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Pilot Your Purpose

Pilot Your Purpose

During this somewhat bleak time to be a student we’re finding one exercise, in particular, is having an impact.

Students are reporting:

“I struggle with mental health and I oftentimes get lost in my day to day challenges. This exercise helped me find a path forward.”

“It gets me pumped to learn more entrepreneurial techniques and skills that will help me start my own business.”

“It gets me excited about the future!”

In fact, the student response has been so powerful that we are revamping our full experiential curriculum to make this exercise the first, and a recurring, lesson of the course.

Pilot Your Purpose

Not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, but all of us want to pursue our passions.

This exercise helps students discover what they’re passionate about and see how learning entrepreneurial skills can turn that passion into their purpose.

From music to makeup, to martial arts, we’ve seen students come to life when they realize that entrepreneurship skills can help them make a positive impact in the world while pursuing the things that get them most excited.

Teaching Entrepreneurship Pilot Your Purpose

If you run this exercise at the beginning of your course and ask students to share their purpose with you, you can make interactions with them more meaningful by tying events from the course back to their purpose.

Set Up The Pilot Your Purpose Exercise

Talk to students about how you know they want to learn things that are relevant to their lives right now. Share with them that entrepreneurship skills will be relevant throughout their career, but that you know it’s hard for them to see how entrepreneurship will be relevant today.

Explain to your students that this exercise will help them understand how entrepreneurship is valuable for them right now, because this exercise will tap into their interests, pique their curiosity, and pull out their passion and purpose.

This exercise will help your students see how entrepreneurship will impact them and their future.

This exercise uses a Google Slides presentation as a digital worksheet. To have their own copies, each student will need a Google Drive account, and ideally will have an iPad or laptop. If a student isn’t able to bring an iPad or laptop to class, they can write down their answers to the questions on paper now, and fill them in later on a computer.

How to Pilot Your Purpose

Your first step when in class is to open the Pilot Your Purpose exercise so you can walk students through it. Direct students to https://bit.ly/PYPurpose (case sensitive) and click the “Make a Copy” button so they each have their own copy to work on.

Interests: Step 1

To identify their interests, ask your students to think about:

  1. What friends say they always talk about
  2. What they would spend time doing if money was no object
  3. What they were learning about the last time they lost track of time watching Youtube or scrolling on social media

Pilot Your Purpose: Interests

Have students text a friend now (in class):

“For my homework I’m supposed to ask you ‘What kind of stuff do I always talk about’”

As their friends write back during class, students can type what their friend texts into the correlating box.

Interests: Step 2

Students now think about how they would spend their time if they did not have to worry about money and they could spend their time doing anything they wanted. 

Pilot Your Purpose: Interests

Interests: Step 3

Next, have your students think about how they would like to spend their free time. Students type in what type of content they are watching or interacting when they fall down an online rabbit hole.

Skills: Step 1

To identify their skills, ask your students to think about:

  1. What friends say they are good at
  2. What they would like to get better at doing
  3. What they think they are above average at doing

Pilot Your Purpose: Skills

Have students text a friend now (in class):

“For my homework I’m supposed to ask you ‘What do you think I’m good at’”

As their friends write back during class, students can type what their friend texts into the correlating box.

Skills: Step 2

Students now think about what kinds of things they want to get better at doing – what skills they want to improve upon – and write those in the corresponding box.

Pilot Your Purpose: SkillsSkills: Step 3

As the last step in the Skills section, students think about at what things they are above average, and type those into the corresponding box.

Pilot Your Purpose: SkillsPassion

The next step is for students to identify their passion by combining their interests and skills. Guide students to take note of

  1. What most excites them from their interests slides
  2. What they are most interested in getting better at from their skills slides

Pilot Your Purpose: Passion

In the first two boxes of the next slide, students write down what excites them from their Interests slides and what they are most interested in getting better at from their Skills slides.

Pilot Your Purpose: Passion

In the last box on this slide, have your students think about possible ways to combine what they’ve written in the previous two boxes.

Impact

Students have identified their Passions by looking over their Interests and Skills. Next, you will guide them to think about the kind of Impact they desire to create in the world. To do this, ask students to write down:

  1. Groups of people they would be excited to help
  2. Local problems (in their community) they would be interested in working to solve
  3. Global problems they would be interested in working to solve

Pilot Your Purpose: ImpactPurpose

The last step in this exercise is for students to combine their Passion and Impact to identify their Purpose.

Pilot Your Purpose: PurposeGuide students to review their Passions slide and type in the first box anything that excites them from that slide.

Next, ask students to look at their Impact slide, and type in the middle box anything they excites them.

Pilot Your Purpose: Purpose

In the last box on this slide, guide students to think about possible ways to combine what they’ve written in the previous two boxes.

Sharing The Purpose

Students enjoy sharing what they’ve discovered about themselves with others. To facilitate connections between your students and to give them a chance to celebrate what excites them, create groups of 2 – 3 students and invite students to share their Purposes with each another.

Pilot Your PurposeAfter students have had ample time to share their purpose within their small groups, choose a way for you to learn about each of your students’ purposes by having them do one of the following:

  • Send you a link to their slide deck
  • Presenting their purpose slide in class to everyone
  • Recording a video presenting their purpose slide and sending that to you or posting it on the class discussion board

Leveraging this exercise in the first week of class, and strategically revisiting it throughout the course, makes entrepreneurship skills personally relevant to students, regardless of their desire to “become an entrepreneur.”

Why It Works

The result of this exercise is that:

  1. Students identify topics they’re interested in that can be the source of entrepreneurial inquiry.
  2. You discover more about each of your students so that if they end up struggling during your course, you have some clues about how to connect with them in ways that will resonate.

Get the Pilot Your Purpose Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Pilot Your Purpose” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.

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.

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.
2022 Top Free Entrepreneurship Exercises

2022 Top Free Entrepreneurship Exercises

“Your posts help me keep my students engaged – they and I thank you!” – ExEC Professor

Based on the popularity of our 2019 Top 5 Lesson Plans and 2020 Top 5 Lesson Plans articles, here is the list of our 2021 top entrepreneurship exercises and lesson plans based on feedback from our fast-growing community of thousands of entrepreneurship instructors.

We designed the following exercises and lesson plans to transform your students’ experience as they learn how to stay motivated, prototype, and work with finances.

5. Teaching Business Model Canvas with Dr. Alex Osterwalder

Most entrepreneurship programs use the Business Model Canvas (BMC) in some way (it is a core element of the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum).

In collaboration with the BMC creator himself, Dr. Alex Osterwalder, we produced a series of lesson plans detailing how he teaches his powerful tool.

Learning the Business Model Canvas with Dr. Alex Osterwalder

With this 3-part series, you can . . .

  • Part 1: Introduce the Business Model Canvas
  • Part 2: Teach students how to write business model hypotheses
  • Part 3: Demonstrate how to prioritize their riskiest assumptions

View Directions to Teach the Business Model Canvas the Way Dr. Osterwalder Does

4. Financial Modeling Showdown

Financial modeling is incredibly difficult to teach in an engaging way.

That’s why, in addition to our more advanced Financial Projection Simulator, we developed a new game that makes introducing financial modeling fun and interactive.

Financial modeling simulation

If your students get overwhelmed by financial modeling, this game will help them learn the core concepts in an accessible way.

View The Financial Modeling Showdown Exercise

3. 60 Minute MVP

Imagine your students, in just one hour, building, and launching, an MVP . . . with no technical expertise! In our 60 Minute MVP exercise, we present an exercise during which students build a landing page MVP that:

  1. Tells their customers the problem their team is solving,
  2. Uses a video to demonstrate how the team will solve the problem and
  3. Asks for some form of “currency” from their customers to validate demand.

Immersion pressure challenge chaos motivation 60 minute MVP

If you’re looking for an immersive exercise that activates your class, complete with a chaotic, noisy, high-pressure environment, that teaches real entrepreneurial principles, give “60 Minute MVP” a shot.

View the 60 Minute MVP Exercise

2. Design Thinking with the Ideal Wallet

The Ideal Wallet is an awesome exercise for teaching students to use empathy, prototyping, and iteration to design creative solutions to problems. This exercise that comes from Stanford University’s d.school is a fast-paced way to introduce your students to design thinking.

Design Thinking 101: Design the Ideal Wallet

During this intense exercise, 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, 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.

Available in both an In-Person Version and an Online Version.

View the Design Thinking with the Ideal Wallet Exercise

1. Motivate Students with Pilot Your Purpose

Students engage when entrepreneurship feels relevant.

This exercise makes entrepreneurship relevant by helping students discover that entrepreneurial skills will help them pursue their passions – regardless of whether they become entrepreneurs.

Pilot your Purpose

This is our favorite exercise because when we help students discover their passions, it becomes clear to them that entrepreneurial skills will help them turn a passion into their life’s purpose.

Suddenly, entrepreneurship becomes relevant and engagement increases

In fact, our students like this exercise so much, we’re making it the first lesson plan in the next iteration of our full Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

View the Pilot Your Purpose Exercise

Want 15 Weeks of Lesson Plans?

If you are looking for a fully structured, experiential entrepreneurship curriculum, with a semester’s worth of lesson plans that students love, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

We’ve done the work for you.


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans for new exercises we shared at our Winter Summit!

Subscribe here to be the first to access these new exercises.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

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 part 3 of this series, we explain how Dr. Osterwalder uses the BMC to teach students how to prioritize their business models’ riskiest assumptions.

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.
Emotionally Intelligent Idea Generation

Emotionally Intelligent Idea Generation

If you’re bored hearing the same student business ideas every term, this exercise is the first step to helping your students…

Ideate unique business models that are based on the real emotional needs of customers.

Developing unique, needs-based ideas is difficult for students.

Their lack of exposure to different customer segments often means we as educators hear the same business ideas over and over. Plus, like most first-time entrepreneurs, students tend to focus more on their own product ideas than the emotional needs of their customers. As a result, student business models are often repetitive, infeasible, or low impact.

This “Emotionally Intelligent Idea Generation” exercise, which we featured at the 2021 Summer Summit, starts students’ ideation efforts off by helping them hypothesize:

  1. The groups of people they want to serve
  2. The emotional needs of those people (i.e. problems they want to solve)

With this needs-based approach, we’ve seen a significant reduction in the number of students working on product-driven businesses (e.g. “alcohol delivery”, “t-shirt design”, “coffee shops”, etc.) and an increase in needs-based business (e.g. “decreasing the carbon footprint of the ‘fast fashion’ industry”, “reducing sexual harassment and assault in ride-sharing services”, “increasing access to outdoor recreation among lower SES communities”, etc.).

It’s worth noting, this exercise does not cover the entire idea generation process. Instead, this exercise is the first step in an opportunity assessment process that’s designed to ensure the business models students validate are built upon real customer needs. After this exercise, you’ll be ready to introduce your students to a range of opportunity identification and validation exercises (e.g. market-sizing, competitive analysis, customer interviews, etc.) to continue the idea assessment process.

Full Lesson Plan

Click here to skip to the full lesson plan, otherwise, you can get a summary of each of the steps below.

STEPS 1 & 2

First, to helps students explore the needs of a range of customers besides themselves, the exercise starts by asking students to simply list out who their closest friends and family members are:

Emotional intelligence ideation

STEPS 3 – 5

Students pick the 5 closest family members and friends they’d be excited to help solve a problem for. This step helps students find groups of people they’re excited to understand the needs of, which results in business ideas that are less about a product, and more about real-world customer desires.

Next, instructors invite their students to send a text message to those 5 people (during class) asking them what their biggest challenges are. This step is powerful because:

  1. It’s fun and engaging for students. Students are never encouraged to text their friends during class. This invitation to talk to friends during class is surprising and novel.
  2. It models the customer discovery process students will eventually do, helping students get more comfortable talking to people about their pains and gains.
  3. Focuses their idea generation on the needs of the people students want to serve (and away from a product students might want to build).

Finally, as their friends and family respond, students record the challenges they learn about in box #5:

Emotional intelligence ideation

STEPS 6 & 7

Students are invited to reflect on groups of people they personally belong to, or they are passionate about helping. This helps make the upcoming emotional needs hypothesis process (Step 8) more personal and relevant. For instance, a student could include sports teams, or school clubs, or community organizations. They could also include hobbies they have – maybe they play chess, or they knit or they love putt-putt.

Emotional intelligence ideation

STEP 8

In this step, students first pick the three groups they’d be most interested in resolving emotional needs for from all the groups of people they listed in steps in the previous steps.

The results are often something like, “people like my mom”, “students with ADHD”, “electric bike riders”, etc. which are all concrete groups of people students can start hypothesizing needs for.

To help with that process, students are prompted to explore the emotional needs of each segment by hypothesizing their:

  • Fears
  • Frustrations
  • Stresses
  • Loves
  • Etc.

We’ve found this step helps ensure student ideas are both more unique, and needs-based. By shifting students’ attention towards emotional needs (and away from products), the ideas tend to be more novel and less repetitive. And, by focusing on the emotional experience of the people they want to serve, the ideas students ultimately generate tend to be more grounded in customer needs.

Customer's life

STEP 9

Students then identify:

  • 2 of the emotional needs from Step 8 that they hypothesize are most emotionally intense for the members of that segment and
  • 2 of the emotional needs from Step 8 that they are most excited to resolve for the segment members.

Students then use a combination of back-of-the-napkin estimates of the market size, intensity of the emotional needs, and their personal passion for resolving those needs to prioritize the segments and needs they want to assess further.

Opportunity assessment

STEP 10

For the last step, students fill in the blanks to define two customers segment hypotheses they want to start a more in-depth assessment process on:

  • A primary segment hypothesis they think has the most potential
  • A backup segment they can pivot to if their primary hypothesis gets invalidated

Emotional intelligence summary

This emotionally intelligent framework for defining customer segments helps students shift their customer segment descriptions away from generic demographics (e.g. “women 18 – 24”) towards more useful, needs-based descriptions (e.g. “people with low self-esteem due to persistent acne”).

NEXT STEPS

After this exercise, you’ll have laid the groundwork to walk students through a wide range of assessment and validation processes for their hypotheses including:

  • Market-sizing
  • Competitive analysis
  • Customer discovery/interviews
  • Business model validation experiments

The result of which will be unique, and needs-based business models!


Get the Full “Emotionally Intelligent Idea Generation” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a free lesson plan for the “Emotionally Intelligent Idea Generation” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

 

Or Get the Lesson Plan, Slides, and a Video Walk-Through

We launched this exercise at the Summer 2021 Teaching Entrepreneurship Summit.  If you’d like the slides and recording where we launch:

  1. This lesson (Emotionally Intelligent Idea Generation)
  2. Making Finance Fun
  3. Improving Student Pitches

Click here to purchase the slides, recordings, and lesson plans for all three!


Lessons in your Inbox

In an upcoming post, we will share more lesson plans from our Summer Summit!

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

Top 5 Free Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

Top 5 Free Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

“Your posts help me keep my students engaged – they and I thank you!” – ExEC Curriculum Professor

Based on the popularity of our 2018 Top 5 Lesson Plans article, we’ve updated our list based on feedback from our fast-growing community of now 4,600-strong entrepreneurship instructors.

The following are all lesson plans we’ve designed to transform your students’ experience as they learn how to generate ideas, interview customers, prototype and validate solutions.

5. Idea Generation vs. Problem Generation

Many of our students believe an idea is the heart of entrepreneurship. In this lesson, we shatter that assumption and replace it with an appropriate focus on customer problems.

We want your students to develop ideas that are more feasible, impactful, and creative.

This is the toughest challenges entrepreneurship professors face. Student ideas tend to be a repetition of low-impact or infeasible mediocrity. You want more from them. We can help! We focus your students on problems in this lesson because the best business ideas come from problems.entrepreneurship, teaching, problem, solution, idea

After this lesson, your students’ ideas will be:

  • More feasible because they’re focusing on serving people they care about.
  • More impactful because they’re paying more attention to problems than they are products.
  • More creative because they’ll use those problems as inspiration.

View Idea Generation vs. Problem Generation Lesson Plan

4. Personal Business Plan

In this exercise, shared with us by Rebeca Hwang from Stanford University, students create a business plan about themselves. Students approach themselves as a company and apply the tools they learned during their entrepreneurship course to understand how they add value to the world.

Students answer questions about their future vision and about their present plans and passions. One of our professor’s favorite components of this exercise is that students choose who grades their personal business plan (and that our colleagues at Stanford provide a very robust rubric)!

teaching entrepreneurship personal business plan

Through this exercise, students:

  • Learn to see themselves as a company,
  • Learn they must continuously invest in and develop a plan for their future,
  • Embrace the tools and methodologies they learned in the course because they are applying them to their future,
  • Understand learning is meaningful when applied to a personal context

View Why Business Plans Fail Lesson Plan

3. Teaching Customer Interviewing

We consistently hear from faculty that teaching customer interviewing is their biggest challenge. In this lesson plan students use a combination of ExEC Customer Interviewing Playing Cards, with an online collaborative quiz game (Kahoot), to learn:

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

customer interviewing teaching entrepreneurship

Students then get an interview script template they can use as the basis for their problem discovery interviews.

This exercise teaches your students:

  • What objectives they should and should not attempt to accomplish during a problem discovery interview and why,
  • What questions they should and shouldn’t ask during a customer discovery interview and why,
  • What a comprehensive interview script book looks like

View Customer Interviewing Cards Lesson Plan

2. 60 Minute MVP

One of our most popular lesson plans is the 60 Minute MVP. During this class, students launch an MVP website, with an animated video and a way to take pre-orders, in an hour with no prior coding experience. One of our professors told us after running this exercise:

“One student described it as like a Navy Seal mental training exercise. Not sure it was that intense, but they were amazed and proud that they got it done.”

Your students will love this class period; they progress from the anxiety of the challenge confronting them (build a website in 60 minutes) to the elation of their journey (launching a website they built in 60 minutes). This exercise creates tremendous energy in your classroom. Students create something real.

On the lesson plan page you can view an example video students created in about 20 minutes, built around actual customer problem interviews:

You can also view a great example of a website built in just 60 minutes:

Your students will create landing pages like thisUpscale dining at its finest!

Some critical learnings for your students are the true meaning of Minimum Viable Product (MVP), that it’s easier to launch a product than they thought, and that the easiest thing about building a business is launching that product.

View 60 Minute MVP Lesson Plan

1. Teaching Customer Observations

During our years of research on what topics entrepreneurship professors struggle to teach, we heard “customer interviewing” over and over again. Our ExEC curriculum includes a robust method of customer interviewing, but customer observation is another great way to gather customer information. So we developed our Teaching Customer Observations lesson plan to help students learn the value of seeing how their customers experience problems, as opposed to imagining their customers’ problems.

In addition to our community thinking this is a powerful experience in the classroom, this exercise also won first place in the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises Awards at the USASBE 2019 Annual Conference!

This exercise positions your students to observe customers in their natural settings. This allows them to discover new business opportunities and increase their empathy and behavioral analysis skills.

Our goal with this exercise is to teach students to have an empathy picture/analysis that frames the problem they are trying to solve before they jump to a solution. Having this clear picture will allow them to come up with better creative solutions.

During this two-class exercise, your students will experience customer empathy and how to plan and translate an observation experience into ideas for products and services. This will provide the following benefits:

  • Introduce students to a powerful tool to gather information on customer experience in real-life situations. This allows students to avoid predicting customer behavior by actually observing it.
  • Students practice how to listen with their eyes in order to understand what people value and care about, & what they don’t.
  • Provide a common reference experience for expanding on topics later in the course.

View Teaching Customer Observations Lesson Plan

Want 15 Weeks of Lesson Plans?

If you are looking for a fully structured, experiential entrepreneurship curriculum, with a semester’s worth of lesson plans that students love, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

We’ve done the work for you.

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!

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2020 Top Free Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans & Tools

2020 Top Free Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans & Tools

“Your posts help me keep my students engaged – they and I thank you!” – ExEC Professor

Based on the popularity of our 2019 Top 5 Lesson Plans article, here is the list of our 2020 top entrepreneurship lesson plans based on feedback from our fast-growing community of thousands of entrepreneurship instructors.

We designed the following exercises and lesson plans to transform your students’ experience as they learn how to stay engaged online, interview customers, and form teams.

5. Gamify Your Lectures

We all struggled during this year of online learning to keep our students engaged. One surefire way to inject excitement into your class is to gamify your lectures. In this lesson, we explain how to use our favorite gamification tools (Slido and Kahoot!) to minimize Zoom zombie syndrome in your students.

These tools allow you to convert concepts you need to cover into questions your students explore one at a time. With this formative assessment approach, you discover what your students already know and what they need help with. Additionally, this approach activates passive students and invites students to teach each other.

Be careful using gamification; don’t overdo it. This gamification technique is great, but if you use it too often its benefits will wear off. Instead, mix this approach up with a number of experiential exercises (like those in the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum).

View Directions to Gamify Your Class with Slido and Kahoot!

4. Skills Scavenger Hunt

Students in high-performance teams learn better and perform better. But how do we move students beyond forming teams with friends and teammates? Students matched on aligned goals and diverse skills give them their best chance at boosting their learning capability.

We developed our Skills Scavenger Hunt to facilitate that process and thus mitigate the biggest drawbacks of student team projects. In this exercise, students go on a scavenger hunt to find other students with complementary skills.

skills scavenger hunt online ice breaker team building animation

With this unique exercise, students form high-performing teams by going on a scavenger hunt to find other students with complementary skills in the following categories:

  1. Graphics
  2. Technology
  3. Social Media
  4. Design
  5. Sales
  6. Marketing

If your students are in teams that are dysfunctional, or just sleepy, their learning can come to a screeching halt as they disengage. Empower them to successfully assemble their own high-performing teams so they execute better and conflict less.

View The Skills Scavenger Hunt Exercise

3. Steve Blank Discusses How to Teach Entrepreneurship

At the USASBE 2020 annual conference, we had the privilege of interviewing entrepreneurship education guru Steve Blank. In the first of two posts, he shared his perspective on how to teach entrepreneurship. Steve Blank Talking about How to Teach Entrepreneurship

In a post loaded with great advice for any novice or expert entrepreneurship educator, Steve opened up about his many decades of experience as an entrepreneur, educator, and mentor. Read the full post for a wealth of invaluable information, but the quick takeaways are:

  1. Educators need a mentor. Effective entrepreneurship educators need expertise in the domains of education and entrepreneurship. Steve advises us to find a mentor in the domain in which we lack experience and expertise.
  2. Educators should train entrepreneurs like artists. Steve encourages us to forget about teaching answers, and instead design learning experiences so students can practice skill-building.
  3. Students learn skills by practicing them. Steve encourages us to learn to design effective learning experiences, as those are the best way to teach our students skills.

Read An Overview of the 1st Half of Our Interview Here

(and Read the 2nd Half Here)

2. 10 Free Tools to Increase Student Engagement

During the TeachingEntrepreneurship.org Virtual Conference, we presented 10 tools to increase online student engagement. Learn about these free quiz, video, digital whiteboard, and presentation tools like Gimkit, Note.ly, Mural, and Loom.

You can sprinkle these tools throughout your entrepreneurship syllabus, or stack them like building blocks, to create a deeper face-to-face or online student engagement. Below is a video recap of the conference presentation.

We consistently experiment with a wide variety of tools to help our community of entrepreneurship educators provide engaging experiences for their students. For this post, we curated the 10 tools we feel provide the greatest chance of deeply engaging learning experiences for your students, whether you’re teaching face-to-face or online.

View 10 Free Tools to Increase Student Engagement

1. Lottery Ticket Dilemma

We urge our faculty to focus students on their customers’ emotional needs, which leads to more valuable customer interviews. During this exercise, students discover how important emotions are in the decision-making process and the importance of understanding and fulfilling other people’s emotional needs.

If your students focus more on their products than their customers’ problems, this lesson plan is for you! In this exercise, students learn:

  • Why the majority of startups end in failure, & how to avoid those failures
  • That customer decisions are driven by their emotions
  • To create products customers want to buy we need to understand the emotional journey they want to take

View Lottery Ticket Dilemma Lesson Plan
In addition to our community thinking this is a powerful experience in the classroom, this exercise also won first place in the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises Awards at the USASBE 2020 Annual Conference!

Entrepreneurship Education

Want 15 Weeks of Lesson Plans?

If you are looking for a fully structured, experiential entrepreneurship curriculum, with a semester’s worth of lesson plans that students love, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

We’ve done the work for you.

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.

Summary

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.

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