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Creating Rigorous But Accessible Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

Creating Rigorous But Accessible Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

Whether teaching Intro to Entrepreneurship at a community college, or Tech Entrepreneurship at Stanford, we know…

Experiential exercises are the key to engaging students.
teaching entrepreneurship stanford

In our continuing collaboration with Rebeca Hwang from Stanford, who introduced us to her Wish Game, we were excited by her invitation to share two of our lesson plans with her students.

Teaching at Stanford

Knowing that experiences are both the best to teach skills, we decided to introduce students to the difference between Inventors and Entrepreneurs with our award-winning Lottery Ticket Dilemma lesson plan. With our second lesson, we shifted our focus to customer interviews. We wanted students to walk away with a clear understanding of what questions they should, and more importantly, what questions they shouldn’t ask, during customer interviews.

Inventors Vs. Entrepreneurs

We chose to present this exercise because it creates a fun, experiential way for students to conceptualize customer behavior. They can also identify business opportunities, by demonstrating it’s not actually customer problems that drive behavior, but customer emotions. 

entrepreneurship lesson plans online

After this game-based activity, students understand why some products are successful even if they don’t solve an obvious problem. This inspires them to identify non-problem based opportunities to leverage. 

Customer Interviewing: Learning the Basics Through Gamification

We followed with another fun and interactive exercise designed to improve your students’ interviewing skills in just one lesson. During this class, students will identify what their problem interviewing goals should be and should not be. Those goals will point them to what questions they should and should not ask during customer interviews.

entrepreneurial lesson plans online

After the card game, we provided an interview script template to the students. They can use this script as the basis for any problem discovery interview they conduct. This robust script will increase the quality of their interviews, and their confidence in conducting them. 

Students Love Engaging Entrepreneurship Classes

After our two lesson plans were concluded, one thing was very clear: students love to be engaged in the classroom. Here is a snapshot of some of our feedback:

entrepreneurship lesson plans
entrepreneurship lesson plan

We were delighted to get this real-time feedback from Stanford students. We believe in practicing what we preach and the opportunity to teach at Stanford allowed us to perform our own customer discovery interviews. The overall response was two-fold. The students:

  • Loved how engaging the lessons were
  • Appreciated learning a new, practical skill

Rigorous and Accessible Entrepreneurship Curriculum

But what excites us most about the work we do at is that these same exercises are accessible and loved by a wide range of students and university professors like. You can find our curriculum in:

college entrepreneurship lessons

Don’t Take Our Word for it

teaching entrepreneurship lessons

No Matter Where You’re Teaching

Our goal continues to be to move the art and science of teaching entrepreneurship forward. Customer Interviewing Cards and the Inventors vs. Entrepreneurs presentation are just a few the experiential exercises we’ve created. If you’d like to see how the Inventor vs. Entrepreneur lesson can work in your classroom, click to learn more. We hope you give them a shot, and if you, and your students enjoy, check out the full Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC).


Click Here for Our Stanford Presentation




It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.



Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

A Better Way to Teach Entrepreneurship Online

A Better Way to Teach Entrepreneurship Online

Teaching entrepreneurship online is daunting. In addition to the technical challenges, teaching entrepreneurship online comes with extra questions like:

  • How do you make online classes experiential?
  • How do you keep virtual students engaged?
  • How do create connections between you and your students?

And most importantly…

How to can you teach entrepreneurial skills online?

Introducing ExEC Online

Over the last 5 years, we’ve worked hard to produce the best available experiential entrepreneurship curriculum possible. During that time, we’ve had a laser focus on in-person classes. Over the same time period…

We’ve seen an increasing number of our instructors being asked to teach entrepreneurship online. 

This shift has inspired us to run an experiment this semester, creating a special version of ExEC that:

  • Teaches entrepreneurship online
  • Using the same experiential, interactive, approach we use for in-person classes
  • That creates meaningful connections between students and professors

And most importantly…

Builds students’ entrepreneurial skills, regardless of where their career takes them!

Coming Fall 2020

teac entrepreneurship onlineThis spring, we, the founding team of are alpha testing the first version of ExEC online at John Carroll University.

Our ExEC Online students are launching companies, running experiments, testing their hypotheses and interviewing customers – everything they do in our in-person ExEC classes! 

But that’s not even the best part. Based on what we’ve seen so far…

ExEC online could enable you to spend less time prepping, and more time coaching and mentoring individual students, which means your online classes could potentially be, more impactful than your in-person classes.

The combination of:

  • Automatically scheduled assignments
  • Pre-recorded video lessons
  • Online experiential exercises that integrate with your LMS and 
  • Quick-grading rubrics

…means you can significantly reduce your prep.

Imagine an experiential, skill-building, online entrepreneurship course, with 10% of the prep of a traditional class – and just as much impact.

When Will You Teach Online?

Looking at the flexibility online classes offer students, and the potential for growth they offer universities means, it looks like online classes will be the part of all of our futures’.

For example, below you can see close to 50% of all Oregon Public school students are taking online classes now – more than double the rate just 10 years ago.

Whether you’re already teaching online, or think it could be in your future, know that we’re developing and testing an online version of our award winning experiential curriculum, that you can use starting Fall 2020.

Curious about ExEC Online?

If you’re teaching entrepreneurship in an online, or hybrid, class in Fall or Spring of next year and are curious about our online experiments, let us know and we’ll show you what we’re up to:

ExEC Online Interest Form



Think, Pair, Share: More Engaging Class Discussions

Think, Pair, Share: More Engaging Class Discussions

Does getting your students to participate in class discussions feel like pulling teeth? Have you ever struggled leading a class discussion?

entrepreneurship lesson plans

We’ve discussed before how to inspire the entrepreneurial mindset in your students but most of us struggle with engaging all of their students, especially during in-class discussions.

Some students are naturally involved in classroom discussions, while for others, the call for participation can lead to dropped gazes, hunched postures, and impenetrable silence. Why?

Students don’t feel safe.

We’ve all been in group situations where we’ve been called to participate and we are reluctant to share. Think about the last conference you attended, where the presenter asked for volunteers. Or the last meeting you attended where you were asked to share your thoughts.

Just like us, our students sometimes don’t feel confident that what they have to share will benefit the class or worry about how they will be perceived. When that happens, the glassy stares and stony faces of our students can leave us feeling frustrated and disheartened. Not only that, but without a game plan, a few disengaged students can hinder the engagement for our entire classroom.

With the Think, Pair, Share process, we’ll show you how to bypass what stops your students from participating and deepen their commitment to showing up 100% in your course. Specifically, we’ll help you flip the script on how you facilitate discussions, so students feel confident and safe participating in your discussion. This results in a livelier classroom. 

entrepreneurial lesson plans

3 Steps to Lively Class Discussions

An engaged discussion with your students starts with you as the instructor and how well you prepare to promote the exchange of diverse ideas. Imagine you want to have a discussion where students come up with a business to start on campus or to discuss last night’s reading.

If you start off your discussion with a generic question about the main takeaway from the reading, you’ll likely have your usual suspects raise their hands to share their thoughts. The rest of your class may keep their heads down hoping you won’t call on them. Instead of just jumping into a group discussion, try this 3-step process and see how it improves the engagement of your entire class.

Step 1: Think

Rather than announcing that you’d like your class to discuss a topic, you’ll start by telling your students you’d like them to reflect on what they read last night. For example, ask them to come up with 1-2 takeaways from last night’s reading and write them down. Tell them you will give them 1-2 minutes to think about this.

Tell the students they are going to have a specified amount of time to reflect on the topic for discussion and encourage them to write down their thoughts. 

It’s important to keep this reflection time quiet and discourage any conversation so each student has a chance to reflect on their own.

Step 2: Pair

Once you’ve given the students adequate time to reflect and organize their thoughts on the topic, connect them with a partner give them 2-3 minutes each to share their thoughts. 

The Pair step is fundamental to the process’ success because:

  1. Sharing with a partner is less intimidating than speaking in front of the entire class.
  2. It gives the students practice putting their ideas into words and clarify their thoughts.
  3. It gives the students validation as they discover what they have to say is well-received and makes sense to someone else.
  4. (BONUS) As soon as you’ve created your pairs, you’ll notice that your entire class is instantly engaged.
Make sure the students understand how much time each of them will have to share their ideas and remind them to switch roles halfway through.

Step 3: Share

Now that your students have finished with their partner, it’s time for the main event. In this step, you’ll find that your students feel safer participating with the entire class because they’ve practiced sharing their thoughts which were validated by their partner. In addition to sharing their own ideas, they may be inspired to share their partner’s thoughts.

Invite the students to share their thoughts on the subject with the entire class. There are a few sharing options that you can utilize, depending on what feels right for you and the energy of your class:

  • Ask them to raise their hands to share their thoughts
  • Invite them to spontaneously shout out their thoughts, sometimes with leading questions (à la popcorn style)
  • Use technology like a mindmapping tool to organize their different ideas
A sharing option for one class may not work for another. It’s important to practice different sharing options to find what will work best for a specific class.

Key Takeaways

Because students are given space to ease into discussions with this process, you’ll find that the majority of your students will begin to participate easily and quickly.

Through these steps, students will gain clarity and confidence in expressing their ideas on any given topic. Use this technique not just for discussion-leading, but for:

  • Coming up with business ideas
  • Brainstorming solutions for problems
  • Discussing why some solutions fail and some don’t
Anytime you want your students to share thoughts, use Think, Pair, Share to boost student engagement. 

This will also help them prepare for speaking and presenting beyond the classroom and into a workplace setting. 

As the instructor, you’ll get more engaged students and lively classroom discussions.

Get the “Think, Pair, Share” Worksheet

We’ve created a detailed “Think, Pair, Share” worksheet. This exercise walks you through the process of facilitating a successful group discussion step-by-step and gives you the tools to assess and evaluate what works well for any particular class.

Get the Worksheet


It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.

We’ve incorporated Think, Pair, Share into several of the exercises that are in our fully experiential curriculum. If you’d like to see how Think, Pair, Share is leveraged in a structured lesson, click to learn more.

Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

    Back to Back Winners at USASBE 2020

    Back to Back Winners at USASBE 2020

    At this year’s USASBE conference, we were incredibly humbled to win the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises Awards again, this time with our Lottery Ticket Dilemma lesson plan!

    Winning the 3E competition is the highest achievement an entrepreneurship exercise designer can win – we like to think of it as the Super Bowl for entrepreneurial pedagogy nerds (that’s us!).

    We were privileged to have 4 out of the 10 exercises selected for the awards, including our popular 60 Minute MVP lesson plan which was a finalist and has recently been published in the Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy Journal. Slides for all of these lessons are available below.

    One of our founders, Doan Winkel, became President-Elect of USASBE. We look forward to his leadership of this great organization.
    Educational Materials

    In addition to our annual happy hour, we hosted our first-ever Innovator’s dinner.

    Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

    This definitely was our favorite conference yet. USASBE gives us a space to share and learn. We came away from the conference reinvigorated to continue improving our product to provide you and your students even more value.

    This year we:

    • Hosted our annual happy hour and first Innovator’s dinner
    • Ran six sessions, featuring experiential entrepreneurship exercises from our ExEC curriculum
    • And the pièce de résistance…
    We won the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises (3E) competition again!
    Teaching Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans
    Winning this award has validated we are on the right track when it comes to creating truly innovative entrepreneurship programs.

    After winning the 3E competition, we were delighted to join our fellow educators at the USASBE Gala.

    Thanks to your engagement in our events, we had a fantastic conversation that covered:

    • what we wish for our students and entrepreneurship education as a whole,
    • what we wish for ourselves as entrepreneurship educators,
    • the barriers to creating engaging curriculum
    • how to make entrepreneurial skills accessible to all students

    We had a wonderful time hosting happy hour as well as our inaugural Innovator’s dinner on Friday night. It was wonderful connect with other educator’s with an aligned vision and we enjoyed demoing our financial simulator:

    Education Lesson Plans
    Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

    As always, thank you for supporting us, challenging us, and for sharing our passion for engaging students everywhere.

    New Orleans was an amazing host, but we’re already planning for next year’s USASBE conference in Los Angeles. We hope you join us!

    Entrepreneurship Education Online
    If you want access to our slides from USASBE, you can access them here.
    Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans
    2019’s Most Popular Lesson Plans

    2019’s Most Popular Lesson Plans

    “This approach to learning is just what students need.” – Eric Liguori, Rowan University

    From enabling students to discover ideas that are meaningful to them to improving customer interviews, we design lesson plans to enhance engagement and improve skill-building. The following are our 5 most popular lesson plans from 2019 to transform your students’ experience as they practice generating ideas, interviewing customers, identifying early adopters, and validating assumptions.

    5. Increase the Quality of Your Student’s Ideas

    One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurship professors tell us is inspiring students to come up with ideas that are impactful or solution-centered. 

    How do you get your students to focus on problems, not products?

    So often, students are attracted to low-impact products without a clear idea of who their customer is, much less why they would want to buy into the idea. We want them to understand that customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to their problems.

    Student Idea Generation Lesson

    The Student Idea Generation lesson plan sparks your student’s idea generation so they can identify what problems they want to solve. 

    Rather than leading a brainstorming session in which students develop business ideas on their own (which can result in unactionable ideas), the Student Idea Generation lesson plan:

    • Instructs students how to pinpoint the customers they’re passionate about helping
    • Leads the students to identify the biggest challenges or problems they want to solve for these groups

    In this lesson plan, students first discover the customers they are passionate about helping and the problems/emotions they want to help them with. Students then determine solutions they can use to create a successful business.

    After this lesson, your students’ ideas will be:

    • More focused because they’ve identified the specific group they want to help
    • More practical because they’ll be solution-focused
    • More innovative because they’re inspired to solve problems

    View Idea Generation Lesson Plan

    4. Transform Your Student’s Customer Interviews

    Nothing can make some students more uncomfortable than not knowing what to ask during customer interviews.

    A number of factors make a student wary of conducting customer interviews, including:

    • Talking to strangers gives them anxiety
    • They’re nervous because they’ve never conducted an interview and want to get it right
    • They don’t understand the benefit of interviews in the first place

    Because customer interviewing is so critical to building solutions people want, customer interviews are an integral part of the entrepreneurship curriculum. We designed the Customer Interview lesson plan to eliminate the barriers students have around performing customer interviews.

    This comprehensive lesson plan includes materials to prep before class, and step-by-step instructions for leading the lesson. After the lesson, students will walk away understanding:

    • Their role in the interview
    • What makes a successful interview
    • Preparation for real customer interviews
    • Specific interview questions

    The benefits of this lesson plan are two-fold:

    • Takes the guesswork out of customer interviews for the students 
    • Minimizes preparation for the instructor

    Get the “How to Interview Customers” Lesson Plan

    3. Experiential Exercise for Teaching About Early Adopters

    Another problem professors shared is teaching students how to identify early adopters. Early adopters are vital for the success of any product or service, but students often struggle in understanding the concept of an early adopter.

    Students understand the definition of Early Adopters easier if they’re led through this experiential exercise.
    Identifying Early Adopters Experiential Exercise

    The Finding Early Adopters lesson plan features a mechanical pencil challenge that introduces the concept of an early adopter and contrasts it with early majority and late majority customers. This exercise also demonstrates where and how to find early adopters.

    This exercise was a finalist in the prestigious 2019 USASBE 3E Competition, which recognizes the best experiential entrepreneurship exercises at the USASBE Annual Conference.

    After this lesson plan, students will be able to answer:

    • Who is the target for customer interviews?
    • How and where to find the best prospects for customer interviews?

    View the Finding Early Adopters Lesson Plan

    2. Coaching for Entrepreneurship Students

    While valuable, team projects can be a source of great anxiety for students. Many students working in teams:

    • Worry about their final grade
    • Fall behind with the coursework or understanding of the content
    • Are bored because their team has surpassed other teams’ progress

    Team projects can be problematic for professors to successfully meet students’ diverse needs. The How to Coach Your Students lesson plan provides a differentiated learning experience using individual team coaching sessions that provides a positive and productive team experience for all students.

    Popular Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans
    Individual coaching sessions allow students to quantify the skills they’ve built and identify next steps.

    Similar to a daily stand-up approach to scrum meetings, this lesson walks you step-by-step through a process to perform a Stand-Up Coaching session in 1 of 2 ways and discusses the pros and cons of each technique:

    • Coaching through simulation
    • Private team coaching

    After this lesson, students will:

    • Shift from searching for the right answer to asking the right questions
    • Focus on learning rather than earning a specific grade
    • Feel better equipped to prepare for their final presentation

    View the “Coach Your Students” Lesson Plan

    1. The True Meaning of Minimum Viable Product

    The 60 Minute MVP remains one of our most popular lesson plans. During this hour-long experience, students launch an MVP website, with an animated video and a way to take pre-orders, without any prior coding experience. 

    “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.” –  ExEC Curriculum Professor
    Minimum Viable Product Experiential Exercise

    This class is the ultimate combination of engagement and skill-building as the students navigate each task. On the lesson plan page, you can view an example of a video students created based on actual customer problems in about 20 minutes.

    After this class, your students will understand:

    • The true meaning of Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
    • It’s easier to launch a product than they assume
    • Launching a product lays the foundation for their entire business

    View 60 Minute MVP Lesson Plan

    Bonus: The Power of Customer Observations

    In addition to teaching customer interviewing techniques, we developed a Teaching Customer Observations lesson plan because it helps solidify the student’s understanding of the importance of understanding their customer’s problems. In this lesson plan, students experience first-hand the value of seeing how their customers experience problems rather than just imagining certain scenarios.

    Customer Observations Lesson Plan

    The goal of this lesson is to teach students to have a clear picture of their customer’s problems before they try to come up with a solution. 

    After this class, students will understand

    • The value of observing customer behavior rather than trying to predict it
    • How to listen with their eyes to improve empathy for what their customers value and care about

    In addition to the positive feedback we’ve received from the community using this exercise,

    this lesson won first place in the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises Awards at the USASBE 2019 Annual Conference!

    View Teaching Customer Observations Lesson Plan

    Want an Experiential + Structured Curriculum?

    If you’re looking for a comprehensive, tested, experiential entrepreneurship curriculum to use next semester, that fully engages your students, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

    Check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum and we’ll get you set up!

    Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

    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 8,000+ instructors and get new lesson plans via email!

    Students Don’t See the Value of a Textbook: Dr. Samantha Fairclough

    Students Don’t See the Value of a Textbook: Dr. Samantha Fairclough

      It’s a struggle for every professor to keep their class engaged.

    In an over-stimulated culture, we are at a disadvantage to create an environment where students aren’t constantly looking at their laptops or phones. To keep their eyes up and maintain their interest can sometimes seem like lofty goals.

    Kim Pichot - Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Professor

    Dr. Samantha Fairclough understands that struggle. As an Assistant Professor of Practice at University of Nebraska-Lincoln & the Associate Director of the UNL Center for Entrepreneurship, she feels personal and professional pressure to make sure she maintains a high level of student engagement.

    As she prepared to teach her Managing Growth and Change class recently, she realized she had to make a change.

      She knew the way she previously taught “isn’t working for me. The students hate it. I hate it. I don’t enjoy the book.”

    Entrepreneurship Alternative to Textbook Learning

    She decided to ditch all textbooks and was searching for readings and articles she could use instead when she found the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC).

    After using the ExEC 60 minute MVP lesson from the website in her current creativity class as a pilot for using the entire ExEC curriculum, she was pleased by the great buzz of energy and student engagement. 

      Dr. Fairclough describes being blown away with the kinds of things her students came up with.
    Teaching Entrepreneurship Curriculum

    Fully Adopting the ExEC Entrepreneurship Curriculum 

    From websites to explainer videos, the lesson was such a great moment and garnered such positive results, she decided she was ready to adopt the full ExEC curriculum with her next group of students.

    The timing also seemed right for change because she felt she had the right group of students to try something new. Instead of pushing her class of entrepreneurially minded students into a lecture-based system, Dr. Fairclough fully embraced the ExEC curriculum and found that the tools and techniques worked from day 1.

    Making it Real Lesson Plan

    Using the Making it Real lesson plan, Samantha got the students together in the downtown Lincoln area. She gave each group $5 (in singles) and told them to make as much money as possible in 30 minutes. The winning group would split the winnings. This lesson proved to be a great kick-off for introducing the ExEC philosophy. 

      “One of the joys of this class is, it’s so interactive, there’s a lot of engagement.”

    Students returned to class filled with energy and excitement. One group took a temporary job to make money, while another sold shares in their future winnings. The creativity of the ideas combined with the feedback from her students made it obvious to Samantha that the kids loved the exercise.  Coverage of their experience on social media gained some great exposure on campus too. Word of the positive experience continued to spread, even reaching the Dean’s office.

    Similar to other entrepreneurship professors, Samantha wants her students to enjoy learning. She found that having a great rapport with her students starts with the material that lays a foundation for a solid experience and exchange of ideas.

    Pressure from Above

    “As an entrepreneurship professor, I strive to be the best and receive the highest evaluation scores from students,” Samantha shared. “Across the board, those of us who teach entrepreneurship are expected to have interactive, experiential classes. This creates a pressure to continuously find new and effective ways to do that in a way students enjoy but isn’t cumbersome for us as educators.”

    Additionally, professors feel added pressure from their institution to remain on the cutting edge of teaching methods. The unspoken thought being if the professor does not create an interactive class that elicits great feedback, they’re not teaching effectively.

    Ditch the Textbook: Start Engaging

    ExEC was designed to help you engage all of your students without requiring significant prep time.

    If you’re, like Dr. Fairclough, looking for a curriculum that

    • Engages every student
    • Provides structured, skill-building, real-world experiences
    • Has comprehensive support for easy adoption

    request a preview of our ExEC curriculum here.

    Teaching Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

    Samantha Isn’t Alone! Read More Case Studies of ExEC Instructors

    Related Articles

    We’re committed to providing content that will help our community of entrepreneurship educators remain on the forefront of the field. Here is a list of some recent posts we think you’ll find valuable for your next class:

    • Textbooks Don’t Work. More and more professors are finding textbooks are not an effective way to teach entrepreneurship. Experiences are. Engage your students with the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.
    • Idea Generation vs. Problem Generation. Idea generation is one of the most difficult aspects of teaching entrepreneurship. We share an alternative to idea generation that will quickly help your students generate ideas.
    • How to Teach MVP’s. In this exercise, students will design their first MVP by identifying their riskiest business model assumption. They’ll then design the simplest experiment they can to test that riskiest assumption. 

    Ready to Take Student Engagement to the Next Level?

    We email new experiential entrepreneurship lesson plans regularly.

    Subscribe here to get our next lesson plan in your inbox!

    We engage students in practicing skills, actively. Class time should be spent learning by doing, with professors guiding students through an experience where they can see the material come to life in a way that is meaningful for them. We built that experience for you and for your students.

    Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum
    Engage Students This Spring

    Engage Students This Spring

    This spring you can have:

    • More engagement
    • More structure
    • More impact

    We practice what we preach, and apply entrepreneurial principles to how to teach entrepreneurship. The Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) combines all of the best practices of entrepreneurship education, and after just 2 years is now used at almost 100 universities!

    If you want more engagement, more structure, and more impact, now is your chance with ExEC!

    Universities using Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

    Why People Love ExEC

    Each semester, our founders continuously interview faculty and staff to improve the user experience, and create more meaningful moments.

    Kim Pichot - Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Professor

    One student of Kim Pichot, from Andrews University, shared:

    “This one is by far the best class I’ve ever taken at this University!”

    Maureen Cumpstone from Ursinus College said:

    “Students understood the focus on skill-building rather than going through the motions of creating something that we all know is pretend.”

    Students also share the impact of learning experientially:

    “This course teaches more practical skills which are not available in other courses during college.” – Student, Georgia State University

    “I enjoyed the interactive class. It gets everyone involved and awake and gets the juices flowing in your brain. Class was more enjoyable rather than something I had to attend.” – Student, Rowan University

    What’s New In ExEC?

    Faster Assessment

    We redesigned what students turn in, dramatically reducing assessment time, while keeping the curriculum robust and the grading transparent.

    Assessments used in Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

    We also simplified and updated our rubrics, so you can more efficiently and effectively provide constructive feedback to your students.

    Updated rubrics in Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

    Updated Modules

    The Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum has expanded to include the core topics that are essential to successful entrepreneurs:

    Idea Generation. This module helps students identify ideas they are uniquely qualified to pursue. The experience will teach students:

    • A repeatable process for generating business ideas.
    • Brainstorming problems to solve generates more good business ideas than brainstorming products to build.
    • Which customers they are uniquely suited to serve.
    • How to identify “backup ideas” if their primary business idea falters.

    Idea Generation Exercise in Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

    Financial Projection Simulator. This module helps students determine if a business model will be financially sustainable. The experience will teach students how to:

    • Estimate costs for their venture.
    • Project their revenue from a “bottom-up” perspective.
    • Update their business model hypotheses to ensure they are on a path to achieve their business goals.

    Customer Interviewing. Our updated method of teaching customer interviews use’s ExEC Customer Interviewing Playing Cards with an online collaborative quiz game to show students:

    • What their problem interviewing goals should and should not be, and
    • What questions they should and should not ask

    Customer Interviewing Script used in Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

    The curriculum now enables professors to easily shift from the ineffective sage-on-the-stage model of education to the guide-on-the-side model, because the real teacher with the ExEC curriculum is the students’ experience.

    AOM Review of ExEC!

    We were fortunate that two of our rock-star colleagues (Dr. Emma Fleck from Susquehanna University and Dr. Atul Teckchandani from California State University Fullerton) shared their thoughts about our curriculum in Academy of Management Learning & Education, the leading journal on the study of management learning and education.

    Learn more about our curriculum from this review in Academy of Management Learning & Education.

    Academy of Management Learning & Education review of Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

    Improved LMS Integration

    For Fall 2019, we we updated our integration of ExEC with the four major learning management systems (LMS): Canvas, D2L, Moodle and Blackboard. This offers our professors the capability of uploading all our content neatly into their respective LMS, which greatly reduces the setup time, and provides a more comfortable learning process for the students.

    From hundreds of professor and student interviews, we built a brand new professor platform for our entrepreneurship curriculum. After a few well-managed hiccups rolled it out with overall great success.

    The ExEC experience contains over 30 detailed lesson plans, each containing seven core elements designed to enable easy navigation and execution for our professors:

    Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Overview

    1. The lesson’s goals and objectives.
    2. A quick overview of where each lesson fits into the scheme of the overall curriculum.
    3. An engaging overview video explaining the lesson.
    4. Detailed Google Slides for classroom use.

    Video and slides in every lesson plan in the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

    1. Instructions to prepare before class, including all necessary resources.
    2. An exhaustive minute-by-minute outline for delivering the lesson.
    3. Instructions for what students could and should do after class.

    Lesson plan instructions in Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

    From the first moment of planning a lesson to returning graded assignments, we frame the entire learning experience in detailed, practical terms that are mapped onto the Business Model Canvas to highlight what lessons are applicable for particular boxes on the Canvas.

    Award-Winning Curriculum!

    Our founding team are entrepreneurs. We’ve spent years interviewing entrepreneurship faculty and students. This combined knowledge led us to build a skill-based award-winning entrepreneurship curriculum that probes critical entrepreneurship topics in-depth.

    Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum wins first place at USASBE

    ExEC Online?

    We’ve had a ton of interest in using ExEC for online classes, so this semester we’ll be alpha testing a fully online-enabled version of ExEC.

    We have been hard at work creating engaging videos and online experiences for students, and will kick the tires on this new experience before rolling it out nationally in Fall 2020.

    In Spring 2020, our co-founders will teach the first fully online semester-long ExEC course at John Carroll University!
    Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum co-founders

    Engage Your Class

    We engage students in practicing skills, actively. Class time should be spent learning by doing, with professors guiding students through an experience where they can see the material come to life in a way that is meaningful for them. We built that experience for you and for your students.

    Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum professor Georgann Jouflas

    Georgann Jouflas wanted to teach her students to discover their passion and solve problems

    Her students needed to deeply engage with understanding the power of hidden assumptions, and how to prototype. She found her solution with ExEC!

     Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

    ExEC provides the entire learning experience, giving students meaningful content and the tools to turn that content into action.

    Don’t worry about covering every topic in a particular niche of entrepreneurship hoping they will get it. Invite students into an experience that facilitates learning and understanding. They will thank you. However, we don’t expect you to take our word for it.

    Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Chris Welter

    Dr. Chris Welter, who uses ExEC with undergrads and MBAs, says:

    “It’s the software I’ve been looking for for 3 or 4 years . . . I really appreciate the ability for students to get their hands dirty.”

    Try ExEC This Spring

    There’s a community of more than 70 entrepreneurial professors like you, and they’re using ExEC to bring entrepreneurship to life for their students.

    Request a preview of ExEC today and make this Spring the most engaging semester of entrepreneurship yet! Our curriculum is full of experiential exercises that will make your students’ learning come alive.

    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:

    • “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!
    • Improving Student Idea Generation. Help students build ideas around the customers they are most passionate about helping, and the problems they are most excited to help them resolve.
    • Teachers Need Tools.  Our curriculum makes prepping your entrepreneurship classes a breeze, and makes teaching the classes a powerful experience for students.
    Differentiated Learning in Entrepreneurship

    Differentiated Learning in Entrepreneurship

    If your students are anxious about their grade, or about making appropriate progress in terms of learning and mindset, this lesson plan is for you.

    With this lesson plan, you will calm your students’ anxiety, and effectively prepare them for their final presentation.

    One of the biggest reasons students disengage in experiential entrepreneurship classes is that different teams progress at different speeds.

    • Teams who fall behind can get discouraged when the class progresses to topics that are not yet relevant to them.
    • Teams who quickly validate an assumption can get bored if the content of the class stalls their progress.

    One of the most successful remedies we’ve seen to this problem is to provide students with differentiated learning experiences, via individual team coaching sessions.

    Every coaching session should be a moment where students can measure the skills they’ve built so far in order to learn what to do next.

    What is a Coaching Stand-Up?

    First, what they are not:

    • They are not a formal presentation where everyone in the class is presenting the same material
    • They are not a graded performance based on the progress the team has made on their startup idea.

    A coaching stand-up is a graded performance based on the process the team has navigated for their startup idea.

    The best way to think about Coaching Stand-ups, is to imagine your class more like a startup accelerator, where you are managing a portfolio of companies. Regardless of where they are in the process, it’s your job to help each company take the next right step for them.

    With this perspective in mind, you see how Coaching Stand-Ups turn into:

    A chance for you to provide individualized feedback to student teams, specific to the challenges they are facing.

    Coaching Stand-Ups 101

    Coaching stand-ups should happen frequently during the course. There are two options for how to run a Coaching stand-up, or you can blend the two:

    • Student teams conduct a final presentation simulation in front of their peers
    • Student teams meet w/ the instructor one-on-one (either in class or outside of class)

    We found great success in conducting these Coaching Stand-Ups after students have gone through customer interviewing, problem validation, and begun their solution ideation.

    Let’s look at the pros and cons of each session so you can decide which best suits your class and students.

    Class presentation by students

    Coaching Through Simulation

    Coaching students through a presentation simulation provides the following benefits:

    • A more structured format can be helpful in preparing students for the final (graded) presentation.
    • The pressure of looking good in front of peers can motivate students to put together higher quality work.
    • Creates a classroom culture where peers are providing valuable feedback to one another.

    This strategy, however, does have its drawbacks. This approach can create an environment where teams are competing with one another rather than focusing on their own progress. Additionally, peers can get bored listening to other presentations and feel that the time would be better spent if they could work on their own projects.

    Team Private Coaching

    Alternatively, you can provide coaching by teams meeting with you, either during a class session or outside of class. Providing your students feedback using this method provides the following benefits:

    • The meetings can be more idiosyncratic, based on the needs of each team.
    • Teams are less likely to compare their progress to one another.
    • Instructors can be more candid and hands-on with each team.
    • Students appreciate the individualized instruction.
    • Teams who are not presenting can continue with their work.

    We recommend conducting private coaching stand-ups for the reasons stated above.

    Help Students Prepare For Coaching

    In preparation for a Coaching Stand-Up session, ask your students to prepare a presentation using the guidelines below.

    We strongly encourage you to give students autonomy and flexibility in how they prepare for these sessions to allow them to rise to the challenge or fail to do so, and learn how to do better in the future.

    Assessing a Stand-up

    Assessing a stand-up is based off the process the students are going through and how well they understand and reflect upon the process. It’s not about their progress and how far they have gone, but instead is about the questions they are raising and the reflection process. It is critical to make this clear to students ahead of time as the focus on process not progress will be new to many students.

    Prior to the Coaching Stand-Up, give students the following format to follow in their presentation, whether they will be in front of the class, or just with you. These meetings should last approximately 5 minutes for each team.

    Why We Call It a Stand-Up

    We refer to this as a stand-up because students should stand up during the entire meeting to keep it short and efficient, much like the daily stand-up approach to scrum meetings.

    Set the Context (30 seconds)

    Share what the team is trying to do. What challenge is the team trying to address?

    Previous Feedback & Actions Taken (1 minute)

    Summarize the team’s progress to-date. Encourage teams to start with what has gone well (i.e., the positive) before discussing the things that did not go as expected. Be sure to discuss any previous feedback they received from the instructor or other students, judges, or potential customers, and what actions have been taken to address this feedback.

    Discoveries (2 minutes each)

    Share the discoveries of any research/experiments conducted. Each experiment should be discussed separately, using the format below:

    1. What assumptions were we making that need to be validated?
    2. What experiment did we conduct? (e.g. customer interviews, publish the landing page, solution interviews, etc.)
    3. What have we discovered? Share the main lessons learned.
    4. Why this discovery important for our team? How does it change our Business Model Canvas?

    Students should also bring additional data and information to ensure they are prepared to answer questions that the instructor and/or audience might ask about their experiments and conclusions.

    Question (30 seconds)

    Conclude the presentation by sharing a question for the audience. The question should seek the audience’s input on the most important things that the team should work on next.

    Teams should not ask the audience a question that can be answered by saying yes or no (e.g., Is this product a good idea?).

    We want our students to move away from looking for a single right answer and instead have a mindset of continuously building, measuring and learning.

    As such, instructors should evaluate the students on the question they pose and their reflection process. If appropriate, the audience should share their thoughts on the question posed by the team. Then ask the presenters to share their thoughts on this question. Last, so you do not influence others, share your thoughts.

    If the Coaching Stand-Up is conducted in front of peers, encourage their peers to try to help the presenter by providing feedback.

    General Coaching Stand-Up Tips:

    Specify for your students whether all team members must present during a Coaching Stand-Up or if teams are free to choose which team members will present.

    Encourage students to explain things simply and clearly so that everyone will be able to understand it. Remind them of the Albert Einstein quote: “If you can’t explain it to a 6-year old, you don’t know it yourself.”

    You should document the feedback provided to each team so that changes between successive coaching stand-up sessions can be tracked. You can create a formalized feedback document to share with the students or to document the feedback for internal purposes only. A feedback template is provided in the lesson plan.

    The big challenge of a stand-up is that they can take too long. This is, again, why we make students stand up during the presentations. We recommend everything is strictly timed, which will help students communicate their ideas more efficiently and help ensure you are not spending too much time talking with individual teams.

    When to Run Coaching Stand-Ups

    • We found conducting stand-ups at the following points during the course are most effective:
    • Before customer interviews. Make sure their interviewing strategy is right and they are talking to the right customer.
    • During customer interviews. After the first round of customer interviews, check in to make sure students are on the right path.
    • After customer interviews. Make sure your students know how to analyze customer interviews.
    • Before running an experiment. Make sure the experiment will test what the students want to test.
    • After the first experiment. Help students understand how to analyze their results.

    Reducing Student Anxiety

    The type of individualized instruction you provide during a coaching stand-up reduces student anxiety. You are speaking directly to them, very clearly and succinctly, about a very specific task or skill, so students receive very clear feedback on a very specific point.

    Coaching Stand-Ups are one option to provide your students clear feedback as they progress through their learning journey. This lesson plan provides you one method to accomplish the following goals:

    • Move students away from searching for a single right answer and instead focus them on asking the right questions.
    • Encourage learning. Don’t focus on the grade.
    • Give guidance and feedback to help them prepare for the final presentation (e.g., what to change and where to focus on).

    teaching entrepreneurship

    Lecture Less & Coach More With the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

    Want to create the most engaging team experiences for your students? Check out the award-winning ExEC curriculum for your Spring courses.

    Or learn more about the methodology behind and exercises in our curriculum at the USASBE Conference in New Orleans in January (drinks are on us!)

    Request a preview of ExEC today and make this Spring the most engaging semester of entrepreneurship yet! Our curriculum is full of experiential exercises that will make your students’ learning come alive.

    Get the “How to Coach Your Students” Lesson Plan

    We’ve created a detailed “How to Coach Your Students” lesson plan. This exercise walks 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 8,000+ instructors and get new lesson plans 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:

    Improve Your Students’ Customer Interviews

    Improve Your Students’ Customer Interviews

    If your students are struggling conducting high-quality interviews with customers, or you’re not sure how to get them started, this lesson plan is for you.

    With this lesson plan, your students will learn exactly what to ask during a customer interview, and how to ask it.

    When students first see they will be interviewing customers, they feel nervous, overwhelmed, and worried. Why?

    • They’re nervous about talking to strangers.
    • They don’t learn this technique somewhere else.
    • They’ve never seen or heard sample interviews.
    • It feels like too much work.
    • They’re worried about looking and feeling stupid.

    In this lesson plan, students will practice customer interviewing with their classmates to expose to interviewing techniques, and to deepen connections between them.

    Specifically, in this lesson plan, students will learn:

    • Basics of customer interviewing techniques
    • What questions to ask during customer interviews
    • How to create rapport with interviewees
    • What it’s like to be interviewed
    • Differences between interviewing and surveying customers

    Customer interviewing scriptBefore Class

    Print out at least one Interview Script Template, for each student. Generate a B2C script where the:

    • Interview Type = B2C
    • Role = student
    • Problem = having too much work to do and too little time
    • Context = during midterms

    During Class

    Use this exercise when students are preparing to start validating their first Business Model Canvas assumptions. They will validate these assumptions by interviewing Early Adopters – see the Finding your Early Adopters module in the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) for explicit instructions to prepare students to interview their Early Adopters.

    teaching entrepreneurship

    Let students know there are techniques that can help them interview customers in a way that helps them test their assumptions, but it takes some practice to get good at, and comfortable with, these techniques.

    Let them know it’s normal to feel awkward or nervous interviewing at first, everyone does, but that after a while, it becomes as natural as having a conversation with a close friend.

    Tell them they’re going to get their first chance to interview today, and they’re going to start off, by interviewing their teammate(s).

    Step 1

    Tell students their one and only goal with customer interviewing is to understand the problems their customer is actively trying to solve.

    Show students this intro video on interviewing customers to give them a broad sense of the objectives:

     Step 2: Warm Up

    Start out with a few warm-up, rapport-building questions. These are questions that make your students and their interviewees feel comfortable so that your students can get into a flow of conversation before diving into problems or difficulties.

    What to ask warmup questions

    Here are some examples:

    • Ask about the weather – students might even do a quick web search to find out what it’s been like where they are: “How’ve you been faring with all the rain recently?”
    • Comment on sports – again, a web search is helpful: “49ers are the team no one wants to play again this year.”
    • Simply ask how their week has been.

    Step 3: Understand the Role

    B2B (business-to-business) Script: Your students want to understand the challenges their early adopters are facing, so they should focus on that person’s role, be it a student, or a hiring manager, etc. They want to focus on how that person defines their role, what success looks like for them, and, ultimately, the challenges they face in achieving that success.

    By focusing on their role, as opposed to the entire company, you students have a much more sincere and open conversation.

    With that in mind, your first question here is:

    How would you describe your role as a __________?

    what to ask: role definition

    This is a nice, easy first question to get the person starting to talk about the ins and outs of their job. Let the interviewee describe in their own words what it’s like to have her job.

    It is really important that your students understand how this person views their roles and responsibilities. They will be referring to their words over and over during the rest of the conversation. This will also help them to create a mental framework of what their job is like.

    As the interviewee responds, be sure to write down the words and jargon they use.

    If it’s the first time your students have heard the word or something described in a specific way, they need to ask about it. Don’t be shy! This is their chance to hear the definition of a term directly from their customer – it’s also a chance for their customer to demonstrate their expertise (a good thing).

    Going forward, the best way to build rapport is to…

    Use their words to talk about their job and problems.

    Using their words and phrasings will help your students build trust as they get into the more vulnerable part of the conversation around problems and difficulties.

    Step 4: Define Success

    Now that your students understand their potential early adopter’s job description, the next step is to understand how they define success. The question here is

    What does success look like for you?

    This question is meant to be aspirational. What are they looking to achieve? How does their performance get measured? What expectations does this person’s boss have of them? What expectations do their customers have? What expectations do they have of themselves?

    what to ask: define success

    The answer to this question will help guide your students’ conversation. At the end of the day, they will be helping your students solve their problems so, ultimately, they can achieve the success that they have just named for your students!

    Their success is your students’ success.

    Your students will be successful when they help their customer be successful – this question will help them figure out how to do that.

    One tip is to circle here, saying something like, “If I understand you correctly, if we were to solve this problem, we can help you achieve [your success].”

    Reflecting back their success will also help build rapport. It’s a way for your students to remind them that they are here to help them solve a problem and achieve their goals.

    Step 5: Identify the Problem

    Your students now dive into the problems their interviewee is facing.

    what to ask: b2b problem

    For B2B interviewees, by asking about their customer’s role and goals, your students have created a sufficiently safe context to ask about their challenges:

    What is the hardest part about achieving that success?

    what to ask: b2c problem

    For B2C interviewees, this is your students’ starting point. Their customer doesn’t have a job description or larger company vision, so they can start with the personal challenges. After their initial warm up questions, ask:

    What is the biggest challenge you are facing as a [customer role]?

    Both: In this question, your students are listening for the challenges that are preventing the customer from achieving their success or living their life as they would like.

    Again, students should listen for the words they use to describe their difficulties. Ask a lot of questions to clarify and fully understand what they are telling them.

    The answer to this question will get to the heart of what their customer is looking for.

    Below this question your students will notice there are 3 columns. That’s because parts of this script are designed to be repeated so they can discover all of the problems your customer is trying to solve. More on that below.

    Empathize, empathize, empathize.

    At this point in the script is a reminder that your students should be empathizing with their interviewee throughout the conversation. They don’t need to go into their own stories, but do acknowledge if they’ve experienced a similar difficulty or if they can understand where they are coming from.

    Phrases such as the following can be helpful for students letting someone know they’re on their team.

    • I’ve been there.
    • That makes complete sense.
    • I can see how that would be frustrating.

    When empathizing, be genuine. If your students can’t put themselves in their shoes, ask for more information. They want to understand their customer as thoroughly as possible.

    Many of us are used to putting forth a front of having “it all figured out”.

    If someone is sharing their problems, they are taking a risk to be vulnerable.

    This is especially true for B2B, where your students are asking someone to admit that they are having difficulties in their role with the company. Validating their experience will help them feel safe and comfortable so they will continue to open up.

    Step 6: The Last Time

    Your students now want to know whether their customer is actively “paying” to solve the problem they just mentioned. To do that, they should ask

    When was the last time you tried to solve this problem?

    what to ask: last time

    This question is key.

    The answer will tell your students if they are an Early Adopter or an Early Majority. They are looking for Early Adopters – customers who are already “paying” to solve the problem.

    For B2B, listen for evidence they’ve “paid” to solve the problem within the last 12 months – the typical business budget cycle.

    For B2C, listen for evidence they’ve “paid” to solve this problem within the last 6 months.

    The answer is easy to interpret:

    If they’ve “paid” to solve this problem recently, with a currency that will lead to your students’ victory, they’re an Early Adopter for a solution. If they haven’t, they’re not.

    If they’re an Early Adopter, continue with the questions below. If they are not, start again from the previous question:

    “What else is hard about achieving your success?” for B2B


    “What else is challenging about [customer role]?” for B2C.

    This is why there are multiple columns for notes under this question. Most of the time your students will have to go through the series of questions a few times before striking gold. Use the second and third columns of the script to dive into alternative problems.

    Step 7: Specific Problem Scenario

    Once your students know they have an Early Adopter, they can start to gather information specifically about their customer’s attempts at solutions. Ask:

    Can you tell me about the last time that problem occurred?

    what to ask: problem scenario

    Here, your students are looking for a more detailed description of the actual problem. They are hoping to get beyond generalizations or broad descriptions of their customer’s struggles, and dial down into a specific instance where they had this problem and tried to find a solution.

    This strategy is important for both B2B and B2C.

    Why is this important? In this response, your students are listening for more specific words, jargon and emotions that help to understand the problem. This will help them understand how their customers describe the heart of the issue.

    Again, ask a lot of questions. There are no stupid questions – the more information your students can get, the better.

    Take special note of the words they use, the jargon they use, and the emotions they describe. This will form the foundation of the marketing strategy.

    The scenario the customer describes can also serve as a case study later on. If they give your students a very concrete example, they can use it to help develop a solution when they’re back inside the building, brainstorming.

    Step 8: Marketing Copy

    This question will answer all of your students’ marketing copy questions for both B2B and B2C. Ask:

    Why is it a problem for you?

    Warning: this question may feel awkward to ask – but your students must ask it.

    what to ask: marketing copy

    It will probably feel obvious why it is a problem and your students will be tempted to skip this question. However, the way they describe why it’s a problem is likely to be different than how your students would describe it.

    Your students are not psychic, so they shouldn’t pretend to be. Let the customers speak for themselves.

    Above all else, your students want to know the words their customer uses to describe their experience, and the emotions they feel when encountering this problem.

    In the marketing copy, when your students can use a customer’s exact phrasings and identify the exact emotions they are feeling when faced with a problem, they will resonate with the customer on a profound level.

    The better your students understand their customer, without making any assumptions of their own, the better they will be able to serve them, and the better – and more successful – your students’ solution will be.

    If your students don’t hear any emotions mentioned the first time they ask this question, keep trying. Say something like, “Interesting. And why is that a problem?”

    Keep going, asking why up to five times, until they get to the emotional core of their customer’s experience of the problem.

    Step 9: Current Solutions

    Now it’s time to for your students to figure out where they should do their marketing. To do that, ask:

    How did you find your current solution?

    what to ask: current solution

    The answer to this question is key because it will help your students figure out how to find more people like the interviewee, with similar problems. This is just as true for B2B as B2C.

    Eventually, the answers your students collect to this question will drive their marketing channel definitions. If one customer has gone there to find a solution, it’s likely others have gone there as well.

    Step 10: What Isn’t Ideal About Their Solution?

    Presumably, the current solution for this customer isn’t working – that’s why they mentioned it as a problem earlier in the interview. At this point, your students are in a perfect position to ask:

    What’s not ideal about this solution?

    what to ask: what is wrong with the solution

    Here, your students will discover how they’re going to differentiate their solution from their competition.

    Your student’s solution will be superior, because their understanding of the problem is superior.

    The information your students gather from this question will feed into their solution ideation process – ensuring they solve the problem better than their competitors.

    Step 11: Rinse and Repeat

    Even if your students hit on something good the first time around, there may be more value available in this interview. At this point, your students should go back to the Hardest Part question to find out what other problems are at the top of the customer’s list.

    Remember: use the additional columns of the script to take notes for additional question iterations.

    After that, validate they are an Early Adopter for the new problem they mention by asking when was the last time they tried to solve it. If they are, continue with the rest of the interview questions, including a possible third iteration.

    Alternate Questions

    If your students make it through the second round of questions and there’s still no mention of the problem they’ve hypothesized, here is another question they can ask to both businesses and consumers:

    What is the biggest challenge you’re facing as a [customer’s role] with respect to [problem scenario]?

    what to ask: alternate questions

    In this question, your students will spoon feed the customer a situation where they are likely to experience the problem that they’ve hypothesized. This will focus your students in on the specific area of their customer’s job or life context that aligns with their own interests.

    From there, circle back to the “when was the last time you tried to solve this problem?” question and continue the exercise as before. In this scenario, your students need to pay extra close attention to their interviewee’s answer.

    Important: If your students spoon feed their customers a scenario where they are confident they will feel the problem your students hypothesize and either they don’t cite the problem you hypothesized or they aren’t actively looking for a solution – they aren’t Early Adopters!

    If this happens, it’s clear something has to change:

    • If this happens just a few times, no big deal. Not everyone in your students’ interview channels is going to be an Early Adopter.
    • If this is happening frequently, but your students are discovering a different problem the customers are Early Adopters for, no big deal – they can pivot to solve the new problem they’re reporting.
    • If it’s happening frequently, and your students are not discovering problems customers are Early Adopters for, no big deal – they can pivot their interviewing channels or their entire target customer segment (refer to your the ExEC curriculum for exercises for alternative segments to interview.)

    Step 12: Wrap It Up

    When your students wrap up an interview, they want to be sure they are leaving the door open for future conversations, even if this person is not an Early Adopter. To do that, say:

    I’m actively exploring a solution to [their problem]. Can I contact you if I find a viable solution?

    what to ask - wrap it up

    Regardless of your students’ hypothesized problem, they should use their customer’s words to describe their problem in this closing…even if it’s not the problem your students are currently focused on solving!

    Use their words to describe a problem your students hope to solve.

    It is true your students may not pursue a solution to their problem now, but if enough other customers present the same difficulties, they’ve discovered a viable place to pivot. In fact, their interview may end up being one of the data points that convinces your students to pivot!

    By your students asking them if they can contact them if they discover a solution to their problem, they’ve left the door open for further communication should they fall into their Early Adopter category now, or ever.

    what to ask: wrapping it up

    For B2B, your students will also want to ask:

    If we wanted to put a solution to this problem into place, who else would we need buy-in from?

    In a B2B situation, there are often multiple stakeholders in the adoption of a new solution. This question will prime your students’ interviewee to give them permission, and an intro, or just let them know who else they would need to contact to get buy-in for a solution.

    Step 13: Ask for Other Interviewees

    So your students can quickly talk to other similar customers, ask the interviewee if they know other people trying to solve this problem. Say something like:

    I’m trying to understand this problem from a wide range of perspectives. Do you know one or two other people within your organization who are struggling with [the problem they are actively trying to solve in their words]?

    what to ask: Wrap it up

    This will help your students knock out their interviews even faster, and from a group of highly related customers!

    Step 14: Say Thank You!

    Finally, no matter who your students are interviewing, they should thank them for their generosity and their time. Tell them that the interview has been helpful – because, I guarantee, it will have been. Your students may also share that their will bring their information back to their team to help inform the development of their solution.

    People enjoy being helpful. Make sure you let them know they have been!

    Congratulations, your students now know exactly what to ask during their customer interviews – and what to listen for!

    Get the “How to Interview Customers” Lesson Plan

    We’ve created a detailed “How to Interview Customers” lesson plan. This exercise walks 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 8,000+ instructors and get new lesson plans 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:

    High Functioning Innovation Teams in 10 Steps

    High Functioning Innovation Teams in 10 Steps

    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.

    Aligned Goals and Diverse Skills WorksheetThis exercise will enable students to:

    1. Identify their goals for the course.
    2. 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.

    Aligned Goals

    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:

    • Grades
    • 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.

    Diverse Skills

    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.

    The Exercise

    Step 1Aligned Goals and Diverse Skills Step 1: Minimum successful grade

    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.

    Step 2

    Aligned Goals and Diverse Skills Step 2: minimum successful business outcomeYour students will choose the option that they most want to achieve during this course. If appropriate, they can check multiple boxes.

    Steps 3 and 4

    Aligned goals and diverse skills worksheet: Step 3, customer uniquely suited to servePrior 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.

    aligned goals and diverse skills step 4: student's majorStudent next fill in their academic major.

    Step 5

    aligned goals and diverse skills step 5: student kills and experienceStudents 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.”

    Step 6

    aligned goals and diverse skills worksheet step 6: potential teammate notesStudents now turn to finding teammates by finding students with similar goals, and different skills.

    As students interview each other, they take notes of who seems like a good fit with them, and why.

    Steps 7 – 8

    aligned goals and diverse skills worksheet step 7: team name and team minimum successful grade

    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.

    Step 9

    Aligned goals and diverse skills step 9: minimum successful business outcomeEach student will bring their own dreams to the group. Give students ~5 minutes to identify shared business outcomes and jot those dow.

    Step 10

    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.

    Get the Lesson Plan


    It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.


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