- Transferable Skills—What did the students need to succeed in a small business or entrepreneurial context? In particular, what essential skills, mindsets and knowledge are needed or were acquired outside the Small Business course. How can we further augment, support and nurture these in other courses?
- Motivation for Excellence—Why did the students want to do well? What motivated them to achieve excellence in their ideation, application, presentation and collaboration? Hint… it isn’t marks… even though this pitch was part of their summative assessment, weighing in at 20% of their final grade… But a mark wasn’t what drove them (at least not entirely)…
- Innovation in Business—I was also looking for a deeper understanding of what innovation looks like in a business context and I wanted a glimpse of the ways Mr. Timms fosters innovation and creativity with his students.
In watching an hour of pitches, I saw this threefold definition of innovation serve as the backbone of the students’ entrepreneurialism. Students needed to convince the “investors” that their idea is new, practical and enriching. If the students were weak in any of these areas, the “investors” intuitively offered up suggestions to improve in one of these three aspects of innovation. Is it new? The panel asked questions like, “What makes your idea different than other businesses already in operation?” or “How does your idea fill an open niche in the target market?” The first step of innovating new solutions, then, needs to be problem identification. A business innovation needs to fill an authentic need. Problem identification is achieved through observation, experience, conversation, empathy and experimentation. Many of the pitchers shared the experiences and conversations, the research and the other ways they tested the market and identified the key problem that their business plan seeks to resolve. Or, couched in the language of the classic economics principle of “supply and demand”—what is the “demand” that my business can “supply.”
The ideas were all new, but were they executable? Here the practical business savvy of the panel came into play as well. Questions and suggestions emerged like defining the core business so as to avoid overextension, generating recurring revenue and base income, expansion timeline, crunching the numbers and focusing on target markets that can (and will) pay for services. Lastly, does the idea add value? Here too, the panelists as well as the passionate pitchers made their greatest pleas. Valuation of an idea is perhaps the most essential component in innovation. If it is a good idea, then we can make it work.
The Trojans Trials is a good idea and Mr. Timms et al. have made it work. Kudos to him, his students and collaborators for making real innovation in education!