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.
- Identify their goals for the course.
- 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.
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:
- 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.
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.
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.
Steps 3 and 4
Prior 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.
Students 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.”
As students interview each other, they take notes of who seems like a good fit with them, and why.
Steps 7 – 8
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.
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.
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.
It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.
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