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Teach the Business Model Canvas: Part 3 – Test

Teach the Business Model Canvas: Part 3 – Test

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

How to test a business model canvas.

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

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

Prioritization Exercise

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

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

Step 1: Technical Hypotheses

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

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

Step 2: Business Hypotheses

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

Your students may come up with challenges like:

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

Step 3: Prioritizing Hypotheses

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

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

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

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

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

Ceres business model hypotheses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To demonstrate this point, tell your students about the…

Step 4: Ceres Case Study Update

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

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

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

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

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

The lesson for your students:

Always test desirability before feasibility.

Step 5: Homework

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

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


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

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

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

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

Want More from Dr. Osterwalder?

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

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

Watch Alex Teach

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

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

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 3” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers so share it with another instructor you know.


What’s Next?

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

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

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


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

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

Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 2 – Apply

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

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

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

Fill-in-the-Blank BMCs

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

Business Model Canvas Osterwalder

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

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

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

Step 1: Think

Show students this Dollar Shave Club commercial:

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

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

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

  • Channel
  • Revenue Streams

Business Model Canvas Osterwalder

Step 2: Pair

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

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

Step 3: Share

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

Start filling in the boxes:

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

Step 4: Second Think-Pair-Share

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

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

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

Start filling in the boxes:

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

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

Business Model Canvas Osterwalder

Fill-in-the-Blank Exercise: B2B

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

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

Step 5: Revenue & Relationships

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

  • Revenue Streams
  • Customer Relationship

Business Model Canvas Osterwalder

Step 6: Complete the Canvas

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

Business Model Canvas Osterwalder

Step 7: Design Your Own Canvas

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

Step 8: Get Feedback

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


Next Exercise: Prioritization

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

Using the Business Model Canvas to test your hypotheses.

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

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


Want More from Dr. Osterwalder?

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

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

Watch Alex Teach

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

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

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 2” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers so share it with another instructor you know.


What’s Next?

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

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

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


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

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

Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 1 – Intro

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

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

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


Exercise #1: Business Model Matching

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

Prepping Before Class

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

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


Step 1: Fill the Boxes

Alex uses Airbnb in his first exercise because:

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

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

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

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


Step 2: Pair

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

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


Step 3: Share

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

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

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

Business Model Canvas for Airbnb Travelers

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


Step 4: Repeat with Airbnb Hosts

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

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

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

Business Model Canvas for Airbnb Hosts


Summary & Next Steps

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

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

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

Want More from Dr. Osterwalder?

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

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

Watch Alex Teach

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

Get the Teaching the Business Model Canvas Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 1” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers so share it with another instructor you know.


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

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


What’s Next?

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

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

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


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

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

Paper Airplane Storytelling

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

Entrepreneurs must inspire others to take action.

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

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

Overview

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

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

Learning Objectives

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

Run this Exercise When…

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

Want to try it?

Details are below.


Materials List

Provide students with the following supplies:

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

Step 1: Identify a Leader

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

Step 2: The Task

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

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

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

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

Step 3: The Exercise

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

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

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

The Pitches and Voting

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

The Flight

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

The Results

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

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

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

Debrief

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

Some interesting questions to reflect with students are:

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

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

Other great debriefing questions include:

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

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


Get the Paper Airplane Storytelling Lesson Plan

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

Get the Lesson Plan

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it.


What’s Next?

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

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

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


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

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

Financial Modeling Showdown: A Game to Teach the Basics of Entrepreneurial Finance

If your students get bored (or anxious) when you start talking about finance, you know what’s waiting for you:

Disappointing and unrealistic financial projections.

Financial modeling is incredibly difficult to teach in an engaging way.  That’s why, in addition to our Financial Projection Simulator, we’ve developed a new game to play with your students that makes finance fun and memorable:

The game works in two phases:

  1. Theory: Introduce a lightly competitive game that teaches students the core elements of a robust financial model
  2. Practice: Using the same concepts they learned in the game, students create a financial spreadsheet for their own business model

Check out this quick demo / summary video of the Financial Modeling Showdown:


STEP 1: CREATE TEAMS

The first step in the Financial Modeling Showdown is to divide your class into two teams. Before revealing what choices students have for their teams, you’ll want to make big deal out of the fact that these two teams are mortal enemies and “disagree on just about everything” with the implication that the teams may be political in nature or represent major cultural differences.

Then you’ll tell your students to pick which team they morally align with most:

  • Team Pineapple: People who believe pineapple is a perfectly reasonable pizza topping
  • Team No Pineapple: People who believe pineapple has no business on pizza

Tell your students you’re going to play a game to determine if pizza topping preference is a predictor of entrepreneurial success.

This lighthearted way to create teams is quick, evenly distributes students, and sets a fun tone which is especially helpful for financial modeling exercises.


STEP 2: OPTIMIZE PROFITS

Tell your students they can put their pizza toppings preferences aside for now because they are all now inventors of a new product:

They’ve created a solar-powered cell phone charging case and their goal is to bring it to market in a way that will result in the most profitable financial model possible.

Students will then answer financial questions about their new product via a Google Forms survey (e.g. “How much will you charge for your product?”, “What do you want your salary to be?”, etc.).


STEP 3: THE WINNER IS…

As your students answer the financial questions, behind the scenes, the survey is automatically averaging the responses by team.

That means, as an instructor you’ll get a report that says (for example) on average:

  • Team Pineapple members want to charge $29.42
  • Team No Pineapple members want to charge $42.10

…and this is where the competition begins!

“It looks like Team No-Pineapple wants to charge more for their product. Of course, the more you charge, the more revenue you can make, so I’d say say they’re winning at this point. Next, let’s explore what effect conversion rates have on revenue, and we’ll see if Team No-Pineapple is still ahead.”

And just like that, you’re using financial vocabulary in a way that keeps students engaged because you’re using simple examples and leveraging a competitive game mechanic.

You’ll go through each of the major elements of a financial model this way, covering topics like:

  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Customer Acquisition Costs
  • Salary, Taxes, and Benefits
  • Real Estate Costs
  • Unit economics
  • Etc.

And at the end, you’ll get to declare a “Winner.”

Or rather, you’ll get to demonstrate to students how hard entrepreneurship is to win. While one team will technical “do better” than their other team, it’s most likely that neither team will be profitable:

The game ends this way because we want to show students that:

Designing a financially sustainable business model takes iteration and experimentation.

Like everything in a business model, our initial assumptions are often wrong…and that’s why we do financial modeling!

Financial modeling is a tool to help them understand what assumptions they’re making about their business model that might set them up for failure.

If they begin modeling the finances for their own company, they’ll be able to see if they’re on the path to riches, or the path to ruin.

And this is the perfect segue for students to…


STEP 4: BUILD THEIR OWN MODELS

To apply the principles they learned playing the game, each student gets their own spreadsheet to model their business’s finances:

The results are financial models that are more realistic because students actually understand the concepts they’re based upon.


TRY IT THIS SEMESTER

If your students get overwhelmed by financial modeling, this exercise will help. Combining a competitive game with real-world financial modeling tools, students learn the core elements of a financial model in a way that keeps them engaged and results in realistic financial projections.

Get the Financial Modeling Showdown Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Financial Modeling Showdown” 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 an upcoming post, we will share exercises shared with our TeachingEntrepreneurship.org community by Business Model Canvas creator Dr. Alexander Osterwalder!

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!

Improving Your (Inherited) Course

Improving Your (Inherited) Course

Inheriting someone else’s entrepreneurship course often comes with challenges:

  • Topics are out of date and based on traditional long-form business plans, product-centric (as opposed to problems-centric) idea generation, and barely common topics today like Design Thinking, Business Models, Customer Interviews.
  • Not experiential instead relying on textbooks and lectures.
  • Based on quizzes and tests which can’t effectively assess skill development.

So how do you make it better? The two most common approaches:

  1. Iterate what’s already there
  2. Start fresh with a modern approach

Iterating a Course

If the bones are strong and the course is just slightly out of date, it’s relatively easy to:

  1. Identify the least engaging/most out-of-date lessons
  2. Replace those lessons with updated experiences
  3. Convert quizzes to reflections

The first step is to identify the weaknesses of the current course schedule (i.e. lessons that are the least engaging or most out of date). In particular, look for lessons on:

  • Business plan writing
  • Legal structure, IP, etc.
  • Product-centric (as opposed to problem-centric) idea generation
  • Finance (old versions of these lessons are often overwhelming and confusing for students)

While all of the above can be valuable, if your goal is to help your students develop entrepreneurial skills that will be applicable regardless of their career path, you can likely replace those lessons with more engaging experiences like:

  1. 60 Minute MVP. This exercise is engaging, fun, and fully immersive, teaching critical aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset while students build, and launch, a company in 60 minutes…with no technical expertise!
  2. Problem Generation vs Idea Generation. Through this exercise, students develop “better” ideas, meaning ideas that are creative, impactful, and feasible.
  3. Why Business Plans Don’t Work. This game helps students understand why business plans have fallen out of favor, and what data-driven entrepreneurs do instead, allowing you to introduce business model canvas and minimum viable products in a fun, gamified experience.
  4. Customer observations. During this exercise, students learn a technique to gain insight into the small details of a customer’s interaction with their environment that a customer may not think to express in interviews, thus understanding what a customer truly values.
  5. Financial Modeling Showdown. This exercise leads students through an experimentation process where they make different assumptions about their financial model, making entrepreneurial finance more accessible to all students through a game-like experience.

After injecting some energy into your class with new exercises, you can update your assessment strategy to assess skill development. Here we have two suggestions:

  1. Swap tests/quizzes for reflection assignments. Entrepreneurship students work developing a mindset and a set of skills. Quizzes cannot effectively assess either of those. Instead, the recommended tools for assessing entrepreneurship students are reflective assignments. Video reflections provide a fast, and rigorous way to assess entrepreneurship students, so we provide a demo of our video reflection and a rubric to assess video reflection submissions.
  2. Update the final class pitch. Too many entrepreneurship courses end with students pitching unrealistic ideas, or pitching ideas they don’t believe in, and a random variety of “judges” predicting the potential of these “bad” ideas. Instead, you can optimize the ineffective pitch day by focusing on skill-building and engaging all students if you shift away from Shark Tank pitches to what we call “process pitches.”

Those tweaks can go a long way if your class has a solid overall structure.

If, however, your course is lacking structure, or you’d like a cohesive, engaging experience for your students, consider a…

Fresh Start with a Modern Curriculum

If you want a structured, engaging entrepreneurship curriculum that focuses on customer interviews, design thinking, and business models:

Check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

Used at over 150 colleges and universities, including…

ExEC makes prepping a structured course easy with:

  • LMS Integration (Canvas, D2L/Brightspace, Blackboard, Moodle, etc.)
  • Online, in-person, and hybrid versions
  • 8, 10, 12, and 15-week schedules
  • Rubrics

If you haven’t already, definitely…

Whether you iterate your course, or start fresh, making your course as experiential and skill-based as possible is the key to keeping your students engaged.

What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we will share an approach to improving your student evaluations!

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

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Try ExEC this Fall

Try ExEC this Fall

Compared to last year…

Fall represents a breath of fresh air.

Here are some tips to make the most of it!

#1 Students are Eager to Engage

After a year of isolation and online learning, students are craving interaction.

Students don’t want lectures – they want experiences.

Your students are already be primed to engage. To take advantage, replace your lectures with interactive experiences.

Whether you compile your own exercise or use a cohesive toolset like the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) you can tap into your students’ excitement using structured activities to build their entrepreneurial skills. For example:

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Testimonial

Whether your class is:

  • 8 weeks or 15 weeks
  • Online or in-person
  • Undergraduate or graduate

ExEC’s award-winning exercises can help you engage your students this fall.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

#2 Structure + Consistency

When everything turned upside down last year, it became clear how much structure and consistency help students learn and decrease anxiety. As you look toward fall, consider…

How can you create more structure and consistency to facilitate better outcomes?

Whether it’s through:

  • A cohesive set of topics
  • Well-organized schedule
  • Objective rubrics
  • or LMS integration

Students benefit from having a consistent, structured environment to develop their skills.

To that end, ExEC is fully experiential and extremely well-organized:

Semester Experiential entrepreneurship education schedule

Plus with ExEC’s LMS integration, prepping for your class is easy. With a couple clicks, you upload yourr entire class into your LMS so you have time to dive into the detailed lesson plans.

ExEC Integrates with all LMS

#3 Experiment

Teach your students what real-world experiments look like by modeling them in your class:

  1. Identify something you’d like to improve in your class (e.g. engagement, quality of student ideas, financial modeling acumen, etc.).
  2. Select a metric to assess the element you’d like to improve (e.g. number of students participating in discussions, number of ideas that are needs-based, realism of financial models, etc.).
  3. Let your students know you treat your class like a business – you consistently run experiments to optimize the experience for your customers (i.e. the students).
  4. Change something in your course to move your metric (e.g. try a different curriculum, implement a new exercise, etc.).
  5. Compare the results to a previous class (i.e. did your metric improve?).
  6. Share the results with your students (i.e. let them know what you were trying to improve, what changes you make, and how they impacted the class).

Modeling real-world experiments to your students will encourage them to run their own experiments, and improve the learning experience for students and the quality of their outcomes!

Give Your Students Engagement, Quality, and Structure

ExEC is an award-winning, peer-reviewed, experiential curriculum that engages students in building entrepreneurial skills.

Try ExEC this Fall.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share more engaging resources we are developing for entrepreneurship educators to transform their classrooms!

Subscribe here to be the first to get these resources delivered to your inbox!

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Improve Your Student Evaluations

Improve Your Student Evaluations

Student evaluations are a mixed blessing but there are specific steps you can take to improve them:

  1. Conduct a midterm evaluation
  2. Solicit frequent feedback
  3. Make entrepreneurship relevant
  4. Sweeten the pot
  5. Engage, engage, engage

Midterm Chat

Asking students for feedback during the course allows them to have ownership of their experience, and allows you to make suggested changes, which generally leads to more positive evaluations at the end of the course!

Ask a colleague to run this class session while you stay out of the room – preferably a colleague not in your department so students feel more comfortable being transparent. Your colleague informs students all information is anonymous and confidential, and that only information that is unanimous will be communicated to you. Students discuss the following questions one by one:

  • What is going well this semester?
  • What isn’t going well this semester?
  • What can the students do to improve their [the students’] experience?
  • What can the instructor do to improve their [the students’] experience?

Your colleague summarizes the feedback for you, either verbally or written, including only the suggestions that students unanimously agree upon.

During the next class session, it is critical to discuss what you learned and how you will adjust the course based on the feedback.

The whole experience takes just 15 – 30 minutes and it demonstrates to students that their voice matters (like customers’ voices matter). The combination of you taking action on students’ recommendations, that your students will feel heard, and that they will likely never have experienced something like in another one of their classes makes this approach a reliable way to improve your evaluations.

Frequent Feedback

You can also seek feedback from students more frequently than mid-semester. Every few weeks, incorporate a quick evaluation to take students’ pulse. Assign a five-question evaluation assignment in your LMS, or hand out and collect in class to anonymize it:

  • What is one takeaway you remember from the course so far?
  • How do you feel about your participation in [name an activity, or “discussion”] this week?
  • What works best for you in class?
  • Is there a change that would enhance your learning?
  • Do you have any questions or comments for me?

Use this as a quick temperature check for your students’ experience.

And be willing to adjust!

Look for trends in what’s working and what’s not. Can you incorporate any of their suggestions? Can you redirect the next class session based on the changes they suggest?

During the next class session, share a summarized version of the themes you heard. Quickly explain how you will address suggestions, and ask students to respond to that plan. As with the midterm check-in, this exercise offers students ownership and a voice, which will improve your evaluations at the end of the course. But only if you communicate openly and do not become defensive.

Make Entrepreneurship Relevant

What do you do with the entrepreneurship students who don’t want to be entrepreneurs?

Whether they’re taking your class because it fit in their schedule, someone said it was an “easy A”, or it’s a required course, we all have students who don’t identify as entrepreneurs. Not only can their personal feedback lower your evaluations, but their lack of engagement can hinder the experience (and as a result the evaluations) of other students.

The best way to engage these students is to…

Make entrepreneurial skills relevant, regardless of career path.

Kim Pichot had one of these students. A disillusioned senior so checked out of school that at one point he asked her, “What can I do to graduate? I just need out of here.”

Luckily, that semester Kim had started using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum, which starts off with an exercise designed explicitly to engaged this type of student: Fears and Curiosities.

This exercise helps your students express what they are most curious, and fearful, about…which is the recipe you need to make entrepreneurship relevant to all of your students.

  • When students tell you they’re worried about finding a job, you can point out that in this class, they’re going to learn a wide range of marketable skills that employers are actively hiring for: product design, sales, marketing, website development, video editing, social media management, etc.
  • When students say they’re unsure if they’ll be able to make enough money, you can explain to them that the entrepreneurship skills they learn in this class are all about making sure you’ll be able to make enough money to meet your goals. With the finance and budgeting tools they’ll learn in your class, they’ll learn how to both make and manage their money whether they start their own company or not.
  • When students say they’re not even sure what kind of job they’ll be good at, you can make it clear an entrepreneurship class like yours is the perfect place to experiment with different types of jobs (e.g. sales, marketing, CEO, finance, prototyping, etc.).

The great thing about this approach is that entrepreneurial skills are genuinely relevant whether or not students want to be entrepreneurs.

You just need to make entrepreneurship relevant to your students on a personal and emotional level.

That’s what Kim did in her class. By making entrepreneurship relevant and engaging, and with a little help from ExEC, Kim’s disillusioned student left her course ecstatic, saying:

Improve student evaluations

Sweeten the Pot

Share a treat with your students. It might be candy, or cookies, or donuts. Celebrate an occasion like a birthday, or one of your students’ sports accomplishment, or just a sunny day! Something sweet puts a smile on most people’s face.

You’re inviting your students to have fun, and when we have fun, we are more likely to remember that experience fondly.

When a group is eating donuts, for instance, you’ll see smiles, you’ll hear laughter and sounds of delight, you’ll find a playful atmosphere. Incorporate fun food into your course, and your students will remember that come evaluation time. Take the time while sharing fun food to also have fun conversation. Ask students questions about their favorite concert, or about their favorite vacation destination, or any variety of questions that lead them to tell humorous stories about fun memories.

One way to incorporate sweets while teaching entrepreneurship skills is an adaptation of the “Retooling Products to Reach New Markets: The Lindt Candy Dilemma” exercise Dr. Kimberly Eddleston at Northeastern University developed. We adapted it slightly to focus more on the customer interviewing opportunity – find the entire lesson here.

Essentially, in this exercise, you task student teams to retool the Lindt Lindor Chocolate Truffle Balls for a new audience – a young person (ideally a family member of yours – someone you can show a picture of and have access to). Students must deliver a 90 second pitch for one product (that is not any sort of M&M type candy) they develop based on the Lindt Lindor chocolate truffle ball that appeals to the target person. Students include the following in their pitch:

  • Product name & tagline/slogan
  • Product concept/description (user experience, packaging, etc.)
  • Value proposition (the benefits the customer should expect)
  • Drawing of the product/packaging

Organize students into groups of 4 or 5 members and give them 30 minutes to develop their new product offering. Students often spend too much time on the idea generation phase. Walk around the room, reminding them of the time left. This creates some urgency for them to move beyond idea generation and complete all aspects of the assignment.

In my courses, students know they are designing a product for my son. I sidestep questions about my son because I want students to realize they have access to the actual customer. If students ask to talk to my son, I call them and let the team talk to them (if they are available). If they are not available, I answer questions on their behalf as honestly as possible.

Teams will design a wide variety of products, some related to their own memories of being that age, some related to brothers’/sisters’ interests, and some related to guesses about what young people are interested in. Record student pitches and show them to your target person, who will select a winner and explain their justification (record this and show it to the class).

This exercise forces students to reimagine an existing product instead of creating a new product. The key learning is about customer interviewing. I recommend using this exercise after students have been practicing interviewing around new ideas/products. This allows you to show them the value of interviewing in a new context, which reiterates this most important skill to entrepreneurs.

Discussion questions to ask students include:

  • What was the most difficult aspect of retooling the product? Why?
  • Did you think about interviewing my son? Why or why not? If you thought about it, and did not interview him, why not?
  • Did you think about asking my son (or I) for feedback on your prototype? Why or why not? If you thought about it, and did not ask him (or me), why not?
  • What lessons did you learn about new product development?

The main points to reiterate during the debrief:

  • If you know your customer segment, interview them! Don’t guess what they want, ask them what they want.
  • Do not get lost in idea generation. Quickly gather feedback on ideas/prototypes from your customer.
  • Customer wants/needs and jobs-to-be-done will differ drastically between target groups.

Engage, Engage, Engage

All of that said…

The #1 way to improve your evaluations is to engage your students.

Our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) is an engaging experience, for you and your students. Instead of you talking at students, the exercises invite your students to learn by doing, so they engage themselves. For example, your students can…

  • brainstorm their ideal customers, so they understand the emotional needs of people they are attached to (i.e. people they are passionate about helping), which become the foundation of their business ideas, ensuring students are motivated throughout your course,
  • play a competitive game to learn what questions they should and should not ask during customer interviews, then practice their interview skills with their classmates using our robust interview script.

Improve student evaluations with ExEC

ExEC Will Improve Your Evals

Students love to be engaged, but they also appreciate fair, transparent grading with structured rubrics. How you provide students feedback is critical to keeping them engaged, so we built robust and easy-to-use rubrics into ExEC! Using ExEC, you provide meaningful feedback very quickly, so students get the instant feedback they insist upon.

Improve your Evaluations This Fall

Preview ExEC and watch your student evaluations skyrocket next year!

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

LMS Integration

ExEC also integrates with major Learning Management Systems to simplify adoption:

ExEC Integrates with all LMS

 

Student engagement with ExEC


What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we have an exciting announcement about Alexander Osterwalder, one of the gurus of the lean startup movement!

Subscribe here to be the first to grab a “seat” at the Summit.

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

Summer 2021 Summit Early Bird Last Call

Summer 2021 Summit Early Bird Last Call

Today is the last day to get $100-off a full access ticket to the Teaching Entrepreneurship Summer Summit!


We know budgets are tight right now, so live access to the workshops is free.

If you’d like the session recordings and slides, or simply can’t attend all of the sessions:

Register today for $100 off the recordings of all 3 workshops.

GET YOUR EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT TODAY!


May 25th 1-3 EST: Making Finance Fun

Summer Summit: Making Finance Fun

Financial projections don’t have to overwhelm students!

Get engaging exercises, including a brand new game, for teaching revenue modeling.


June 2nd 1-3 EST: Better Idea Generation

Summer Summit: Better Idea Generation

Exercises and tips to improve the creativity, feasibility and, impact of student business.

Plus: How (and when) to intervene when students “fall in love” with bad ideas.


GET YOUR EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT TODAY!


June 10th 1-3 EST: Improving Student Pitches

Summer Summit: Improving Student Pitches

New tools for tweaking your pitch day format to…

Move students away from “innovation theater” toward rewarding real entrepreneurial skill development.

Hint: Imagine if entrepreneurial skills were at the Olympics.


Early Bird Tickets Available

We know budgets are tight right now so we’re offering a new “Live Access Only” ticket free of charge.

Plus: Full Access tickets, which include recordings and slides, are $100 off – but the Early Bird sale ends today!

GET YOUR EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT TODAY!


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans and approaches to engage your students from the first to the last day of class!

Subscribe here to be the first to learn about our innovative approach.

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