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.
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:
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.
Then 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.
It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it.
We will be sharing more engaging exercises like this one!
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It’s not because they think the business plans are the best tool for building a business.
We asked the Teaching Entrepreneurship community what tools they teach and many of the instructors we surveyed teach business plans because it’s a course requirement or because they believe it’s “standard practice” outside academia.
Our research appears to contradict the notion that business plans are standard practice as a majority (57%) of instructors outside academia don’t teach business plans at all.
In fact, across the nearly 300 instructors we surveyed, only 8% teach the business plan exclusively.
Compare that to the 88% of instructors who teach one of the “canvases” (e.g. Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, and/or Value Proposition Canvas) and it’s clear business plans are no longer the de facto standard.
Why Do Teachers Love the Business Plan?
The few respondents teaching only the business plan cited many reasons for preferring this tool. The most commons reasons are:
It is a comprehensive tool
It is necessary for some funding sources like bank loans
It is required by standards in the respondent’s particular context
But the vast majority of teachers don’t feel that way – across all teacher populations we surveyed (K-12 and higher ed, academic and non-academic, from the US and abroad), only 8% teach only the business plan.
For instructors and course coordinators who still teach the business plan:
Requirements that business plans be taught because they are seen as a standard entrepreneurial practice should be reconsidered.
While some instructors see benefits in teaching business plans, and they may be important to teach in some circumstances, they are taught by a minority of instructors both inside and outside academia and should no longer be considered the de facto standard for describing businesses.
What Entrepreneurship Tools Do Teachers Use?
“Canvases” (Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, and/or Value Proposition Canvas) have replaced the business plan as the most popular teaching tool.
As we mentioned earlier, 88% of instructors we surveyed teach with some version of a Canvas, and 50% teach the Business Model Canvas.
Why Do Teachers Love the Canvas?
Our respondents cited many reasons for preferring the Business Model Canvas. The most common reasons are:
It is simple and user friendly. Specifically, some teachers noted the BMC is a way to engage non-business students that is not intimidating.
It forces students to focus on customer development and experimentation as they pursue product-market fit.
It is the dominant tool used in “the real world.”
Because of the dominance of the BMC in entrepreneurship education, we engaged Dr. Alexander Osterwalder in a series of posts to share how he teaches this tool.
How Do The Entrepreneurship Tools You Use Compare To Your Peers?
Nearly 80% of K-12 teachers reported using a canvas tool to teach entrepreneurship, while almost 50% reported using a business plan.
Nearly 90% of academic teachers reported using a canvas tool to teach entrepreneurship, while almost 50% reported using a business plan.
Nearly 90% of US-based teachers reported using a canvas tool to teach entrepreneurship, while almost 50% reported using a business plan.
Other Popular Entrepreneurship Education Tools
To see the full list of additional teaching tools, please enter your email below.
It is not surprising many respondents mentioned AI as a favorite tool. In previous posts, we explored some of the challenges of using AI in academia, and also some benefits. For instance, in a lesson plan we developed, students use ChatGPT as a cofounder and develop a business model and an MVP to test that business model.
Stay tuned for an exciting announcement about our upcoming
Many respondents mentioned design thinking as a favorite tool. Using this process, students create ideas that are exciting to customers and that they want to pay for because the product actually solves their real problems.
SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is a technique for evaluating and making choices about an organization, products/services, or specific projects. Founders and small business owners use it to make smart, informed business decisions because it aids in understanding a company’s position within their market or industry and knowing how and where it can grow.
A mind map is a graphic representation of thoughts, ideas, concepts and notes. This tool allows your students to visually organize information and see relationships among parts of the whole.
Because mind maps offer a visual means to identify connections, it is an excellent tool for idea brainstorming and for competitive analysis. For instance, students can identify similar products/services and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses relative to the student’s product/service.
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.
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:
Customer interviews make students anxious because they fear approaching strangers.
It’s our job to build their customer interviewing muscle.
Like the Make Entrepreneurship Relevant Slides, you can use these slides to get your students excited about interviewing customers. If you’d like to lower student anxiety around customer interviews, try this series of experiences:
Once your students have a good sense of what to ask during an interview, they’re ready to . . .
WALK: Interview Classmates
Students should get comfortable interviewing in a low-stakes environment, so have them start by interviewing 2 – 3 of their classmates.
It’s common for students to feel awkward conducting their first interviews. Let them know the awkwardness is normal and that’s why you’re giving them the opportunity to practice. Reassure your students that the more interviews they do, the more comfortable they’ll feel.
Bonus: Having students interview each other means each student gets interviewed as well.
When students get interviewed, they experience how validating it is to have someone listen to their problems.
When students realize that it feels good to be interviewed, they discover they won’t be bothering their interviewees. That insight alone can reduce their anxiety.
Note: The goal of classmate interviews is just to practice interviewing – they shouldn’t be used for real business model validation. Have your students start their classmate interviews off with, “What’s the biggest challenge you have as a student?” and then let the interview flow from there.
Click below to learn how your students can RUN and FLY with their customer interviews!
RUN: Interview Family and Friends
After interviewing a couple of classmates, students are ready to try interviewing friends and family members. This step gives students a safe way to practice interviewing people who, like their customers, will have no idea what a customer interview is.
As homework, ask your students to interview 3 friends or family members for at least 30 minutes each. Their goal is to learn as much as they can about the problems their interviewees have encountered in the last week (i.e., “What have been the biggest challenges that have come up for you over the last week?”).
As with the classmate interviews, the friends and family interviews shouldn’t be related to the product/service the students ultimately want to launch. These are just practice interviews in preparation for . . .
FLY: Interview Customers
Your students are now ready for real customer interviews!
You’ll want to make your students know the right customers to ask for interviews, and how to ask for those interviews, but at this point, your students will have much less anxiety about interviewing customers.
Since we started implementing this progression with our students, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in our students’ interviewing confidence and the quality of their interviews:
“At the beginning, I was really nervous about interviewing but after getting feedback from my friends and family it’s, surprisingly, become my favorite part of the class!”
– ExEC Student
If you’d like any more help teaching customer interviews, including:
No more fighting with your LMS!Whether you’re on Canvas, D2L, Blackboard, or Moodle, you can have a custom ExEC course uploaded in less than 5 minutes.
And with ExEC you get . . .
. . . all of which you can use to customize your course.
Improve Team Collaboration
If you want to increase team engagement (while reducing friction), ExEC now enables students to work together on assignments.
Whether your students are across the table, or across the world from one another, ExEC allows them to collaborate like working professionals.
As always, ExEC uses 100% experiential learning to teach students entrepreneurial skills.
Save Your Students Money
ExEC has always been less expensive than textbooks and even with new functionality and more exercises, ExEC remains the same price as always. Plus, students get lifetime access and free upgrades with a one-time payment.