Browsed by
Category: Lesson Plans

Improved: Pilot Your Purpose v2

Improved: Pilot Your Purpose v2

Not every student dreams of becoming an entrepreneur but…
Every student yearns to find their purpose.

Regardless of their entrepreneurial ambitions, helping students define their purpose will give them a reason to learn entrepreneurial skills. Whether they want to help refugees find jobs or help student-athletes avoid injuries, helping students discover their passions is key to keeping them engaged.

What’s Your Purpose?

The original Pilot Your Purpose is extremely popular with students because it helps them identify their interests, skills, passions, and desire for impact.

Teaching Entrepreneurship Pilot Your Purpose Exercise

After completing the exercise, students develop a purpose statement they can “pilot” throughout your course. As a result, your class becomes a way to pursue their purpose.

Integrating Purposeful AI 

Of course, for some students, introspection can be difficult. So we updated the exercise to leverage AI brainstorming prompts to help them discover passions they may not think of on their own:
ChatGPT prompt to help students generate ideas they may be passionate about
Note: if you or your students don’t have much experience with AI in the classroom, or you’d like to provide them a functional understanding of how it works, check out our Birds & Bees of Artificial Intelligence exercise.

Celebrate Their Purpose

Several more steps are outlined in the lesson plan below, but once students have identified a potential purpose, give them a chance to celebrate what excites them and have them create groups of 2 – 3 students and invite them to share with one another.

Pilot Your PurposeThen ask students to share their purpose with you by either:

  • Sharing their slide deck with you
  • Presenting their purpose to the class
  • Recording a video presenting and posting it on the class discussion board

Learning about what motivates your students will provide you with insight to help you address their needs, and will naturally increase engagement.

Connect it to Your Course

We use this exercise as the first lesson in our comprehensive entrepreneurship curriculum and strategically revisit it throughout the course. That helps make entrepreneurship skills personally relevant to students, regardless of their desire to “become an entrepreneur.”

By making your class about their purpose, whether or not they want to be entrepreneurs…

Your students have a reason to learn entrepreneurial skills.

Get the New “Pilot Your Purpose” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Pilot Your Purpose” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan


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

Coming Soon…

We will be sharing more engaging exercises like this one!

Subscribe here to get lesson plans delivered in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!


How AI Thinks: The Birds and Bees of AI Answers

How AI Thinks: The Birds and Bees of AI Answers

For your students to be able to take advantage of full AI . . .
Students need to understand how AI works.

Lesson Plan: Birds & Bees of AI

Watch the video above to learn how to teach students:
  • Where AI answers come from
  • The difference between Google search and ChatGPT
  • When to use AI and when to avoid it
You can also get the lesson plan and slides below.

Step 1: A brand new language for AI answers

Tell your students they are going to learn a brand new language the same way AI learns new things.

Show them a list of words and their job is to figure out

  • Which words refer to birds
  • Which words refers to cats and
  • Which words refer to neither

Present this list of words to your students and ask which ones are the bird words.

Birds and bees exercise to understand how AI learns a new language

You’ll sit in awkward silence and be met with blank stares.

After a few moments, acknowledge your students have no clue which ones are the bird words. Explain this is exactly how AI answers start out.

Everything these AIs learn they’ve had to be trained on.

Before your students can answer the “bird word” question, they need training data.

Give them some bird words and ask them to observe what’s happening in their brain as you show these bird words.

  • Show the first bird word in this new language: Briz.
  • Show the second bird word: Buitle.
  • Show the third bird word: Bast.

Ask your students what the last bird word is. Tell them to write it down but don’t say it out loud, that you will count them down and all of them can shout it at once.

Count down 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . GO! and your students will likely all shout “BEOL!”

Exercise demonstrating how AIs identify patterns in wordsStep 2: AI answers through pattern recognition

Explain the way their brain works to identify an answer is the same way AI answers a question.

Your students started making connections and seeing patterns as soon as you showed them the second or third word. They could understand you were giving them the words that start with B.

Tell your students they recognized the pattern, which is exactly how we train AIs. 

Tell your students you’re moving on to the cat words, and same as with the bird words, you will show them a couple words and then you’ll count them down to tell you the last cat word.

Give them some cat words and ask them to observe what’s happening in their brain as you show these cat words.

  • Show the first cat word in this new language: Schluggat.
  • Show the second cat word: Fissat.

Count your students down to yell the third cat word 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . GO! and your students will likely yell a variety of answers.

Many students will say “Lerat.”

This answer makes sense because it ends with “at” just like “cat” and the first two cat words.

This is incorrect, because they don’t take the time to think through all the patterns you’ve given them.

It turns out AIs can be overly aggressive in pattern matching just like students who pick Lerat.

Step 3: Training data for accurate AI answers

Use the following story to highlight that an AI is only as good as its training data. If the AI doesn’t have enough training data it can can make incorrect assumptions, and if it has biased or incorrect training data, it can produce erroneous results. The point to drive home is that training data is of utmost importance.

The story is about AI researchers who were trying to train AI to detect malignant moles from images. They used a lot of images of moles to train the AI, and the AI came up with an astounding conclusion:

Rulers cause cancer.

The AI learned that any picture with a ruler in it also contained a malignant mole. So it concluded that rulers caused cancer. What happened is the AI researchers trained the tool on a number of pictures of people’s benign moles that didn’t have rulers in them, but the malignant moles did have rulers in them to indicate the size of the mole.

The AI got overly aggressive and thought anytime it sees a ruler the mole must be cancerous.

Back to the cat words.

Tell students that Lorat is not the right cat word, and ask them to shout out what is the last cat word in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . and they will shout “WRATT!”

How AIs learn language

Highlight the pattern of double letters that ends with an “at” sound.

Tell students they now have all the information they need to be an AI after these two training exercises.

Step 4: A brand new word!

As a new AI, you want them to use the patterns they learned so far to generate a brand new word that means “flying cat.”

Turning students into AIs by training to recognize patterns

Give your students about 30 seconds, and tell them you’ll count down for them to shout their answer. Count them down from 3, and you’ll hear some words that start with “B” and have double letters and end with an “at” sound. 

This is what you want because they are using their training to combine the attributes of bird and cat words. Talk about some of the words they’re sharing and how they made incorrect assumptions and/or produced erroneous results. 

For instance, maybe a student says “bat.” It does start with a “b” and end with an “at” sound, but it doesn’t have any double letters.

Maybe another student says “bullet.” It does start with a “b” and have double letters, but it does not end with an “at” sound.

This is how generative AIs work – they learn some patterns and combine them.

Step 5: Google answers vs. AI answers

Explain to your students this is the difference between these new AIs and something like Google. Google is basically a dictionary. It is a database of gathered information from around the web. So when they ask Google for that information, it searches for information on websites and creates a database of them.

When you ask Google for a definition, it retrieves information about that word and gives it to you.

The difference between Google and generative AI like ChatGPT

Now explain the difference of generative AI answers.

ChatGPT works from information it’s gathered across the web, but it’s not a dictionary.

Tell your students to think of a generative AI like ChatGPT like an incredible Lego builder. The Legos are not individual facts, but are patterns it observed. The AI builds a database of these patterns, and uses those patterns to generate brand new content that has never before been created.

As new generative AIs, your students never saw a word that means “flying cat” but they do know:

  • Things that fly are birds, and bird words start with a “b”
  • A cat word needs to contain double letters and end with an “at” sound

Tell them to combine these patterns and generate a brand new word from them.

For fun, give students 30 seconds to create a new word by combining these patterns. As they share, have fun celebrating their ability to use pattern recognition to create something the world has never known before.

Get the “The Birds & Bees of AI” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “The Birds & Bees of AI: Where Do Answers Come From?” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan


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


Coming Soon…

In upcoming posts, we will be sharing more engaging AI exercises like this one!

Subscribe here to get lesson plans delivered in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!


How to Improve Lesson Plans

How to Improve Lesson Plans

If you’d like to improve lesson plans . . .

Just ask your students how they feel.

The surprisingly simple details are below, but I can attest this process works (it’s the same one we use to improve the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum).

Step 1: Ask Your Students How They Feel

At the end of each lesson or exercise, simply ask your students how they felt about it.

From our experience, surveying students about their feelings provides more actionable feedback than a question like “On a scale from 1 to 5 how would you rate…?”.

Here are the specific questions we students ask after every ExEC exercise:

We get better results by asking emotionally-based questions because:

  1. It’s easier for students to check boxes indicating their feelings than it is for them to score an exercise on an arbitrary number scale.
  2. We care as much about the “why” behind their rating as we do about the rating itself. From our experience, students provide more in-depth answers to why they have a feeling than why they gave something a numeric rating.

Step 2: Analyze the Data

Once your data comes back, patterns will emerge.

For example, this data from Fall 2021 shows how ExEC students felt after completing their first exercise:

While the majority of students felt excited and confident about the assignment, 18% of them felt confused, which provided an opportunity for improvement.

After reading why those students felt confused, we hypothesized adding a video that showed students how to turn their assignments in might reduce their confusion.

Step 3: Implement Improvements

In our case we created a video demonstrating how to submit ExEC assignments on each of the major LMSs (e.g. Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, D2L).

In your case, you’ll implement solutions informed by your students’ surveys. After that, you can simply ask your students for their feedback again so you can . . .

Step 4: Compare the Before Data 

In our case, the impact of the new video was immediate. By Spring of 2022 . . .

We saw student confusion cut in half, while excitement and confidence continued to rise.

The best part is, you can use these four steps to improve just about anything related to your course.

Just ask these two questions:

  1. How did you feel doing this?
  2. Why that feeling?

And you can improve the quality of a specific lesson, a homework assignment, or the course overall. 

And now it’s your turn:

How did you feel about this article?

If you’d like to feel confident you’re using a curriculum that is continuously improving, check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

We practice what we preach to ensure you and your students have the most engaging experiences possible.

Preview ExEC Now

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

Teaching Entrepreneurship AI Summit

Register Now!

Coming Soon…

We will be sharing more engaging exercises like this one!

Subscribe here to get lesson plans delivered in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!


Teaching Entrepreneurship AI Summit Summer 2023

Teaching Entrepreneurship AI Summit Summer 2023

The Teaching Entrepreneurship Summit is back with . . .

4 AI Workshops for Educators!

With new AI tools coming out every day, it’s hard to know which ones are useful for teaching.

In this special AI summit, you’ll:

  • Get up to speed on AI in education
  • Get several fun exercises to show your students the power of AI
  • Discover how to avoid AI plagiarism
  • Learn how AI can save you endless time (e.g. faster assessment)

Register Here

Learn Best Practices For Leveraging AI

The Teaching Entrepreneurship Summit will help you make the most of AI.

Register now so you don’t miss it!

Each session will run from 1:00 – 2:30 pm Eastern on their respective days but if you can’t join us live, recordings are available for purchase.

Tuesday, May 9th

AI Demystified: A Guide for Entrepreneurship Educators

Exercises to introduce your students (and yourself) to AI:

  • What are the best AI tools for entrepreneurship classes?
  • How can AI improve students’ business ideas?
  • How can AI make assessment faster?
  • How do you mitigate concerns about AI in the classroom?

Tuesday, May 16th

Using AI to Teach Customer Interviewing

The pandemic only exacerbated students’ customer interviewing anxiety.

In this session you’ll learn AI-powered exercises to help your students:

  • Find the right customers to interview
  • Learn the best questions to ask
  • Practice customer interviews with an AI “chat coach”

. . . all of which will build their interviewing confidence!

Tuesday, May 23rd

Teaching AI-Enabled Financial Modeling

Blow your students’ minds when you show them how easy it is to make robust financial models with the help of AI.

During this workshop you’ll get exercises to help your students:

  • Understand financial concepts
  • Develop accurate financial models
  • Learn how to validate those models in the real world

Tuesday, May 30th

AI Tools to Build Better MVPs 

Your students will be able to test demand for their products and services faster than ever with AI tools to help them:

  • Launch professional MVPs in minutes (no coding required)
  • Write amazing marketing copy
  • Generate powerful imagery for their MVPs, ads, and videos (no design experience required)

Register Here

Early Bird Tickets Available

We know budgets are tight right now so we’re offering a “Live Access Only” ticket free of charge.

Plus: Full Access tickets, which include recordings, slides, and a certificate of participation are $100 off before April 28th.

BONUS: We’re a team of experienced engineers, educators, and entrepreneurs with decades of combined experience. We know AI can be intimidating, so we’ve done the work sifting through what’s out there and what’s worth it.

Exclusive to Full Access ticket holders, join us for an “Ask Us Anything” session where we’ll help you tackle any challenge you have in your entrepreneurship class – AI-related or otherwise.

Register here so you don’t miss the AI Summer 2023 Summit!

Register Here

My ChatGPT Cofounder

My ChatGPT Cofounder

Last week we discussed the challenges of AI in academia. This week, we’re exploring the benefits of it, with a new lesson plan! In this exercise, your students will explore…
Who is a better cofounder: a human, or ChatGPT?
In this lesson you’ll simultaneously:
  1. Demonstrate some of the amazing capabilities of ChatGPT to your students
  2. You’ll also give them an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the business model validation process
This is a powerful exercise to wrap up your term, in particular as a final project or exam.
Watch the video below for a demo:

My ChatGPT Cofounder Demo

Get the “My ChatGPT Cofounder” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “My ChatGPT Cofounder” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan


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


Coming Soon…

We will be sharing more engaging exercises like this one!

Subscribe here to get lesson plans delivered in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!


Your Day 1 Problem

Your Day 1 Problem

Students’ eyes glaze over when they read the syllabus.

How we can engage students and start teaching them entrepreneurship skills from the moment they walk into our classes?

Jay Markiewicz from Virginia Commonwealth University developed a novel way to start your semester that almost guarantees students will WANT to come back!

Step 1: Problem Definition and Customer Discovery

It’s the first day of class. We want to be anti-boring.

We want to put students in the middle of an engaging experience right away.

And even better, we want the engagement to be instructive.

By asking the question below, the moment is instantly relevant because students are experiencing it in real time. Students begin by using Post-it notes to answer this question

What are the challenges and concerns students face on day one of a new course?

Surprised and intrigued by the question, your students write down their answers on Post-It notes you’ve left on their desks before class started.

Then you tell your students to text their friends and ask them the same question. 

Surprised again (this time by being instructed to text during class) your classroom will fill with discussion and energy as students get replies.

Just like that, within the first 5 minutes of your course, your students are practicing the real-world entrepreneurial skill of problem discovery…and loving it.

In small teams of 3-4, students take a moment to meet each other and then collaborate by discussing with each other the challenges/concerns they wrote on their post-it notes. 

In this step, students start identifying problems, and progress into customer discovery, all in the first moments of class!

Step 2: Data Analysis

In this step, teams use their Post-it notes to group similar answers, ranking their top concerns/challenges.

Each team writes their top 2-3 answers on the board to start a list of all of the concerns/challenges students identified.

You can now engage the class in a discussion on the priority “problems” that students have on day one.

Here are some example answers you may see as the top priority”

  • “Getting to know each other. Avoiding day one awkwardness.”
  • “Getting interested in the course. Knowing what I’ll be learning throughout the course.”

In this step, students start analyzing customer discovery data – and you’re not even halfway through your first class!

Step 3: Solution Generation

Now we engage students even deeper, and have a little fun along the way!

They practiced problem definition, customer discovery, and data analysis. The next skill is generating solutions to the problem they just identified.

Ask students to write answers on the Post-it notes to the following question:

If you were me, what solutions would you design for these problems?

Students don’t need to text friends this time. Instead, have them form NEW teams of 3-4 students and go through the same steps as above – meet each other, identify the most common solutions, then debrief with answers grouped on the board or wall.

Step 4: Reflection

The last step of this amazing kickoff experience, included in the lesson plan below, are to have students reflect on the question, “How was this activity instructive to us about entrepreneurship?”

This is where students identify, in their own words, the entrepreneurial process – complete with their own ah-hah moments. It’s a really fun way for students to discover the key principles of entrepreneurship….all on the first day of the class!

Click below to….

Get the Full “What’s Your Day 1 Problem?” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “What is Your Day 1 Problem?” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.


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

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

Want More Exercises Like This?

ExEC is a structured collection of experiential exercises that teach students entrepreneurial skills regardless of their relationship to entrepreneurship.

As an less expensive alternative to a textbook, ExEC provides students lifetime access to a wide range of entrepreneurial tools, and provides instructors:

Preview ExEC Now

We will be sharing more engaging exercises like this one!

Subscribe here to get lesson plans delivered in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!


Recordings, Slides & Lessons from USASBE

Recordings, Slides & Lessons from USASBE

Wow, USASBE was amazing this year!

Below you’ll find the slides, lesson plans, and where available, recordings from our presentations.

But first, we wanted to say thank you for such a fantastic conference and share some of our highlights:


Milkshakes at USASBE


Twice a year we host the Teaching Entrepreneurship Summit showcasing the best entrepreneurship exercises we can find, and we couldn’t do it without an outstanding cohort of facilitators.

Teaching Entrepreneurship facilitators at USASBE

Renee Just, Kelly Reardon-Sleicher, and Krystal Geyer (left to right) are some of our best and most devoted facilitators. It was wonderful meeting them in person (and seeing the real-world “backpack” Kelly created for Krystal based on their Backpack Design Challenge experience)!


This award gives special recognition to the people whose outstanding passion for entrepreneurship is reflected in their teaching, writing, research, training, and public service.

Doan Winkel named a Longenecker Fellow at USASBE

Doan is one of only 85 people to be selected as a Longenecker Fellow over the last 36 years and we can’t thank him enough for his contribution to entrepreneurship education.


This year’s exercises were the best we’d ever seen at USASBE.

Federico Mammano, Justin Wilcox, Doan Winkel - 3E Podium 2023

Considering the level of competition among the Entrepreneurship Experiential Exercises (3E), we were ecstatic, and honored, that the Financial Modeling Showdown got recognized!

This continues our streak:


Bowling at USASBE
                  That face says it all 🙂

Overall, we came away from the conference reinvigorated and recommitted to providing the best entrepreneurship education resources we can!

Speaking of which, here are all of our resources from USASBE:


Get Slides, Lesson Plans, and Exercises

Includes resources from all 5 of our sessions:

  1. Marketing MVPs: Testing Demand on Social Media
  2. Making Finance Fun: The Financial Modeling Showdown
  3. Revenue Model Card Game
  4. Backpack Design Challenge: Intro to Design Thinking
  5. What is Your “F” Problem?

Just enter your email in the box above.

What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans, quick slides, and a variety of other resources to keep your students engaged!

Subscribe here to get our next classroom resource in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

Teaching Entrepreneurship Winter Summit

Teaching Entrepreneurship Winter Summit

Teaching Entrepreneurship Winter Summit 2022

The Teaching Entrepreneurship Winter Summit is back with . . .

2 New Workshops!

You and our community of entrepreneurship educators voted for your favorite workshops, and now they’re happening!

Register Here

Learn Best Practices

The Teaching Entrepreneurship Winter Summit provides you with top-performing exercises and lets you experience these exercises like your students will. Plus, they’re…

Free when you join us live!

Both sessions will run from 1:00 – 2:30 pm Eastern on their respective days but if you can’t join us live, recordings are available for purchase.

Tuesday, December 13th

See It Taught Live: Financial Modeling Showdown

Winter Summit 2022: Financial Modeling Showdown

Watch Dr. Doan Winkel teach his students financial modeling live* using a fun, interactive game that you can use with your students too!

*We’ll live stream cameras from the classroom so you’ll literally see how the lesson is taught.

Tuesday, December 20th

Engagement From the First Day

Winter summit: Engagement From Day One

Use this lesson to get your students to think like entrepreneurs from the first day of class. 

In collaboration with Jay Markiewicz from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Register Here

Early Bird Tickets Available

We know budgets are tight right now so we’re offering a new “Live Access Only” ticket to the Teaching Entrepreneurship Winter Summit free of charge.

Plus: Full Access tickets, which include recordings and slides, are $100 off before November 30th.

Winter Summit Benefits

Winter Summit map

At our last summit. . .

600+ educators joined us live!

Register here so you don’t miss the Winter Summit!

Register Here

How to Teach Revenue Models

How to Teach Revenue Models

How do you engage students while teaching a financial subject like revenue models? Try the . . .

Revenue Models Matching Card Game

Step 1: Match the Cards

Students start by matching revenue model definitions cards like…

To familiar companies that use those revenue models:

teaching revenue models

The cards actually teach students the revenue model definitions – no textbook required!

Step 2: Brainstorm

Next, students brainstorm ways they could use 9 different revenue models:

After exploring a wide range of revenue models they could potentially use, they’re ready to…

Step 3: Apply

Finally, students pick the revenue model(s) they think will be most profitable for their company…

…and now they’re ready to add them to their Business Model Canvas (and start validating them).

Try It!

This is a really fun way to teach revenue models that we’ve had a lot of success with.

Get the “Revenue Model Matching Game” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Revenue Model Matching Game” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.


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

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

Coming Soon…

We will be sharing more engaging exercises like this one!

Subscribe here to get lesson plans delivered in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!


New Design Thinking: Backpack Design Challenge

New Design Thinking: Backpack Design Challenge

Tell students they are hired as a product designer. Their first job out of school is to design an ideal backpack. To help them do this, introduce the series of worksheets laid out in the Backpack Design Challenge lesson plan.

Step 1: The Most Exciting Purchase or Gift

The first worksheet asks students what is the most exciting thing they bought themselves, or were given as a gift recently.

It is really helpful with this exercise for you to share your perspective. At this step, share with them a concrete example of something that really excited you.

Make sure the thing they think of is something specific, and something they were really looking forward to. For example, a birthday present, or a holiday present, or something they’ve been wanting for months that they finally splurged on.

Design thinking backpack design challenge

Step 2: Feelings About the Purchase or Gift

Students record the feelings that came up as they made the purchase or received the gift. Give students time to reflect on the emotions they felt.

The point of these two steps is to build the foundation for the design thinking exercise to come.

Our goal is for them to learn a set of skills that helps them design products and services that get their customers as excited about the thing the student is creating as the student was about the purchase or gift. 

 Get The Lesson Plan Today!

Step 3: Must-have features

Now we will teach students to design a backpack that people get super excited about.

Ask students to describe their three “must have” features of their backpack.

A new approach to design thinking

Start by describing your three “must haves” and give them a few minutes to write down their three “must haves” that are unique to them.

Step 4: Draw the ideal backpack

The next step is for students to draw their ideal backpack. The point here is not beautiful artwork. The point is to visualize what the backpack with their must-have features looks lke.

Step 6: Ideal backpack reflection

Pair your students up for this step. Each student shares their drawings with their partner.

Each partner will ask lots of questions to dive deep into why their partner wanted certain features and anything else they are curious about.

design thinking reflection

Next, give students a few minutes to reflect on their partner’s backpack design. They describe what they saw and heard, how they felt about what they saw and heard, etc.

Components of the traditional design process

  • What should be built (start with product in mind)
  • How should it work / what should it look like? (functionality)
  • Do people love it?
  • Goal: build the best thing

Alternative approach: design thinking introduction

Explain to your students that what they just experienced is the traditional design process. Continue by sharing that this traditional way is not the best way to get customers excited about their product or service.

Ask them whether their partner offered to pre-order when saw other design. Was their partner so excited that they offered to give them real money? The answer will be no.

design process steps

Explain that in the traditional design process, someone

  • decides a product they should build
  • figures out the functionality of their product – what are the nuts and bolts
  • as a last step, they launch their product and work to figure out whether people love it

For your students to design something that gets people truly excited, they need to understand the design thinking process.

The design thinking process has five steps to create products people get really excited about:

  • Empathize
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

Talk to your students about the difference between the traditional design process and the design thinking process. In the traditional design approach, they start with thinking about the product they’re going to build.

In the design thinking process, they start with no product in mind. Instead, they start by understanding the customer’s emotional needs. In other words, what motives them on emotional level? This is the empathizing stage

If the goal is to build something people love, empathizing should be the first step in the process not the third step.

Step 7: Design something useful

Now that they are inspired to design something people want, pair students up again. Students interview the partner they previously worked with for 4 minutes each.

It is important here to tell them to forget about the backpack. They are taking a design thinking approach, so they don’t know what the “right” thing to build is. They learn what their partner really loves and why, so they can design something these customers truly want.

design thinking first step

The goal of this interview is to find out what’s the hardest part about being a student, how they felt, when they felt that way, and why it’s a problem.

Step 8: Dig deeper

Students then conduct another 4-minute interview with their partner. The difference is, this time they

  • What feelings arise for their partner when they have the problem they described before
  • Have they done anything to try and solve that problem
  • What didn’t they like about that solution

 Get The Lesson Plan Today!

Steps 9-11: Define the problem

Students next will define the problem their partner mentioned. They will

  • Synthesize data obtained from partner interview
  • Answer 3 questions
    • What goals is their partner trying to achieve?
    • What did they learn about their partner’s motivation
    • What is the partner point of view: [partner name] needs a way to [verb] because [problem to solve]

design thinking: define the problem step

This step outlines for the student a structure for the process of designing a solution that excites their partner.

Step 12: Ideate solutions

We now understand the problem. The goal here is to draw 5 different designs for alternative solutions using the new information they gathered. These designs can be anything. They don’t have to be based in reality – encourage your students to use their imagination.

design thinking new exercise

Step 13: Solicit feedback

In same pairs as before, students share their new solutions with each other and provide feedback. They share with each other what do they like, what don’t they like, and why.

design thinking feedback

Students will then iterate with their partners to come up with a more ideal solution for the problem based on their partner’s feedback.

design thinking iteration

This work will likely have nothing to do with backpacks – it will relate to the biggest problems the students experience. It could be about time management, or the dining hall, or parking, or boring classes.

That’s OK – we are working to get them trying to solve real problems for their partner!

Step 14: Reflect on new design

Students now have a new design based on feedback from their partner. Now we want them to reflect on that new design.

In pairs, they will answer two questions about the design their partner developed to solve their problem:

  • What emotions come up with thinking about partner’s new design, and why?
  • More excited about partner’s original design or new design, and why? 

design thinking reflection

Step 15: Compare approaches

Now you will recap everything with your students as a class. Tell them they went through two approaches to design:

  • Traditional design approach – their first design
  • Design thinking approach – their second design

They now fill out a comparison worksheet for these two approaches. First each student writes down the two different designs their partner create for them. The questions they will answer about these two designs are:

  • Which design are they most excited about?
  • Which design is more feasible?
  • Which design solves their partners’ problem better?
  • Which design would they choose?

design thinking comparison

Ask the class as a whole which design method feels more valuable. Specifically, ask them to put up the numbers of fingers representing the number of Xs they have in the Design Thinking row.

You should see an overwhelming number of students put up at least 3 fingers for the design thinking approach.

Highlight for students that this is why we do design thinking:

It is so much more powerful for creating ideas that are exciting to customers and that they want to pay for because the product actually solves their real problems.

Then, summarize for your students that they just completed the full design thinking process:

  • They empathized – they worked to understand their customer’s problems
  • They defined the problem – they gathered all the information they learned from their customer & now understand the problem that customer experiences
  • They then ideated on solutions for that problem – they developed multiple potential solutions for the problem their customer was experiencing
  • They prototyped products to solve the problem – here they would develop something that a user could actually interact with
  • Last, they tested their prototype – they solicited feedback from their customer to learn what appealed to them and what did not

The design thinking process is iterative. Students went through it once during this exercise. After testing, they can start again by empathizing with their customer based on their new product.

This approach is powerful because it will help your students work on solving problems that real customers actually experience.

After this exercise is a great place to segway into your syllabus and the topics you will cover and experiences students will have. You can connect this experience to the rest of your course by highlighting they will now be able to:

  • Understand a wide range of customer needs
  • Defining the problem
  • Iterating on a solution to that problem
  • Designing prototypes of that solution
  • Testing how customers feel about that solution

Get the “Backpack Design Challenge” Lesson Plan

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


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

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

Coming Soon…

We will be sharing more engaging exercises like this one!

Subscribe here to get lesson plans delivered in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!