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Teach the Business Model Canvas: Part 3 – Test

Teach the Business Model Canvas: Part 3 – Test

Dr. Alex Osterwalder, one of the creators of the Business Model Canvas (BMC), uses a 3-step process to teach it to students. This article outlines his third step:

How to test a business model canvas.

In the first step of his process, Alex introduces students to the different components of the BMC by having them match the business model hypotheses to the appropriate boxes of the canvas. In the second step, Alex helps students learn to write their hypotheses by asking students to complete partially finished BMCs.

In this third step, Alex helps students learn how to use the Business Model Canvas as a tool to prioritize their business models’ riskiest assumptions so they can design tests to validate them.

Prioritization Exercise

It’s critical to teach this prioritization step because it’s one of the major benefits of teaching the BMC over traditional business plans. Once entrepreneurs have a prioritized list of their riskiest assumptions, they can design experiments to test each of those assumptions in order of their prioritized risk.

To introduce prioritization, Alex presents an example from one of Steve Blank‘s classes that you’re welcome to use as well. Steve’s students were working on a company called Ceres, where they wanted to fly drones over farmland to capture images and generate data to help farmers fight drought, disease, and pests.
To help your students visualize what that means in practical terms, you can show them this video:

Step 1: Technical Hypotheses

Show your students the following BMC for Ceres and ask them to brainstorm what technological challenges have to be addressed for the business model to work.
Ceres drone business model canvas
Your students might share similar thoughts as Steve’s students had, such as:
  • Demonstrate they can build drones
  • Develop software to extract data from images the drones collect
  • Present data to farmers in a way they could use it

As with the previous exercises in this series, we recommend using the Think. Pair. Share. technique where students first reflect on the question individually, then share their thoughts with a partner, and finally, you facilitate a discussion with the entire class. This approach enables a lot more interaction and discussion than immediately starting with a class-wide discussion.

Step 2: Business Hypotheses

Next up, have your students brainstorm the non-technical challenges Ceres will have to tackle for their business model to be successful.

Your students may come up with challenges like:

  • Farmers want data to treat their fields
  • Farmers want to forecast their production
  • Farmers have a budget for our value proposition
  • Farmers are willing to pay for data
  • Farmers struggle with diseases and drought
  • Local water utilities and fertilizer/pesticide producers are interested in partnering

Step 3: Prioritizing Hypotheses

Now ask “which of these hypotheses should Ceres test first?” In other words, when there are so many assumptions about a business model, how do you prioritize which ones to test first?

Ask your students which 3 of the 9 hypotheses listed above would they test first.  This is another great opportunity to utilize the Think. Pair. Share. technique.

After sharing, tell students that when we talk about the riskiest hypothesis of a business model, we say…

The riskiest assumption of a business model is the one that is most likely to kill the business.

With that in mind, it might make sense that the Ceres students chose the following as their riskiest assumptions:
  1. Demonstrate they can build drones
  2. Develop software to extract data from images the drones collect
  3. Present data to farmers in a way they could use it

Ceres business model hypotheses

You could imagine the Ceres students saying, “Without drones and the data they collect, we have no business!” What they and most entrepreneurs don’t realize is, as Alex puts it, “Desirability” hypotheses are almost universally riskier than “Feasibility” hypotheses.

Desirability, feasibility, and viability hypotheses of a business model canvas

It turns out that “Feasibility” hypotheses (i.e., “Can we build it?”) are nowhere near as difficult to validate as “Desirability” hypotheses. That’s because…

A problem without a solution is a matter of time. A solution without a problem is a waste of time.

Put another way, if you find out someone has a problem, there are a myriad of ways you can try and solve that problem. But, if you have a solution to a problem, but no one actually has or cares about solving that problem, the solution is useless and all the time spent building it was wasted.

So Ceres’ riskiest assumption isn’t that they can build a drone; their riskiest assumption is that farmers have problems that can be solved with drones.

Their actual riskiest assumptions all fall under the “Desirability” category:

  1. Farmers struggle with diseases and drought
  2. Farmers are willing to pay for data
  3. Local water utilities and fertilizer/pesticide producers are interested in partnering

Once the desirability and viability hypotheses have been validated, the riskiest assumptions fall within the feasibility category.

To demonstrate this point, tell your students about the…

Step 4: Ceres Case Study Update

What happened, in reality, is that Ceres students started interviewing farmers, and farmers asked:

Why would you build drones to take pictures when we already fly planes over our fields to spray for fertilizers and pesticides?

Farmers told students they could just attach a camera to the planes that are already flying over the fields to capture images. If students had built their drones first and talked to customers second, they would have invested millions of dollars building unnecessary technology.

Instead, because the Ceres team validated their desirability hypotheses before their feasibility hypotheses, they were able to simplify their business model and lower costs for themselves and their customers by eliminating the need for developing drones entirely.

As a result, the Ceres team was able to scale its business model to secure significant funding and recognition for its innovativeness.

The lesson for your students:

Always test desirability before feasibility.

Step 5: Homework

At this point, students have experience with the Business Model Canvas that they’re ready to apply what they’ve learned.

For homework, assign students to fill in the BMC for a venture they’d like to validate, as well as identify the 3 riskiest hypotheses of their business model.


The Business Model Canvas and variations of it (e.g. Lean Canvas, Mission Model Canvas, etc.) are some of the most popular and ubiquitous tools in use. Dr. Alex Osterwalder’s use of matching, fill-in-the-blank, and prioritization exercises is intentional, and helps educators avoid some of the common pitfalls when teaching the BMC, namely: 

  • disengaging learners with lectured-based instruction, 
  • overwhelming learners with insufficient structure, and 
  • not adequately addressing how to use the BMC as a hypothesis prioritization and validation tool

In this 3-article series, we shared the steps Alex uses to teach this important tool for entrepreneurship educators.

  • In the first step, Alex introduces students to the different components of the BMC by having them match the business model hypotheses to the appropriate boxes of the canvas.
  • In the second step, Alex helps students learn to write their hypotheses by asking students to complete partially finished BMCs.
  • In this third step, Alex helps students learn how to use the BMC to prioritize the riskiest assumptions so they can design tests to validate them.

Want More from Dr. Osterwalder?

If you like this exercise, Alex also has two new books that are great resources for the classroom:

Find more about Alex’s work at Strategyzer.com.

Watch Alex Teach

If you’d like to see Alex teach the Business Model Canvas himself, just enter your email below to watch his full workshop on Teaching the BMC:

Get the Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 3 Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 3” 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 so share it with another instructor you know.


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share more exercises to engage your students and more tips and tricks to improve your evaluations.

Subscribe here to be the first to get these in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises 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:

  • Prototyping and Pitching. Storytelling is an important entrepreneurship skill. In this experiential exercise, students learn they must inspire others to take action.
  • Financial Modeling Showdown. If your students get overwhelmed by financial modeling, try this exercise that combines a competitive game with real-world financial modeling tools.
  • Improve Student Evaluations and Outcomes. Journaling can transform your students’ experience in your classroom. And can be a great way to get quality feedback on whether you’re an effective educator.
  • “The best class I’ve taken!”  We all want a Dead Poets Society moment in our entrepreneurship class. One professor using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum got hers!
Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 2 – Apply

Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 2 – Apply

Dr. Alex Osterwalder, one of the creators of the Business Model Canvas (BMC) uses a 3-step process to teach it to students. The article outlines his second step:

Fill-in-the-blank exercises to help students develop their own hypotheses.

In the first step of his process, Alex introduces students to the different components of the BMC by having them match the business model hypotheses to the appropriate boxes of the canvas. In this second step, Alex helps students learn to write their hypotheses by asking students to complete partially finished BMCs.

Fill-in-the-Blank BMCs

In this exercise, you’ll give students some of the business model components for well-known companies and ask them to fill in the rest.

Business Model Canvas Osterwalder

Alex uses fill-in-the-blank exercises intentionally. By providing students with some components of the BMC and asking them to write in the rest, students are able to start practicing using the BMC without the risk of them getting overwhelmed.

He repeats this process several times for different companies, each time providing students fewer components filled in until ultimately, students are completing the canvas entirely on their own.

Like in the first exercise, we recommend using a Think. Pair. Share. model with this lesson to make this activity more interactive and engaging. Details on how to complete all of the above are below.

Step 1: Think

Show students this Dollar Shave Club commercial:

Next, you’ll ask your students to fill in a BMC for the Dollar Shave Club, but you’ll want to give them a couple of hints first. Tell your students that Dollar Shave Club:

  1. Started selling online, with no physical stores
  2. They acquired customers through viral videos
  3. And that these two approaches were novel at the time and instrumental to their success

Give your students this partially filled out BMC for Dollar Shave Club’s business model (link to the worksheets are in the lesson plan below). Give students a few minutes to individually fill in their assumptions for the following boxes:

  • Channel
  • Revenue Streams

Business Model Canvas Osterwalder

Step 2: Pair

Next, ask students to pair up (or create breakout rooms for virtual students), and compare their answers. If there’s anything they disagree on, ask them to try to discuss and come to a consensus.

Note: this is an important part of the Think. Pair. Share. process. Talking with a peer helps them organize their thoughts better and practice vocalizing them. If your students are reluctant to speak in class, pairing students up like this before asking for a class-wide discussion can help inspire more interaction.

Step 3: Share

Finally, reconvene the class and ask students to share the assumptions they filled in. Progress around the room asking for students’ assumptions for the Channel, Revenue Streams boxes, and discuss any discrepancies or disagreements.

Start filling in the boxes:

  • The first Channel you gave them – online store. The second Channel is viral videos (Youtube).
  • The Revenue Stream is a customized subscription.

Step 4: Second Think-Pair-Share

This is a good opportunity to point out to students that they cannot utilize the channel that provided lots of visibility (YouTube) without incurring significant costs. In the case of Dollar Shave Club, replacing traditional marketing with viral videos requires costly activities & resources. Give students a few minutes to individually fill in their assumptions for the following boxes:

  • Cost Structure
  • Key Activities
  • Key Resources
  • Key Partners

Next, ask students to pair up and compare their answers. If there’s anything they disagree on, ask them to try to discuss and come to a consensus. Finally, reconvene the class and ask students to share the assumptions they filled in. Progress around the room asking for students’ assumptions for the Key Activities, Key Resources, and Cost Structure boxes, and discuss any discrepancies or disagreements.

Start filling in the boxes:

  • Key Activities are viral videos.
  • Key Resources are an e-commerce store and a brand.
  • Costs are for viral videos and marketing.
  • Key Partners are manufacturers and e-commerce platform providers.

Using viral videos is Dollar Shave Club’s way to keep the online store flowing with customers.

Business Model Canvas Osterwalder

Fill-in-the-Blank Exercise: B2B

For a B2B business model canvas, we suggest using Salesforce. Provide students the following context:

Salesforce was founded with the goal of “making enterprise software as easy to use as a website like amazon.com.” They pioneered the software-as-a-service (Saas) model for customer relationship management (CRM) tools, and was visionary in predicting the potential of online software.

Step 5: Revenue & Relationships

Repeat the Think. Pair. Share. process from above, this time with a partially-completed BMC worksheet (links to worksheets are in the lesson plan below) asking students to fill in the following boxes for Salesforce:

  • Revenue Streams
  • Customer Relationship

Business Model Canvas Osterwalder

Step 6: Complete the Canvas

Repeating the same process as before, ask students to complete the rest of Salesforce’s BMC:

Business Model Canvas Osterwalder

Step 7: Design Your Own Canvas

By this point, your students will have completed several BMCs and they’ll be ready to start creating their own. Using the included BMC template in the worksheets (linked in the lesson plan), ask your students to individually start designing the business model for the company they want to create.

Step 8: Get Feedback

After filling in their canvas, ask students to share their business model’s design with one other student in the class and see if that person has any feedback (i.e., did the designer use each of the boxes appropriately?). Then switch roles so both students get a chance to present and get feedback.


Next Exercise: Prioritization

The BMC is great for helping students develop their business model hypotheses, but that’s only half the value of the tool. The other half is…

Using the Business Model Canvas to test your hypotheses.

In our next article, we will outline a lesson plan for Alex uses to demonstrate how the BMC helps entrepreneurs prioritize their business models’ riskiest assumptions.

It’s critical to teach this step because it’s one of the major benefits of teaching the BMC over traditional business plans. Once entrepreneurs have a prioritized list of riskiest assumptions, they can design experiments to test each of those assumptions and validate their business model!


Want More from Dr. Osterwalder?

If you like this exercise, Alex also has two new books that are great resources for the classroom:

Find more about Alex’s work at Strategyzer.com.

Watch Alex Teach

If you’d like to see Alex teach the Business Model Canvas himself, just enter your email below to watch his full workshop on Teaching the BMC:

Get the Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 2 Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 2” 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 so share it with another instructor you know.


What’s Next?

In our next post, we will share the last step in the process Dr. Osterwalder uses to teach the business model canvas.

Subscribe here to be the first to get this in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises 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:

  • Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 1. Check out the first post in this series, where we learn Dr. Osterwalder’s process of using matching to help students understand the Business Model Canvas.
  • How to Improve Student Outcomes & Evaluations. Journaling can transform your students’ experience in your classroom. And can be a great way to get quality feedback on whether you’re an effective educator
  • “The best class I’ve taken!”  We all want a Dead Poets Society moment in our entrepreneurship class. One professor using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum got hers!
  • Teaching Customer Interviewing. This card and the online game is a powerful way to teach students the importance of customer interviewing, and the right questions to ask.
Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 1 – Intro

Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 1 – Intro

When we ran a workshop with Dr. Alex Osterwalder about how he teaches his Business Model Canvas, attendees were so excited about what he was sharing, 98% of them voted to change our schedule on the fly and extend his session from 60 to 90 minutes.

The exercises he was sharing were too engaging to let him stop.

In this article, the first in a 3-part series, we’ll structure Osterwalder’s exercises into easy-to-implement lesson plans you can use with your students.


Exercise #1: Business Model Matching

To introduce students to the 9 components of the BMC, Dr. Osterwalder starts by giving students a set of business model hypotheses and asking them to place each one in the appropriate box of the BMC.

Prepping Before Class

To make the most efficient use of class time, assign students to watch these videos before class:

Then you’ll want to print out the worksheets linked in the lesson plan below. Digital worksheets are also in the lesson plan if you’re teaching remotely.


Step 1: Fill the Boxes

Alex uses Airbnb in his first exercise because:

  1. Students are familiar with Airbnb
  2. As a two-sided marketplace, Airbnb is a great example of how one business model may need to fulfill the needs of multiple customer segments to be successful

Starting with the “Airbnb BMC: Travelers” worksheet, ask students to write each of the provided business model hypotheses in their appropriate boxes:

Copies of this worksheet are available in the lesson plan below.

We recommend each student complete this individually. While students will work in pairs for the next step, to help increase engagement and discussion, we like using Think. Pair. Share. with this type of exercise, which starts by having students work on their own.


Step 2: Pair

Next, ask students to pair up (if necessary, create breakout rooms for virtual students), and compare their answers. If there’s anything they disagree on, ask them to try to discuss and come to a consensus.

Note: this is an important part of the Think. Pair. Share. process. Talking with a peer helps them organize their thoughts better and practice vocalizing them. If your students are reluctant to speak in class, pairing students up like this before asking for a class-wide discussion can help inspire more interaction.


Step 3: Share

Reconvene the class. Go one by one through the boxes and ask a pair to share what they wrote for a particular box. Go through each of the boxes in this order:

  1. Customer Segments
  2. Value Proposition
  3. Channels
  4. Customer Relationship
  5. Revenue Streams
  6. Cost Structure
  7. Key Activities
  8. Key Resources
  9. Key Partners

Ask a new pair to report out what they wrote for each box and then ask the rest of the class if they had anything else different for that box. If student pairs disagree on what should be in a particular box, use that as an opportunity to increase discussion and, before you reveal the correct answer, have your students vote on which answer they think will be right.

Business Model Canvas for Airbnb Travelers

Slides with the correct answers, like the one above, are available in the lesson plan below.


Step 4: Repeat with Airbnb Hosts

Now ask students to fill out the AirBnB BMC: Hosts worksheet using the same Think-Pair-Share technique. 

Take time to explain that many businesses don’t have just one business model as a part of their success. Instead, many businesses, like Airbnb, are a multi-sided market. In this business model, the needs of two parties must be met.

You can highlight the popularity of this business model by pointing out that Uber, Doordash, Amazon all have this multi-sided market where the business has to keep multiple customers happy.

Business Model Canvas for Airbnb Hosts


Summary & Next Steps

Alex prefers simple matching exercises like these as a quick way to introduce the BMC. For more details on how to use it, including worksheets and slides, check out the free lesson plan below.

Next up, Alex provides students with BMCs that are partially filled out and asks students to fill in the rest – which we’ll detail in the next article in this series! We’ll share two more steps in the process Dr. Osterwalder uses to teach the business model canvas:

  • How to use fill in the blank exercises to help students create their own canvases
  • How to use prioritization exercises to teach how to use the BMC to test business model assumptions

Want More from Dr. Osterwalder?

If you like this exercise, Alex also has two new books that are great resources for the classroom:

Find more about Alex’s work at Strategyzer.com.

Watch Alex Teach

If you’d like to see Alex teach the Business Model Canvas himself, just enter your email below to watch his full workshop on Teaching the BMC:

Get the Teaching the Business Model Canvas Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 1” 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 so share it with another instructor you know.


Read Part 2 In This Series of Teaching the Business Model Canvas

Check out the second post in this series, focused on using a fill-in-the-blank exercise to help students develop their own hypotheses.


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share two more steps in the process Dr. Osterwalder uses to teach the business model canvas.

Subscribe here to be the first to get these in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises 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:

  • Improving Your (Inherited) Course. Inheriting an entrepreneurship course presents many challenges. Re-design the course and provide engaging experiences with this curriculum.
  • How to Improve Student Outcomes & Evaluations. Journaling can transform your students’ experience in your classroom. And can be a great way to get quality feedback on whether you’re an effective educator
  • “The best class I’ve taken!”  We all want a Dead Poets Society moment in our entrepreneurship class. One professor using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum got hers!
  • Teaching Customer Interviewing. This card and the online game is a powerful way to teach students the importance of customer interviewing, and the right questions to ask.
Paper Airplane Storytelling

Paper Airplane Storytelling

Storytelling is an important entrepreneurship skill. Whether pitching to investors, writing marketing copy, or leading teams…

Entrepreneurs must inspire others to take action.

In this exercise, students get to learn the importance of storytelling as they design and build one-of-a-kind paper aircraft and try to convince the rest of the class that their design will fly the best.

This exercise is based on the Kitty Hawk in the Classroom exercise originally published by Reginald Litz and colleagues in the International Review of Entrepreneurship and from the Airplane Contest Exercise published by Bradley George in Teaching Entrepreneurship: A Practice-Based Approach by Heidi Neck, Patricia Greene, and Candida Brush.

Overview

In this exercise students teams complete to see who can build, and pitch, the best performing paper airplane. Specifically, students will:

  1. Form teams
  2. Build the best paper airplanes they can
  3. Pitch their planes’ designs
  4. Votes on which team’s planes they think will perform the best
  5. Fly the planes
  6. Tally the scores for best planes and best pitches
  7. Reflective Discussion: What mattered more, the planes or the pitches?

Learning Objectives

  • Pitches are as important as the product. Students learn that they can create the greatest products in the world, but it won’t do any good unless people know about them. In this exercise, the same points are available for great pitches as there are for great planes, but students inevitably spend more time perfecting their planes than their pitches.
  • Pitches are prototypes too. Students will experiment with different plane designs throughout the exercise, but they’ll often neglect to iterate their pitch. Whether speaking to customers, investors, or team members, entrepreneurs should treat pitches like products – they need to be practiced, iterated, and improved upon to produce the best results.

Run this Exercise When…

…your students are just about to do their final pitch session of the class or in preparation for a pitch competition. Doing so will emphasize that your students should put more time energy into practicing and improve their pitches.

Want to try it?

Details are below.


Materials List

Provide students with the following supplies:

  • Paper for their aircraft – if you want to add an additional element of creativity to the exercise, you can provide a variety of colors, paper sizes and paper weights, i.e., notecards, card stock, paper plates, etc.
  • One dollar in your country’s coins for each group (provide a variety if possible)
  • Scotch tape
  • Rubber bands
  • Staples (and staplers)
  • Binder clips
  • Paper clips

Step 1: Identify a Leader

With students assembled in groups of 4-5, instruct each group to select a leader. Project the following image and tell them they have 2 minutes to identify a leader:

Step 2: The Task

Print out the following instructions and provide one copy to each group.

NOTE: Do not go over the instructions, and do not answer any clarifying questions students have. Answer any question with “You have your instructions.”

You are to design and create a paper aircraft capable of keeping one dollar of coins (or other local currency) aloft for as long (time) as possible while simultaneously transporting the coins as far (distance) as possible. The assignment is as follows:

  • Your final aircraft design must use the same number of pieces of paper as the number of people in your group (for example, a group of four must create an aircraft that uses four pieces of paper in its design)
  • Your plane must be designed to transport one U.S. dollar of coinage (or other local currency). You may choose the number and denomination of coins used; your only constant is that their total value must be exactly one dollar. 
  • You may not simply crumble paper into a ball; you must design an aerodynamically sensitive aircraft-based design, not a projectile
  • The only permissible additions are tape, paper clips, staples, rubber bands, and binder clips.
  • Your aircraft must leave the thrower’s hand and move 100% under its own power during the entire flight without touching another person
  • You will have two minutes to pitch your design to your classmates and convince them that your design will fly the furthest (distance) and will stay aloft the longest (time).
  • Your group’s performance is based on your aircraft’s performance (time and distance) and the number of votes your design gets from your classmates in each category (time and distance).

Step 3: The Exercise

Begin by explaining the voting rules. Each group is allowed one vote for only one team (not their own) on each dimension (time aloft and distance flown). Students can vote for different aircraft for each dimension.

Give students time to design their aircraft – roughly 10-15 minutes. Allow enough time for each group to pitch their aircraft for 1-2 minutes, for about 10 minutes for each group to fly their aircraft, and for about 15-20 minutes of debriefing).

Students will want to ask lots of questions, including where they will be throwing the aircraft, what you’re expecting in the pitch, the order of pitching, etc. Do not answer any questions – let the students know that you have provided all the instructions already and that they should get to work.

The Pitches and Voting

Have each team pitch their aircraft for 2 minutes max. Record each group’s vote on a chart on the board for the aircraft they think will perform best in each dimension (time and distance). Remind students that they cannot vote for their own design. 

The Flight

Take students to a predetermined location. This can be anywhere (we recommend somewhere close to your classroom to limit time on this step) – outdoors, a hallway, a gymnasium, in the classroom, etc. Each team gets one throw. Have a line delineated somehow that the thrower cannot cross, and record the time each aircraft stays aloft on a stopwatch. Have one or two trustworthy students mark and record where each aircraft first touches the ground.

The Results

Record the actual performance on the chart on the classroom board.

  • 1 point if the group voted for the aircraft that flew the furthest distance
  • 1 point if the group voted for the aircraft that stayed aloft the longest (time)
  • Rank aircraft based on distance flown (furthest distance gets the highest number)
  • Rank aircraft based on time aloft (longest time aloft gets the highest number)

The highest score wins. Let students know that nobody will lose points, that you added that element to increase the perceived risk and the intensity of the exercise. Reward each winning group member extra credit, and reward the winning group leader additional extra credit.

Debrief

There are several ways to debrief this activity, but one of the most powerful ones is for students to compare how they approached the iteration of their planes versus the iteration of their pitches.

Some interesting questions to reflect with students are:

  • How many points were available for the best performing product? How does that compare to the number of points available for the best pitch?
  • How many times do you think you tested and tweaked your plane’s designed? How does that compare to how the number of times you tested and tweaked your pitch?
  • If you wanted to test and iterate your pitch more, how could you have done it?
  • What was compelling about the pitches?
  • How did your group decide to vote? How important was the aircraft itself, and how important was the pitcher’s confidence and way of presenting the aircraft?
  • Why do you think others did or did not vote for your design?
  • How would you change your pitch if you had a chance to present your design again?
  • If your plane represents your product, and your pitch represents the way you market your product, communicate with your customers, talk with investors and collaborate with your teammates, how can you apply what you learned today to entrepreneurship at large?

As mentioned previously, students will often spend far more time on building their product than they will honing the stories they tell about it, which negatively affects their performance in this exercise as it does in the real world.

Other great debriefing questions include:

  • How did you view the coins? Did you see it as a negative constraint, or an opportunity to improve performance? Why?
  • How did you view the optional supplies? Did you see them as a negative constraint, or an opportunity to improve performance? Why?
  • How did you decide who your “thrower” would be.

These are great discussion questions because they offer a chance to talk about how successful entrepreneurs turn seemingly negative constraints into opportunities. Additionally, most teams will not experiment with different team members as the thrower. Instead, most tend to identify a student who is “good at throwing”, such as a baseball or softball player. This is a great opportunity to highlight the importance of prototyping everything related to execution.


Get the Paper Airplane Storytelling Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Paper Airplane Storytelling” 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.


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share more exercises to engage your students and more tips and tricks to improve your evaluations.

Subscribe here to be the first to get these in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises 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:

  • Improving Your (Inherited) Course. Inheriting an entrepreneurship course presents many challenges. Re-design the course and provide engaging experiences with this curriculum.
  • How to Improve Student Outcomes & Evaluations. Journaling can transform your students’ experience in your classroom. And can be a great way to get quality feedback on whether you’re an effective educator
  • “The best class I’ve taken!”  We all want a Dead Poets Society moment in our entrepreneurship class. One professor using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum got hers!
  • Teaching Customer Interviewing. This card and the online game is a powerful way to teach students the importance of customer interviewing, and the right questions to ask.
Design Thinking: The Ideal Wallet [Online Version]

Design Thinking: The Ideal Wallet [Online Version]

If you’ve been teaching design thinking, you’re likely familiar with Stanford d.school’s Wallet Project. If you’re not, it’s an awesome exercise for teaching students that anyone can use:

  • Empathy
  • Prototyping
  • Iteration

…to design creative solutions to problems.

Teaching it Online

We have a very popular write-up on the in-person version of the Wallet Project, but with so many of us teaching online now, we thought it would be helpful to draft this…

Online version of the wallet design exercise!

Below are our suggestions for using hand-drawn worksheets, breakout rooms, and supplies found around the house to update the Wallet Project for online synchronous classes.

When to Use This Exercise

Since the Wallet Project is best used as a way to introduce students to design thinking, we recommend running it:

  • Before students conduct customer interviews or
  • Before students start doing solution ideation or
  • At any time during a creativity and innovation course

Design Thinking: Designing an Ideal Wallet

Before Class: Ask Students to Gather Supplies

One of the most fun parts of this exercise is that students will get to build low fidelity prototypes of their new wallet solutions. In preparation, let students know that they should come to class with as many of the following items as they can.

  • Cardboard box, blank paper, and/or Post-It notes
  • Scissors or a utility knife
  • Tape, paper clips, and/or a stapler
  • String and/or rubber bands
  • Markers and/or colored pens
  • Anything else you want to suggest
Example prototyping supplies
Image courtesy of Atomic Object

Note: Not all students will have access to the same supplies, and that this might create some inequity in experiencing this activity. We encourage you to create a large list of the possible supplies your particular student population may have access to.

The goal is for students to have some supplies readily available to create a makeshift prototype.

Step 1: The Wrong Approach

The beginning of this exercise starts begins with a “False Start” where you’ll tell students:

“Instead of just telling you about design thinking, I want to immediately have you jump right in and experience it for yourself. You’re going to do a design project for about the next hour. Ready? Let’s go!”

To help facilitate the experience, in the lesson plan below we have links to worksheets students can print out ahead of time: 

Design thinking exercise from Stanford University d.school

If any of your students don’t have access to a printer, ask them to have 6 sheets of blank (or lined) paper ready so they can sketch out the boxes of each worksheet – they’re all really simple to duplicate by hand.

Tell students their goal is to individually come up with some ideas for the “ideal” wallet, and specifically to draw one idea for a better wallet in 3 minutes.

It’s normal for students to feel stuck and delay putting anything down on paper. Reminding them of the time they have left can push them to start, so remind students after each minute expires.

After the 3 minutes expires, ask students to share how they felt during the experience. Most will have had a negative experience. Tell them they just experienced a typical problem-solving approach, being guided by their own opinions and with a solution in mind.

Let them know they will now learn a better approach, called “human-centered design thinking.”

Step 2: An Empathetic Approach

Direct students to the “Your New Mission” and pair them up in breakout rooms to design something useful for their partner.

Again remind students who do not have a printed worksheet to use a blank sheet of paper to draw two boxes to mimic the worksheet which you can show via screen sharing.

Tell students the most important part of designing for someone is to gain empathy. Students will do this by having a conversation with their partner, which you can facilitate in an online class using breakout rooms.

Before you send students to their breakout rooms, let them know that:

  1. Partner A has 4 minutes to interview Partner B while Partner B meticulously shares the contents of their wallet with Partner A.
  2. Then they switch and Partner B interviews Partner A while Partner A meticulously shares the contents of their wallet with Partner B.
  3. If their partner is having technical difficulties in the breakout room, or simply doesn’t show up after 60 seconds, having them leave their breakout room and join you in the main room where you can assign them to another breakout room (or partner with them yourself if you have an odd number of students).

Encourage partners to ask questions about when their partner carries a wallet, why they have particular things in there, and to make notes of things they find interesting or surprising.

Students make notes in the “Interview” column of their worksheet.

Next Steps

Over the next 30 minutes, students will learn:

  • That what is important for them to discover is what is important to their customer
  • To design solutions specifically related to their customers’ emotional needs
  • To prototype their design with simple household materials and
  • To gather customer feedback on prototypes

As a result, after doing this exercise, students will know how to develop powerful solutions for customers because they can empathize with the person or people for whom they are designing solutions.

The Full Lesson Plan

If you want to bring design thinking into your online class and introduce students to a methodology to engage real people to help them ground their design decisions

Get the “Design the Ideal Wallet [Online Version]” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Design the Ideal Wallet [Online Version]” 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.

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


What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we will share tools to enable efficient communications with students so you don’t have to pull your hair out over LMS discussion boards anymore!

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

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Countdown to USASBE 2020

Countdown to USASBE 2020

See You In New Orleans!

Our team is busy getting ready for the USASBE conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference gives space for entrepreneurship educators to come together to share innovative research and experiential ideas for teaching entrepreneurship.

USASBE Entrepreneurship Exercises

Eat & Drink with Us

Teaching Entrepreneurship USASBE
  • Enjoy great food and drink
  • Connect with like-minded professionals
  • Get inspired with thought-provoking conversation
Behind the Scenes of our Last Happy Hour

See Our Lesson Plans in Action

We’re leading 6 talks this year during the conference:

Sunday Sessions

Normalizing Failing through the Wish Game (Sunday @ 9:30 am in Chamber III)

This exercise was borrowed from faculty at Stanford University and developed into the foundation of an MBA Entrepreneurship course to teach entrepreneurship skills by classmates iteratively delivering wishes for each other. This exercise is a powerful path to students learning entrepreneurial skills like ideation, customer interviewing, prototyping, selling, and mobilizing resources, all in the context of creating memorable experiences for their fellow classmates.

60 Minute MVP (Sunday @ 9:30 am in Conti)

The 60 Minute MVP is an intense and exciting exercise that teaches critical aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset and lean start-up methodology, namely the iterative process of hypothesis testing through the creation of minimum viable products (MVPs). In 60 minutes, with no prior technical expertise, students work in teams to design a landing page, create an explainer video, and set up a way to measure pre-launch demand from prospective customers by accepting pre-orders or email addresses. 

What Happens When (Female) Students Dare to Dream? (Sunday @ 3:15 pm in Lafitte)

There are not enough female students in entrepreneurship and innovation programs and career paths. This expose will introduce a proven program that successfully addresses this inequity: a series of college-student driven events targeting the entrepreneurial confidence, vulnerability, and action of high school students (particularly female students). Participants will learn the framework for how these high-impact events can be developed and delivered in any university setting and scaled to a city-wide event, and to intensive summer camps and overnight retreats.

Monday Sessions

Customer Interviewing: Learning the Basics Through Gamification (Monday @ 9:30 am in Bienville)

This is a fun, interactive exercise will demonstrate to students: What their problem interviewing goals should be and should not be, and based on those goals; What questions they should and should not ask during customer interviews; Educators follow up the card game by giving students an interview script template they can use as the basis for their problem discovery interviews. After students experience this exercise, they will have a robust customer interview script they can use to increase the quality of their interviews, and their confidence in conducting them. 

Entrepreneurs vs Inventors: The Lottery Ticket Dilemma (Monday @ 9:30 am in Bienville)

This exercise provides a fun, experiential way for students to conceptualize customer behavior, and identify business opportunities, by demonstrating it’s not actually customer problems that drive behavior, it’s customer emotions. After this game-based activity, students understand why some products are successful even if they don’t solve an obvious problem, and how to leverage that fact to identify non-problem based opportunities. Attendees to this session will get to experience the lesson themselves, and leave with a lesson plan they can use to integrate this exercise in their classes.

Fears & Curiosities: Engaging ALL Students on Day 1 (Monday @ 1:45 pm in Chamber III)

This exercise helps students understand the value of their entrepreneurship classes, even if they never envision themselves becoming an entrepreneur, helping them engage with the class from the first day. The exercise starts with students sharing their fears and curiosities about life after college in a fun and engaging way. After this exercise, students will understand the value of what they are about to learn in their entrepreneurship course, regardless of their relationship to entrepreneurship.

We hope to see you at one of our sessions or join us for a drink and dinner. Invite a friend! The more the merrier.

Federico, Doan & Justin

Teaching Entrepreneurship

Design Thinking 101: Design the Ideal Wallet

Design Thinking 101: Design the Ideal Wallet

Inject Design Thinking In Your Class

Whether starting a business, or working within a business to develop new products or services, understanding the design thinking process is a powerful tool to deliver and capture value in the marketplace.

design thinking process

The Wallet Project, from Stanford University’s d.school, is a fast-paced way to introduce your students to design thinking. This is a group activity (from 2 to 100+ participants) in which students rapidly do a full cycle through the design process. The project is broken down into specific steps (of a few minutes each), and students have worksheet packets that guide them. In addition, one or two facilitators (not participating in the project) prompt each step, and add verbal color and instruction. Students pair up, show and tell each other about their wallets, ideate, and make a new solution that is “useful and meaningful” to their partner.

This exercise is great because every student has an artifact (their wallet or purse) that contains so much meaning in it. You can get some really interesting information about someone just by asking about their wallet. This project also tends to yield final solution ideas that are physical, and more easily prototyped.

Online Version

What follows are instructions for running this exercise in-person. If you’d like to run it online, we’ve drafted a modified version here.

What Students Learn

Students get the feel of a design approach, gain some shared vocabulary, and get a taste of each design “mode” (empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test). Specifically, students learn:

  • the value of engaging with real people to help them ground their design decisions,
  • that low-resolution prototypes are useful to learn from (take an iterative approach)
  • to bias toward action (you can make a lot of progress in a little bit of time if you start doing).

Step 1: The Wrong Approach

Tell students:

“Instead of just telling you about design thinking, we want to immediately have you jump right in and experience it for yourself. We are going to do a design project for about the next hour. Ready? Let’s go!”

Give students the “Design the IDEAL Wallet” worksheet and use this timer to count down the 3 minutes.

design the ideal wallet worksheet

Don’t give students any instructions here – just tell them to draw an idea for their ideal wallet. It’s important to remind them that you are not a good artist (whether you are or are not), and that they are not going to be judged at all by their artistic ability.

The intention here is to contrast an abstract problem-centric approach to a human-centered design thinking approach.

Remind students after each minute expires. After the 3 minutes expires, ask students:

“How did that feel?”

They will likely offer some emotions that are not that positive. Highlight those, and tell them “that was a typical problem-solving approach, taking on a given problem, working using your own opinions and experience to guide you, and with a solution in mind to be designed. Let’s try something else – a human-centered design thinking approach.”

Step 2: A Better Approach

Give students the “Your New Mission” worksheet and have them pair up.

your new mission worksheet

Their job is to design something useful for their partner. Tell students the most important part of designing for someone is to gain empathy. Students will do this by having a conversation with their partner.

Tell students that Partner A will have 4 minutes to interview Partner B, then they will switch. Have Partner A walk Partner B through the contents of their wallet. Encourage Partner A to ask questions about when they carry a wallet, why they have particular things in there, and to make notes of things they find interesting or surprising.

Start playing upbeat music (I like Motown) and start the 4 minutes. Partner A asks Partner B to go through Partner B’s wallet. Then they switch and spend 4 minutes in reversed roles.

Step 3: Dig Deeper

After this first set of interviews, encourage students to follow up on things they found interesting or surprising. They should dig for stories, feelings, and emotions (around pictures, artifacts, etc.) Encourage students to ask “Why?” often and to let their partner talk.

Students need to understand that the wallet is a distraction, that what is important for them to discover is what is important to their partner. Remind students to make note of any unexpected discoveries and to capture quotes.

Step 4: Reframe the Problem

Give students the “Reframe the Problem” worksheet.

Reframe the problem worksheet

Have each student individually reflect for three minutes on what they learned about their partner. Tell students to synthesize their learning into two groups:

  1. Their partner’s goals and wishes. Students should use verbs to express these. Remind students that these should be needs related to the wallet and life, that they should think about physical and emotional needs. Give them an example of maybe their partner needing to minimize the number of things he carries, or he needs to feel like he is supporting the local community and economy.
  2. Any insights they discovered. Tell them they can leverage insights when creating solutions. Give them an example that they might discover their partner values purchases more when using cash to make it. Another example could be that the partner sees the wallet as a reminder and organizing system, not a carrying device.

Step 5: Take a Stand

This is where students articulate their point-of-view around which they will build solutions. Tell them to select the most compelling need and most interesting insight they gained from their partner. This statement is going to be the foundation for their design work, so encourage them to make it actionable, and exciting. Give them an example like these:

“Janice needs a way to feel she has access to all her stuff and is ready to act. Surprisingly, carrying her purse makes her feel less ready to act, not more.”

or

“Arthur needs a way to socialize with his friends while eating healthy, but he feels he isn’t participating if he isn’t holding a drink.”

Step 6: Sketch to Ideate

Give students the “Ideate” worksheet.

Ideate worksheet

At the top, they write their problem statement. Tell them they are now creating solutions to the challenge they’ve identified. Push them that quantity is better than quality here, that they should go for volume of sketches of ideas. Remind them the goal here is idea generation, not evaluation; challenge them by saying “see if you can come up with at least 7 ideas!”

Keep telling them as each minute passes, and remind them to be visual, to not use words but to use pictures.

It is important to remind them here that they may not be designing a wallet, but that they should create solutions to the problem statement they just created.

Step 7: Share Solutions and Capture Feedback

During this step, partners share their sketches with each other for 4 minutes each. As each partner gives reactions to the sketches, the other partner should take note of any likes and dislikes, and also listen for any new insights. Remind students the goal here is not to validate their ideas, and not to explain or defend their idea. This is an opportunity to learn more about their partner’s feelings and motivations. After four minutes, students switch.

Step 8: Reflect & Generate New Solutions

Give students the “Iterate based on feedback” worksheet.

iterate worksheet

Tell students to take a moment to consider what they learned about their partner and about the solutions they generated. Using all they’ve learned, ask students to sketch a new idea. This idea can be a variation on an idea from before or could be something entirely new. It is OK if they need to adjust their problem statement to incorporate new insights and needs they discovered in Step 7.

Encourage students to provide as much detail and color around their idea as they can. They should think about how the solution fits into their partner’s life, when, and how they might handle or encounter the new solution.

**NOTE: While students are working, grab the prototyping materials.**

Picture of prototyping supplies: post-it notes, pens, scissors, stickers, yarn, tape, etc.
Image courtesy of Atomic Object

Step 9: Build!

Give students the “Build and test” worksheet.

build and test worksheet

Tell students the next step is to create a physical prototype of their solution. Explain they should not just make a scale model of their idea.

They should create an experience that their partner can react to.

They need to actually make something their partner can engage and interact with. Students who want to create a service will ask how they can create that. Talk about creating a scenario that allows the partner to experience it – they can use space, act it out, etc.

Push students to be quick, remind them they have only a few minutes.

Step 10: Share Your Solution & Get Feedback

Now one partner will share their prototype and collect feedback, then partners will switch roles. Tell students they are not interested in validating the prototype, but instead are interested in a targeted conversation around the experience, specifically focused on feelings and emotions. Remind students their prototype is not precious, that they cannot cherish it and should let go of it. What is valuable here is the feedback and new insights they will gain from their partner’s interaction with the prototype. Students need to watch how their partner uses and misuses the prototype. They should take note of what their partner liked and didn’t like, what questions and ideas emerged.

Step 11: Group Gather & Debrief

Create a space that all students can gather around – move tables together, clear chairs, etc.

Have everyone put their prototypes in the middle of the gathering space. Ask students

This step is important! A well-facilitated reflection has the power to turn this exercise from simply a fun activity to a meaningful experience that could impact the way participants approach innovation in the future. Quickly pull together a few tables that everyone can gather around. Ask students:

  • “Who had a partner who created something that you really like?”
  • “Who sees something they are curious to learn more about?”

When a student is curious about a prototype, ask for the person who created the prototype and engage them in the conversation:

  • “How did talking to your partner inform your design?”
  • “How did testing and getting feedback impact your final design?”
  • “What was the most challenging part of the process for you?”

The key to leading this conversation is to relate the activity to the following takeaways:

  • Human-centered design: Empathy for the person or people you are designing for, and feedback from users, is fundamental to good design.
  • Experimentation and prototyping: Prototyping is an integral part of your innovation process. A bias towards action, toward doing and making over thinking and meeting.
  • Show don’t tell: Communicate your vision in an impactful and meaningful way by creating experiences and interactive visuals.
  • Power of iteration: Learn, try, fail, learn more, try again, fail again, learn more, and so the cycle goes. A person’s fluency with design thinking is a function of cycles, so we challenge participants to go through as many cycles as possible—interview twice, sketch twice, and test with your partner twice. Additionally, iterating solutions many times within a project is key to successful outcomes.

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:


Get the “Design the Ideal Wallet” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Design the Ideal Wallet” 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, so you’re welcome to share it.

 


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Engage your Students: Ask About Their Fears and Curiosities

Engage your Students: Ask About Their Fears and Curiosities

We are going to help you get students bought into your course by understanding their fears and curiosities.

Learning increases exponentially when we put the information and skills into a context that is top-of-mind for our students. In other words,

Put your course material into a context that matters for your students, and the learning comes alive.

We work very hard to understand what context matters to our students. But we often don’t even scratch the surface. Most students keep an emotional distance from their professor and hesitate to discuss their context.

To discover the context that matters to the students, we need to understand what is top-of-mind for them. We can then place the learning in their “right now” context. Student learning will soar. The classroom will buzz with excited energy.

Understanding what’s on students’ minds requires only two simple questions.

What Are You Thinking About Right Now

This post is an effective way to understand what is on students minds right now. For full details, check out the complete lesson plan.

Stop for a moment: what are you thinking about right now, at this very moment?

What is top-of-mind for any of us at any given moment are the things we are afraid of and those we are curious about. Here are some fears you might have right now:

  • Embarrassing yourself in that class you’re teaching in 10 minutes
  • Your manuscript you submitted two months ago will get rejected
  • You’re not spending enough time with your children
  • You are about to buy the wrong house.

The fears on your mind right now might be big or small, but they are there.

You are also curious about a variety of things right now. Here are some things you might be curious about right now:

  • What is for dinner?
  • Will I get tenure?
  • How does [fill in name of professor you look up to] relate so well to his/her students?
  • Should you get a labrador retriever or a Jack Russell Terrier? (Doan recommends a lab!)

The things you’re curious about right now might be big or small, but they are there, alongside the fears. This is true of you, and it’s also true of the students sitting in your class. In the lesson plan we offer below, we talk about how to leverage this to get your students bought in. Here is a quick overview.

What Are Your Students Afraid of Right Now

To begin, give each student a stack of post-it notes and a Sharpie. Give students the same color post-it notes and Sharpie (so there is anonymity). The Sharpie is so they can fit very few words on the post-it note. What we want here is the essence of what they are thinking.

Step 1:

Ask students “When you think of life after college, what are you afraid of?” and instruct them to write one thought per post-it note. Tell them that putting their fears into the world can be scary. That is why you’re not asking them to speak them, or to put their name on the notes. If students believe they are sharing their fears anonymously, they are more likely to be honest.

Share a few of the things you are fearful of at this moment – make sure you share some “little” fears and some “big” fears.

Make a strong point that quantity is the goal, not quality. Urge students to get as many fears onto post-it notes as they can

Tell them when they finish to hand you all their fear post-it notes. Your job is to stick them randomly on a wall – do not group them by student, but mix them up all over a large wall.

Step 2:

Ask the students to organize the notes into fear clouds by grouping them together by general category/theme, without talking. Give them a few examples – things relating to budgeting money, or to making friends, or to being happy. Then ask students to name the groups.

**NOTE: You may have to help them by aggregating some categories. For instance, you will likely have many categories that relate to financial management. Combine all those into one “Financial Management” category

Here are the fear categories Doan has assembled over many years’ of his courses:

Fear CategoryExample Statement% of Total Mentions
Financial Management"Not making enough money"22
Getting a Job"Not being able to find a job"15
Job Dissatisfaction"Not being happy at work."11
Job Performance"Not performing well in my job."8
Relationships (losing)"Growing apart from friends and family."6
Purpose"Not chasing my dreams."5.5
Work/Life Balance"Not having enough time to actually live life how I want."5
Moving"Where will I live?"4
Happiness"Not being happy with my life."3.5
Relationships (making)"Making friends in new locations."3.5
Growth"Not being prepared to live alone."3
Failure"How can I deal with rejection effectively?"2.5
Missing an Opportunity"Regretting not doing something."2
Value of College"Was classroom knowledge actually useful?"2
Reputation"How can I manage my professional reputation?"1
Success"Not being successful."1

Step 3:

Show your students how the material and skills they will learn and practice in your course map onto the things they are currently afraid of.

For instance, if you’re teaching cash flow management or startup financials, relate that to the Financial Management category (how to budget, how it applies to buying a house, etc).

When you teach customer interviewing, talk about how that skill will help them form and strengthen relationships, and how they can use that skill to build a network and identify a job that will give them a sense of purpose.

Show students how the knowledge they will acquire and the skills they will practice apply to the things they are afraid of right now.

What Are Your Students Curious About Right Now

Now we want to shift gears and focus on some fun stuff – what are they curious about? Identify that being curious can sometimes make them feel vulnerable. That is why you’re not asking them to speak their curiosities, or to put their name on the notes. If students believe they are sharing their curiosities anonymously, they are more likely to be honest.

Share a few of the things you are curious about at this moment. Make sure you share some “little” curiosities and some “big” curiosities.

Make a strong point that quantity is the goal, not quality. Urge students to get as many curiosities onto post-it notes as they can.

You will complete the same process you went through with the fears – for full details, check out the complete lesson plan.

Step 4:

Ask students “When you think of life after college, what are you curious about?” and instruct them to write one thought per post-it note. Tell them when they finish to give you all their curiosity post-it notes. Your job is to stick them randomly on a wall away from the fear clouds.

Step 5:

Ask the students to organize the notes into curiosity clouds by grouping them together by general category/theme. Give them a few examples – things relating to getting a job, work-life balance, paying off student loans. Then ask students to name the groups.

**NOTE: You may have to help them by aggregating some categories. For instance, you will likely have many categories that relate to financial management (such as paying off student loans, investing, budgeting). Combine all those into one “Financial Management” category

Here are the curiosity categories Doan has assembled over many years’ of his courses:

Curiosity CategoryExample Statement% of Total Mentions
Financial Management"How do I budget for life after college?"23
Job Search"What is the best way to find a job I love?"14
Where To Live"Where am I going to live?"10
Job Fit"How to find a job that will make me happy and still make money."7
Education"How do I apply classroom material to real-life scenarios?"6
Job Switch"How long should I stay at my first job if it isn't my dream job?"5
Relationships (making)"How to create professional relationships."4
Work/Life Balance"How can I best manage my work and social life?"3.5
Job Choice"What will I do for a living?"3
Skills"What skill will make me stand out?"3
Networking"How to build a network."2.5
Start a Business"How to afford starting a business?"2
How to Negotiate"How to negotiate the terms of a job."2
Promotion"How do I move up in a company?"2
Happiness"How important is happiness in a workplace?"2
Relationships (keeping)"Will I stay in touch with my friends?"1.5
Success"How can I become successful?"1
Gain Experience"How to gain more experience."1
Purpose"How do I find something I love to do?"1
Benefits"How does insurance work?"1
Travel"Should I travel when I'm young?"1
Internships"How to get an internship."1

Step 6:

Show your students how the material and skills they will learn and practice in your course map onto the things they are currently curious about.

For instance, if you’re teaching prototyping, talk about how they can test out jobs by job shadowing or interning.

When you teach ideation, show them how those skills can help them identify their purpose, find a good job fit, or start a business.

Show students how the application of the skills they will practice applies to the things they are curious about right now.

Your Course in Students’ Context

Return next class session with the fear and curiosity categories mapped onto the content/lessons/modules/skills you cover in the course. For instance, if you lay out each week in your syllabus with the topics you will cover, add one column for “Fears” and one for “Curiosities”. List in each column the fear and curiosity categories to which each particular topic relates.

This last step is the most critical. It is your chance to reinforce the connection between the course material and the things your students are currently thinking about. Show them how you will give them the tools to address each one of their fears, and each one of their curiosities.

Students Now Have the Context to Launch

After this activity, your students will understand the value of the what they are about to learn. They will be more engaged, because the learning is now very real for them.

Below is the complete lesson plan of the Student Fears and Curiosities exercise.


Get the “Student Fears and Curiosities” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Student Fears and Curiosities” 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, 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 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

USASBE 2019 – See You in Florida!

USASBE 2019 – See You in Florida!

Are you going to the USASBE conference in St. Pete Beach, FL in January? You should – we got so much value from last year’s conference.

This conference is an incredible few days of entrepreneurship educators and folks planning entrepreneurship programs sharing their work and ideas.

If you’re going, we’ll see you there!

Friday Night Party

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first. We’re hoping to host our second-annual happy hour party Friday night after the conference activities. We’ve got room for 100 USASBE Conference attendees to join us, so register here if you’d like to attend.

3 Talks + A Competition

We’ll be leading a handful of sessions during the conference:

  • Mechanical Pencil Challenge: Defining “Early Adopters” And Where To Find Them (Fri. @9:30 am in the Banyan room & again Sun. @9:30 am in Blue Heron).

This exercise uses mechanical pencils, and a 10-minute competition between attendees, to introduce Early Adopters. We contrast them with Early Majority and Late Majority customers, and demonstrate where and how to find a business model’s Early Adopters.

  • A Better Toothbrush: Testing Assumptions Via Customer Observations (Fri. @9:30 am in the Banyan room & again Sun. @ 9:30 am in Blue Heron).

This fun and high energy exercise utilizes children’s toothbrushes to help attendees see how easily they can make hidden assumptions that hinder the success of a project. We introduce attendees to customer observations, a tool to mitigate the consequences of hidden assumptions. Overall, this is an engaging Design Thinking exercise that encourages attendees to assume less, and observe more.

  • Rigorously Assessing Experiential Courses: Transparent Grading Using Check-Ins, Mini-Cases, And Reflections (Sat. @ 9:30 am in Snowy Egret).

During this session, attendees feel how frustrating it is to be evaluated by vague/subjective criteria. Attendees learn five tools for transparently evaluating experiential courses and then brainstorm ways they can incorporate these techniques in their course. Attendees leave with session with a set of detailed sample rubrics that will enable them to both teach more experientially and assess more objectively.

The Mechanical Pencil Challenge and the Better Toothbrush exercise

…are finalists for the 3E Experiential Entrepreneurial Exercises Competition!

Come cheer us on at 9:30am on Friday in Banyan!

Hope to see you there!

Justin, Doan and Federico

Observe Customers Where They Are

Observe Customers Where They Are

Are your students shy about conducting customer interviews?

Do your students struggle to collect information about problems from customer interviews?

Observing customers is another great way to gather customer information. In some important ways, it can provide even more and different information than an interview.

This Fly On The Wall exercise:

  • Introduces your students to a powerful tool to gather information on customers’ experience in real-life situations. This allows them to avoid predicting customer behavior by actually observing it. Because actions speak louder than words.
  • Allows students to practice listening with their eyes, to understand what people value and what they don’t. Because behavior doesn’t always match what people think they will do.

Observing customers in natural settings is a powerful experience for students. They discover new business opportunities. They increase their customer empathy. They hone their behavioral analysis skills. All critical entrepreneurial competencies!

Students going through this exercise learn a technique to gain insight into the small details of a customer’s interaction with their environment that a customer may not think to express in interviews.

This exercise will span two class periods. For more details, check out our Fly On The Wall lesson plan below.

Class 1: Step 1 – Redesigning a Product

Most students will enter your class with no clue how to effectively observe customers in their natural environment.  Before teaching them how to do so, we want them to understand why it is such a valuable skill. So we kick off the customer observation class with the Toothbrush Exercise, which teaches students that:

Entrepreneurs can’t trust numbers alone. In order to improve the world, we must see, feel and experience it for ourselves!

Quick steps for this exercise:

  • Organize students into groups of 4-5
  • Show this picture on the screen
  • Tell students (& write on board/slide) the average adult male hand, is 7.44″ long (measured from tip of the middle finger to the wrist) and 3.30” wide (measured across the palm). The average adult female hand size is 6.77″ long and 2.91 inches wide. The average child hand size is 5.5” long and 2.75” wide. (You can also give each group cutouts if you are feeling adventurous!)
  • Give each team an adult toothbrush and tell them they have 5 minutes to design the best-selling child’s toothbrush (they must include the dimensions in their design)

After their 5 minutes elapse, ask how many groups made a smaller toothbrush? Now play this video:

After trying to design a toothbrush for kids the wrong way, this video will drive home the point that the goal isn’t to make toothbrushes smaller for kids, but to actually make them bigger!

For more details on this exercise, check out our Fly On The Wall lesson plan below.

Class 1: Step 2 – Making It Real

The homework consists of two steps. Step 1 is to watch the video below (click the image to launch the video) about the product development process, and read through Examples 1-3 here about how to make things people want.

Step 2 is for students, in groups, to observe customers for 20 minutes in a campus location where people are active. For instance, dining hall/food court, gym/rec center, makerspace, athletic facilities, etc. The point of this homework assignment is for students to observe students actively interacting with some products (gym, makerspace) or business (food court). In other words, you don’t want them observing students in the library, where they are likely to be sedentary.

Direct your students to take note, individually, of anything they observe about their subjects, without interacting with them. Each student needs to individually write down the following based on their own observation:

  1. At least 3 problems that can be solved that they observed
  2. At least 10 new things they discovered during their observation

Class 2: Step 1 – Debrief

Start the next class with groups reporting what they observed. You will find students’ observations will likely focus on:

  1. Surface-level activity, such as “students were talking to each other” or “students were exercising
  2. The perspective of the product or business, such as “there were not enough seats in the food court” or “many treadmills were not in use

We want these observations, because it’s the perfect way to illustrate how to conduct useful observations. For a debrief of their homework, ask students how they can use the information they gathered during observations to develop products/ideas they could bring to market.

Students will not write down questions they will try to answer prior to the observation, or define major themes to look for. They will observe without planning a framework.

The aha moment we want them to realize is that they need a plan to effectively observe customers.

During the debrief, stress:

  1. Focus observations on the subjects’ problems (empathize)
  2. Identifying patterns where subjects struggle to do something
  3. Capturing images and/or video during observations

For more details on this debrief, check out our Fly On The Wall lesson plan below.

Class 2: Step 2 – Planning

The final step is for students to plan an observation they will conduct as homework in the same campus location they observed as homework after Class 1. Remind students to create a framework that includes:

  1. Questions they want to answer, and
  2. Themes they can look for

For homework, students should conduct that observation, again writing down the following based on their own observation:

  1. At least 3 problems that can be solved that they observed
  2. At least 10 new things they discovered during their observation

They should notice a significant difference between their observations after Class 1 and Class 2.

This extended series of exercises gives students valuable skills to add to their entrepreneurial toolkit: customer observations and behavioral analysis.

Get the “Fly On The Wall” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Fly On The Wall” 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, so you’re welcome to share it.


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we talk about our evolving experiential curriculum, how to teach students about approaching and mitigating risk, and how to enable your students to better identify opportunities!

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