The article below represents our top exercises from 2021. For our 2022 list, check out this article.
“Your posts help me keep my students engaged – they and I thank you!” – ExEC Curriculum Professor
Based on the popularity of our 2018 Top 5 Lesson Plans article, we’ve updated our list based on feedback from our fast-growing community of now 4,600-strong entrepreneurship instructors.
The following are all lesson plans we’ve designed to transform your students’ experience as they learn how to generate ideas, interview customers, prototype and validate solutions.
5. Idea Generation vs. Problem Generation
Many of our students believe an idea is the heart of entrepreneurship. In this lesson, we shatter that assumption and replace it with an appropriate focus on customer problems.
We want your students to develop ideas that are more feasible, impactful, and creative.
This is the toughest challenges entrepreneurship professors face. Student ideas tend to be a repetition of low-impact or infeasible mediocrity. You want more from them. We can help! We focus your students on problems in this lesson because the best business ideas come from problems.
After this lesson, your students’ ideas will be:
- More feasible because they’re focusing on serving people they care about.
- More impactful because they’re paying more attention to problems than they are products.
- More creative because they’ll use those problems as inspiration.
4. Personal Business Plan
In this exercise, shared with us by Rebeca Hwang from Stanford University, students create a business plan about themselves. Students approach themselves as a company and apply the tools they learned during their entrepreneurship course to understand how they add value to the world.
Students answer questions about their future vision and about their present plans and passions. One of our professor’s favorite components of this exercise is that students choose who grades their personal business plan (and that our colleagues at Stanford provide a very robust rubric)!
Through this exercise, students:
- Learn to see themselves as a company,
- Learn they must continuously invest in and develop a plan for their future,
- Embrace the tools and methodologies they learned in the course because they are applying them to their future,
- Understand learning is meaningful when applied to a personal context
3. Teaching Customer Interviewing
We consistently hear from faculty that teaching customer interviewing is their biggest challenge. In this lesson plan students use a combination of ExEC Customer Interviewing Playing Cards, with an online collaborative quiz game (Kahoot), to learn:
- What their problem interviewing goals should be and should not be
- What questions they should and should not ask
Students then get an interview script template they can use as the basis for their problem discovery interviews.
This exercise teaches your students:
- What objectives they should and should not attempt to accomplish during a problem discovery interview and why,
- What questions they should and shouldn’t ask during a customer discovery interview and why,
- What a comprehensive interview script book looks like
2. 60 Minute MVP
One of our most popular lesson plans is the 60 Minute MVP. During this class, students launch an MVP website, with an animated video and a way to take pre-orders, in an hour with no prior coding experience. One of our professors told us after running this exercise:
“One student described it as like a Navy Seal mental training exercise. Not sure it was that intense, but they were amazed and proud that they got it done.”
Your students will love this class period; they progress from the anxiety of the challenge confronting them (build a website in 60 minutes) to the elation of their journey (launching a website they built in 60 minutes). This exercise creates tremendous energy in your classroom. Students create something real.
On the lesson plan page you can view an example video students created in about 20 minutes, built around actual customer problem interviews:
You can also view a great example of a website built in just 60 minutes:
Some critical learnings for your students are the true meaning of Minimum Viable Product (MVP), that it’s easier to launch a product than they thought, and that the easiest thing about building a business is launching that product.
1. Teaching Customer Observations
During our years of research on what topics entrepreneurship professors struggle to teach, we heard “customer interviewing” over and over again. Our ExEC curriculum includes a robust method of customer interviewing, but customer observation is another great way to gather customer information. So we developed our Teaching Customer Observations lesson plan to help students learn the value of seeing how their customers experience problems, as opposed to imagining their customers’ problems.
In addition to our community thinking this is a powerful experience in the classroom, this exercise also won first place in the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises Awards at the USASBE 2019 Annual Conference!
This exercise positions your students to observe customers in their natural settings. This allows them to discover new business opportunities and increase their empathy and behavioral analysis skills.
Our goal with this exercise is to teach students to have an empathy picture/analysis that frames the problem they are trying to solve before they jump to a solution. Having this clear picture will allow them to come up with better creative solutions.
During this two-class exercise, your students will experience customer empathy and how to plan and translate an observation experience into ideas for products and services. This will provide the following benefits:
- Introduce students to a powerful tool to gather information on customer experience in real-life situations. This allows students to avoid predicting customer behavior by actually observing it.
- Students practice how to listen with their eyes in order to understand what people value and care about, & what they don’t.
- Provide a common reference experience for expanding on topics later in the course.
Want 15 Weeks of Lesson Plans?
We’ve done the work for you.
- Check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum
- Check out an entrepreneurship syllabus for Creativity & Innovation, New Venture Creation, Social Entrepreneurship, Intro to Entrepreneurship, & MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation courses
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