asking the right questions.
  • Encourage learning. Don’t focus on the grade.
  • Give guidance and feedback to help them prepare for the final presentation (e.g., what to change and where to focus on).

teaching entrepreneurship

Lecture Less & Coach More With the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

Want to create the most engaging team experiences for your students? Check out the award-winning ExEC curriculum for your Spring courses.

Or learn more about the methodology behind and exercises in our curriculum at the USASBE Conference in New Orleans in January (drinks are on us!)


Request a preview of ExEC today and make this Spring the most engaging semester of entrepreneurship yet! Our curriculum is full of experiential exercises that will make your students’ learning come alive.


Get the “How to Coach Your Students” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed “How to Coach Your Students” 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.

 


Get our Next Free Lesson Plan

We email new experiential entrepreneurship lesson plans regularly.

Subscribe here to get our next lesson plan in your inbox!

Join 8,000+ instructors and get new lesson plans via email!


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

Improve Your Students’ Customer Interviews

Improve Your Students’ Customer Interviews

If your students are struggling conducting high-quality interviews with customers, or you’re not sure how to get them started, this lesson plan is for you.

With this lesson plan, your students will learn exactly what to ask during a customer interview, and how to ask it.

When students first see they will be interviewing customers, they feel nervous, overwhelmed, and worried. Why?

  • They’re nervous about talking to strangers.
  • They don’t learn this technique somewhere else.
  • They’ve never seen or heard sample interviews.
  • It feels like too much work.
  • They’re worried about looking and feeling stupid.

In this lesson plan, students will practice customer interviewing with their classmates to expose to interviewing techniques, and to deepen connections between them.

Specifically, in this lesson plan, students will learn:

  • Basics of customer interviewing techniques
  • What questions to ask during customer interviews
  • How to create rapport with interviewees
  • What it’s like to be interviewed
  • Differences between interviewing and surveying customers

Customer interviewing scriptBefore Class

Print out at least one Interview Script Template, for each student. Generate a B2C script where the:

  • Interview Type = B2C
  • Role = student
  • Problem = having too much work to do and too little time
  • Context = during midterms

During Class

Use this exercise when students are preparing to start validating their first Business Model Canvas assumptions. They will validate these assumptions by interviewing Early Adopters – see the Finding your Early Adopters module in the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) for explicit instructions to prepare students to interview their Early Adopters.

teaching entrepreneurship

Let students know there are techniques that can help them interview customers in a way that helps them test their assumptions, but it takes some practice to get good at, and comfortable with, these techniques.

Let them know it’s normal to feel awkward or nervous interviewing at first, everyone does, but that after a while, it becomes as natural as having a conversation with a close friend.

Tell them they’re going to get their first chance to interview today, and they’re going to start off, by interviewing their teammate(s).

Step 1

Tell students their one and only goal with customer interviewing is to understand the problems their customer is actively trying to solve.

Show students this intro video on interviewing customers to give them a broad sense of the objectives:

 Step 2: Warm Up

Start out with a few warm-up, rapport-building questions. These are questions that make your students and their interviewees feel comfortable so that your students can get into a flow of conversation before diving into problems or difficulties.

What to ask warmup questions

Here are some examples:

  • Ask about the weather – students might even do a quick web search to find out what it’s been like where they are: “How’ve you been faring with all the rain recently?”
  • Comment on sports – again, a web search is helpful: “49ers are the team no one wants to play again this year.”
  • Simply ask how their week has been.

Step 3: Understand the Role

B2B (business-to-business) Script: Your students want to understand the challenges their early adopters are facing, so they should focus on that person’s role, be it a student, or a hiring manager, etc. They want to focus on how that person defines their role, what success looks like for them, and, ultimately, the challenges they face in achieving that success.

By focusing on their role, as opposed to the entire company, you students have a much more sincere and open conversation.

With that in mind, your first question here is:

How would you describe your role as a __________?

what to ask: role definition

This is a nice, easy first question to get the person starting to talk about the ins and outs of their job. Let the interviewee describe in their own words what it’s like to have her job.

It is really important that your students understand how this person views their roles and responsibilities. They will be referring to their words over and over during the rest of the conversation. This will also help them to create a mental framework of what their job is like.

As the interviewee responds, be sure to write down the words and jargon they use.

If it’s the first time your students have heard the word or something described in a specific way, they need to ask about it. Don’t be shy! This is their chance to hear the definition of a term directly from their customer – it’s also a chance for their customer to demonstrate their expertise (a good thing).

Going forward, the best way to build rapport is to…

Use their words to talk about their job and problems.

Using their words and phrasings will help your students build trust as they get into the more vulnerable part of the conversation around problems and difficulties.

Step 4: Define Success

Now that your students understand their potential early adopter’s job description, the next step is to understand how they define success. The question here is

What does success look like for you?

This question is meant to be aspirational. What are they looking to achieve? How does their performance get measured? What expectations does this person’s boss have of them? What expectations do their customers have? What expectations do they have of themselves?

what to ask: define success

The answer to this question will help guide your students’ conversation. At the end of the day, they will be helping your students solve their problems so, ultimately, they can achieve the success that they have just named for your students!

Their success is your students’ success.

Your students will be successful when they help their customer be successful – this question will help them figure out how to do that.

One tip is to circle here, saying something like, “If I understand you correctly, if we were to solve this problem, we can help you achieve [your success].”

Reflecting back their success will also help build rapport. It’s a way for your students to remind them that they are here to help them solve a problem and achieve their goals.

Step 5: Identify the Problem

Your students now dive into the problems their interviewee is facing.

what to ask: b2b problem

For B2B interviewees, by asking about their customer’s role and goals, your students have created a sufficiently safe context to ask about their challenges:

What is the hardest part about achieving that success?

what to ask: b2c problem

For B2C interviewees, this is your students’ starting point. Their customer doesn’t have a job description or larger company vision, so they can start with the personal challenges. After their initial warm up questions, ask:

What is the biggest challenge you are facing as a [customer role]?

Both: In this question, your students are listening for the challenges that are preventing the customer from achieving their success or living their life as they would like.

Again, students should listen for the words they use to describe their difficulties. Ask a lot of questions to clarify and fully understand what they are telling them.

The answer to this question will get to the heart of what their customer is looking for.

Below this question your students will notice there are 3 columns. That’s because parts of this script are designed to be repeated so they can discover all of the problems your customer is trying to solve. More on that below.

Empathize, empathize, empathize.

At this point in the script is a reminder that your students should be empathizing with their interviewee throughout the conversation. They don’t need to go into their own stories, but do acknowledge if they’ve experienced a similar difficulty or if they can understand where they are coming from.

Phrases such as the following can be helpful for students letting someone know they’re on their team.

  • I’ve been there.
  • That makes complete sense.
  • I can see how that would be frustrating.

When empathizing, be genuine. If your students can’t put themselves in their shoes, ask for more information. They want to understand their customer as thoroughly as possible.

Many of us are used to putting forth a front of having “it all figured out”.

If someone is sharing their problems, they are taking a risk to be vulnerable.

This is especially true for B2B, where your students are asking someone to admit that they are having difficulties in their role with the company. Validating their experience will help them feel safe and comfortable so they will continue to open up.

Step 6: The Last Time

Your students now want to know whether their customer is actively “paying” to solve the problem they just mentioned. To do that, they should ask

When was the last time you tried to solve this problem?

what to ask: last time

This question is key.

The answer will tell your students if they are an Early Adopter or an Early Majority. They are looking for Early Adopters – customers who are already “paying” to solve the problem.

For B2B, listen for evidence they’ve “paid” to solve the problem within the last 12 months – the typical business budget cycle.

For B2C, listen for evidence they’ve “paid” to solve this problem within the last 6 months.

The answer is easy to interpret:

If they’ve “paid” to solve this problem recently, with a currency that will lead to your students’ victory, they’re an Early Adopter for a solution. If they haven’t, they’re not.

If they’re an Early Adopter, continue with the questions below. If they are not, start again from the previous question:

“What else is hard about achieving your success?” for B2B

or

“What else is challenging about [customer role]?” for B2C.

This is why there are multiple columns for notes under this question. Most of the time your students will have to go through the series of questions a few times before striking gold. Use the second and third columns of the script to dive into alternative problems.

Step 7: Specific Problem Scenario

Once your students know they have an Early Adopter, they can start to gather information specifically about their customer’s attempts at solutions. Ask:

Can you tell me about the last time that problem occurred?

what to ask: problem scenario

Here, your students are looking for a more detailed description of the actual problem. They are hoping to get beyond generalizations or broad descriptions of their customer’s struggles, and dial down into a specific instance where they had this problem and tried to find a solution.

This strategy is important for both B2B and B2C.

Why is this important? In this response, your students are listening for more specific words, jargon and emotions that help to understand the problem. This will help them understand how their customers describe the heart of the issue.

Again, ask a lot of questions. There are no stupid questions – the more information your students can get, the better.

Take special note of the words they use, the jargon they use, and the emotions they describe. This will form the foundation of the marketing strategy.

The scenario the customer describes can also serve as a case study later on. If they give your students a very concrete example, they can use it to help develop a solution when they’re back inside the building, brainstorming.

Step 8: Marketing Copy

This question will answer all of your students’ marketing copy questions for both B2B and B2C. Ask:

Why is it a problem for you?

Warning: this question may feel awkward to ask – but your students must ask it.

what to ask: marketing copy

It will probably feel obvious why it is a problem and your students will be tempted to skip this question. However, the way they describe why it’s a problem is likely to be different than how your students would describe it.

Your students are not psychic, so they shouldn’t pretend to be. Let the customers speak for themselves.

Above all else, your students want to know the words their customer uses to describe their experience, and the emotions they feel when encountering this problem.

In the marketing copy, when your students can use a customer’s exact phrasings and identify the exact emotions they are feeling when faced with a problem, they will resonate with the customer on a profound level.

The better your students understand their customer, without making any assumptions of their own, the better they will be able to serve them, and the better – and more successful – your students’ solution will be.

If your students don’t hear any emotions mentioned the first time they ask this question, keep trying. Say something like, “Interesting. And why is that a problem?”

Keep going, asking why up to five times, until they get to the emotional core of their customer’s experience of the problem.

Step 9: Current Solutions

Now it’s time to for your students to figure out where they should do their marketing. To do that, ask:

How did you find your current solution?

what to ask: current solution

The answer to this question is key because it will help your students figure out how to find more people like the interviewee, with similar problems. This is just as true for B2B as B2C.

Eventually, the answers your students collect to this question will drive their marketing channel definitions. If one customer has gone there to find a solution, it’s likely others have gone there as well.

Step 10: What Isn’t Ideal About Their Solution?

Presumably, the current solution for this customer isn’t working – that’s why they mentioned it as a problem earlier in the interview. At this point, your students are in a perfect position to ask:

What’s not ideal about this solution?

what to ask: what is wrong with the solution

Here, your students will discover how they’re going to differentiate their solution from their competition.

Your student’s solution will be superior, because their understanding of the problem is superior.

The information your students gather from this question will feed into their solution ideation process – ensuring they solve the problem better than their competitors.

Step 11: Rinse and Repeat

Even if your students hit on something good the first time around, there may be more value available in this interview. At this point, your students should go back to the Hardest Part question to find out what other problems are at the top of the customer’s list.

Remember: use the additional columns of the script to take notes for additional question iterations.

After that, validate they are an Early Adopter for the new problem they mention by asking when was the last time they tried to solve it. If they are, continue with the rest of the interview questions, including a possible third iteration.

Alternate Questions

If your students make it through the second round of questions and there’s still no mention of the problem they’ve hypothesized, here is another question they can ask to both businesses and consumers:

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing as a [customer’s role] with respect to [problem scenario]?

what to ask: alternate questions

In this question, your students will spoon feed the customer a situation where they are likely to experience the problem that they’ve hypothesized. This will focus your students in on the specific area of their customer’s job or life context that aligns with their own interests.

From there, circle back to the “when was the last time you tried to solve this problem?” question and continue the exercise as before. In this scenario, your students need to pay extra close attention to their interviewee’s answer.

Important: If your students spoon feed their customers a scenario where they are confident they will feel the problem your students hypothesize and either they don’t cite the problem you hypothesized or they aren’t actively looking for a solution – they aren’t Early Adopters!

If this happens, it’s clear something has to change:

  • If this happens just a few times, no big deal. Not everyone in your students’ interview channels is going to be an Early Adopter.
  • If this is happening frequently, but your students are discovering a different problem the customers are Early Adopters for, no big deal – they can pivot to solve the new problem they’re reporting.
  • If it’s happening frequently, and your students are not discovering problems customers are Early Adopters for, no big deal – they can pivot their interviewing channels or their entire target customer segment (refer to your the ExEC curriculum for exercises for alternative segments to interview.)

Step 12: Wrap It Up

When your students wrap up an interview, they want to be sure they are leaving the door open for future conversations, even if this person is not an Early Adopter. To do that, say:

I’m actively exploring a solution to [their problem]. Can I contact you if I find a viable solution?

what to ask - wrap it up

Regardless of your students’ hypothesized problem, they should use their customer’s words to describe their problem in this closing…even if it’s not the problem your students are currently focused on solving!

Use their words to describe a problem your students hope to solve.

It is true your students may not pursue a solution to their problem now, but if enough other customers present the same difficulties, they’ve discovered a viable place to pivot. In fact, their interview may end up being one of the data points that convinces your students to pivot!

By your students asking them if they can contact them if they discover a solution to their problem, they’ve left the door open for further communication should they fall into their Early Adopter category now, or ever.

what to ask: wrapping it up

For B2B, your students will also want to ask:

If we wanted to put a solution to this problem into place, who else would we need buy-in from?

In a B2B situation, there are often multiple stakeholders in the adoption of a new solution. This question will prime your students’ interviewee to give them permission, and an intro, or just let them know who else they would need to contact to get buy-in for a solution.

Step 13: Ask for Other Interviewees

So your students can quickly talk to other similar customers, ask the interviewee if they know other people trying to solve this problem. Say something like:

I’m trying to understand this problem from a wide range of perspectives. Do you know one or two other people within your organization who are struggling with [the problem they are actively trying to solve in their words]?

what to ask: Wrap it up

This will help your students knock out their interviews even faster, and from a group of highly related customers!

Step 14: Say Thank You!

Finally, no matter who your students are interviewing, they should thank them for their generosity and their time. Tell them that the interview has been helpful – because, I guarantee, it will have been. Your students may also share that their will bring their information back to their team to help inform the development of their solution.

People enjoy being helpful. Make sure you let them know they have been!

Congratulations, your students now know exactly what to ask during their customer interviews – and what to listen for!


Get the “How to Interview Customers” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed “How to Interview Customers” 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.

 


Get our Next Free Lesson Plan

We email new experiential entrepreneurship lesson plans regularly.

Subscribe here to get our next lesson plan in your inbox!

Join 8,000+ instructors and get new lesson plans via email!


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

High Functioning Innovation Teams in 10 Steps

High Functioning Innovation Teams in 10 Steps

Student teams formed randomly erode the student (and professor!) experience through internal conflict and apathy.

This lesson plan will help your students form high-performing innovation teams by creating more alignment around interests, and more diversity of skills.

Successful entrepreneurship teams have aligned goals and diverse skills. Students looking to gain entrepreneurial skills need to practice teamwork and collaboration around common goals. 

To help students mitigate some of the biggest drawbacks of group work, during this exercise they form the entrepreneurial teams based on the other people in the class whose goals and motivations most align with theirs. 

Help students execute better, and conflict less, by empowering them to successfully assemble their own teams.

For this post we will be using the Aligned Goals + Diverse Skills worksheet from the Lesson Plan below.

Aligned Goals and Diverse Skills WorksheetThis exercise will enable students to:

  1. Identify their goals for the course.
  2. Self-form teams based on shared goals.

In an entrepreneurship course, students spend time asking people for interviews, conducting interviews, analyzing the interviews, building MVPs, and pitching their solution. They will need to work with teammates to tackle this tremendous workload.

By the time they’re done with this exercise, they will be in teams that give them a greater likelihood of enjoying the course while developing ideas that are meaningful to them.

Aligned Goals

You want to optimize the positive aspects of teamwork for your students, while mitigating the negative aspects. To accomplish this, don’t assign students to teams. Instead, teach them the keys to creating a successful team and let them practice those skills to interview and choose teammates.

The first key is aligned goals. Successful innovation teams, or founder teams, need to be aligned in terms of revenue and impact goals, as well as a number of other criteria (culture, company size, etc.) Ask students to brainstorm some goals that might be helpful for members of their course team to be aligned on. They might mention:

  • Grades
  • Business outcomes (start a company, pass the class, etc)
  • Customers to serve

Let students know this exercise will enable them to identify classmates that align with them along these three goals.

Diverse Skills

The second key to creating a successful team is the diversity of team member skill sets. Imagine a sports team where all the players are excellent at one component, for instance, soccer players all being excellent goalies. This team will fail in their ultimate goal of winning because they are all good at one small portion of the larger plan.

Entrepreneurship team members also need diverse experiences. These teams are smarter at analyzing facts, which applies directly to the students’ need to analyze interview and experiment data.

The Exercise

Step 1Aligned Goals and Diverse Skills Step 1: Minimum successful grade

Students should first write down the lowest grade they could get in the class and still consider their performance in the class a success. Stress to students this is not about their ideal grade.

Step 2

Aligned Goals and Diverse Skills Step 2: minimum successful business outcomeYour students will choose the option that they most want to achieve during this course. If appropriate, they can check multiple boxes.

Steps 3 and 4

Aligned goals and diverse skills worksheet: Step 3, customer uniquely suited to servePrior to this exercise, students should have worked to identify customer segments who they either are a part of or have been a part of in the past. From this list, students choose the top two they want to pursue.

aligned goals and diverse skills step 4: student's majorStudent next fill in their academic major.

Step 5

aligned goals and diverse skills step 5: student kills and experienceStudents will brainstorm the skills and experience they possess that could be helpful in serving customers and/or validating a business model. Here are some ideas to help your students think of their skills:

  • They are a member of the customer segment
  • Any relevant job experience
  • Know someone who is influential within their customer segments
  • Have a large reach within this customer segment (e.g. large social media following, know a bunch of them, etc.)
  • They an artist, designer, software developer, good with tech, good with numbers, good writer, good at creating videos, etc.
  • Experience leading teams before
  • Previous entrepreneurial experience
  • Bi-lingual (i.e. can speak the customers’ native language)

Leave the room so your students feel comfortable sharing their minimum successful grades. Instruct students to form groups based on their minimum successful grades, and within groups, to share their minimum successful business outcomes, the customers they are uniquely suited to serve, their major, and the skills and experiences they have. Read this example:

“Hi, my name is Jennifer. My minimum successful business outcome is to try starting one. I can uniquely serve roboticists and florists. My major is Computer Engineering and I have skills and experience building websites, and launching an app in the Apple App store.”

Step 6

aligned goals and diverse skills worksheet step 6: potential teammate notesStudents now turn to finding teammates by finding students with similar goals, and different skills.

As students interview each other, they take notes of who seems like a good fit with them, and why.

Steps 7 – 8

aligned goals and diverse skills worksheet step 7: team name and team minimum successful grade

Students will next imagine a team name (encourage them to be creative and develop a name that reflects what value they are trying to create, and for whom). They should agree on the minimum successful grade for the general team.

Step 9

Aligned goals and diverse skills step 9: minimum successful business outcomeEach student will bring their own dreams to the group. Give students ~5 minutes to identify shared business outcomes and jot those dow.

Step 10

The last step is for all students, in their individual teams, to narrow down the customers they are uniquely suited to serve, either because they were members of that group, are members of that group or have an intentional purpose to work with that group.

Summary

Your students just identified the customers they are most passionate about helping, and the problems/emotions they’re most excited to help them resolve. In doing so, your students identified several potential paths that could lead them toward creating a profitable business. By focusing on the people and using them as inspiration for business ideas, your students have an infinite source of potentially successful businesses to choose from now, or in the future.


Get the “Aligned Goals + Diverse Skills” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed “Aligned Goals + Diverse Skills” 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.

 


Get our Next Free Lesson Plan

We email new experiential entrepreneurship lesson plans regularly.

Subscribe here to get our next lesson plan in your inbox!

Join 8,000+ instructors and get new lesson plans via email!


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable: