A Quick Course on Lean

Over the weekend I got asked the best way to teach students the principles of Lean via Zoom.

One of the key lessons from our Educators Conference is that when teaching online complex information needs to be delivered to students in small, easily processed parts.

I realized that pre-pandemic I had put together a series of two-minute videos called “See Why.”  They’re not only helpful for a formal class but for anyone who wants to review the basics. Here’s what I suggested they offer their students:

Lean in Context

No Business Plan Survives First Contact With Customers

How did we build startups in the past?

The Business Model

An introduction to The Business Model Canvas

The Minimal Viable Product

How to Get, Keep and Grow Customers?

How to Get Out of the Building and Test the Business Model

What is Customer Development

What is Customer Discovery and Why Do it?

Why Get Out of the Building?

A short article on how to do Customer Discovery via Zoom

Jobs to be done

Customer Validation

The Pivot

The Harvard Business Review Article “Why the Lean Startup Changes Everything” ties the pieces together here

The Mission Model Canvas

What is the Mission Model Canvas

The Mission Model Canvas Videos

Extra’s

Why Customer Development is done by founders

What Do Customers Get from You?

What are Customer Problems/Pains?

Users, Payers and Multi-sided markets

How do I Know I Have the Right Customers – Testing

How big is it?

How to Avoid Pricing Mistakes

More two-minute lectures here

Tools for educators here

Tools for students here

Lessons Learned

  • Break up online lessons into small parts

 

 

 

What I Learned from 500 Educators – Build Back Better Summit – Results

With the theme “Build Back Better” Jerry Engel, Pete Newell, Steve Weinstein and I co-hosted nearly 500 Lean Educators from 63 countries and 235 universities online for a three-hour session to share what we’ve learned about educators on how we can help our communities rebound, adjust, and recover.

We got insights from each other about tools, tips, techniques and best practices.

Here’s what we learned.

Background
When we last ran this virtual summit in July, our 400 educators were just coming to grips with teaching remotely. The two questions on the table were, 1) Could the lean methodology work remotely? 2) And what kind of pedagogy would support a class that depended on “getting out of the building” to work virtually? Tactically, how effective would customer discovery be for the students? Would customers sit for virtual interviews? How would you show them minimal viable products if not in person? How do you keep students engaged?

This Summit
This summit discussed how the pandemic has shifted the way we teach, but also what we learned teaching and how we can use the Lean methodology to make an impact on our communities.

COVID-19 has dramatically altered the business landscape. Main Street businesses are severely affected. While many parts of the high-tech sector are growing, others are either contracting or shutting down. Amid these uncertain times we believe that Lean educators can prepare students for this new investing climate and help communities recover.

The summit opened with a panel of Investors sharing their insights of what the funding environment for entrepreneurs, non-profits and small businesses will look like as the economy recovers. See here for a video of the investor panel.

Next, Lee Bollinger President of Columbia University in conversation electrified the audience with description of the fourth purpose of a university. (I’ve summarized our conversation with the video and transcript of the entire talk following the summary.)

The core of the summit was gathering the collective wisdom and experience of the 500 attendees as we split into 20 breakout rooms. Besides sharing tips for teaching traditional entrepreneurs the discussion also included how we could help Main Street businesses. The output of the breakout sessions provided a firehose of data, a ton of useful suggestions, teaching tips and tools. Following Lee’s talk I’ve summarized the collective notes from the breakout session.

Lee Bollinger – Columbia
The three purposes of a university are research, education, and public service. But universities should take on an additional role. To try to impact and affect the world in good ways, it’s what I call the fourth purpose of a university. No university has said, “We should design the institution to have a bigger impact using academic work and join up with outside entities and organizations and partners to do that.” And that’s what the fourth purpose is all about.

If one looks around in the world, you see these huge problems, massive inequality, hunger, poverty, climate change, issues of how to set up a global trading system. You have national problems. So, there’s no shortage of major issues.

NGOs play a very important role, but they tend to be very focused on some particular issue. If you look at think tanks, again, many of them are captured by particular interests. And universities have this incredible sort of filled-with-public purpose people who want to have an effect on the world.

One of the things that’s been striking to me over the course of my career is that those people probably will not get credit for that work in the promotion and tenure process. And that strikes me as crazy. We should embrace in the appointment process people who have incredible talents of that kind. People who are extremely gifted and talented at making things happen in the world. I think all of us have known people like that.

[If we do this] we would have a cohort of people within our institution who are of equal standing, with the greatest scholars and the greatest teachers. But they are the greatest at having impact on the world. We do this to some extent. That’s why it’s interesting in a way. It’s not even like it’s completely novel. I mean, the great surgeon, the great lawyer will be an adjunct in the law school, or the great business person will be an adjunct in the business school. But we don’t embrace it in the way that I’m thinking about. So there’s who do you embrace within the university and what do you value?

I think it’s a very pragmatic and practical –  where do you situate in your mind universities in the context of the world? Should they be highly removed and only focused on teaching and scholarship with some public service on the side? Or should they be actively engaged with problems, ready to work with outside people and organizations?

See Columbia World Projects.

If you can’t see the video of Lee Bollinger’s talk click here. The transcript of his talk is here.

Breakout Sessions
The core of the summit was gathering the collective wisdom and experience of the 500 attendees as we split into 20 breakout rooms.(There were also a special breakout room for those interested in the new Hacking for Environment/Oceans course that started at UCSC and UCSD this year.)

The output of the breakout sessions provided a firehose of data, a ton of useful suggestions, teaching tips and tools. I’ve summarized the collective notes from the breakout session. 

The consensus in our July summit and reinforced again in this summit was, yes you can teach via Zoom and “get out of the building” when you physically can’t. And it’s almost good enough. Further, our 3-hour long classes which were challenging in person required a redesign to be taught online. Zoom fatigue was real.

General Observations

  • Crisis accelerates certain trends. COVID broke the myth that distant learning was problematic and isn’t as effective.
  • It forced everybody into remote learning, and a lot of people came away with the feeling of, hey, for a lot of things, this works much better than we thought it was going to work.
  • Now everybody has lived through a pivot. Everybody has experienced disruption and perhaps is now more open to looking at new ideas.
  • That’s going to be a carryover into when we can go back. How do you use that as a technique and not be afraid of it?
  • We need to remember in these difficult times that many of the skills we’re teaching – problem solving and running around the brick wall or through it – are life skills that we’re teaching. They’re not restricted just to entrepreneurs.
  • Not pretending it’s business as usual was a great lesson

Pedagogy – How We Teach Remotely

  • On-line has made it easier for teams to meet, mentors to meet, easier access to world-class speakers.
  • The importance of actually doing good instructional design, was pointed out as is time consuming and significant work to do up front. But it pays off in enabling much better engagement and retention.
  • it’s forced educators to become much more coherent and clearer about what they want to achieve with their teams and their students.
  • Understand that that it takes longer for people to absorb information when delivered online.
  • The flipped classroom approach – lectures as prerecorded homework – reduces remote class load. It can make your synchronous time more focused on collaboration, both with you and the students as an instructor, but also among the students themselves.
  • Make each lecture available in advance of the class.
  • Reinforce the lectures with examples during the zoom session
  • We’re doing better online than ever. In classes it’s easier to get people to participate but it’s difficult to keep momentum, especially when you get into the hard part of customer discovery
  • Overall, there’s a higher pressure to be more entertaining
  • Some institutions have asked the students to design the class. They choose a topic, then the students design the class or help design the class
  • It’s really difficult to maintain that one-on-one intimacy, but zoom has been a passable kind of safe option.\
  • We’ve had faculty say that hybrid classes – teaching both in person and virtually, simultaneously – are probably the most detrimental learning environment
  • Hybrid teaching – some students physically in classroom wearing along with others online was pretty detrimental to the quality of instruction
  • One way of ensuring that students go through the advanced materials, is to have the students come up with a question about the material in advance
  • When it all changes, we’ll go back in person. But zoom is simply a classroom which just happens to be electronic. And the breakout rooms are simply a breakout, a study session, it just happens to be electronic. I think you can build an argument that there are more innovative and more interesting ways to do this. I just don’t know what they are yet.

In-Class Timing

  • Shorten the time that you’re going to do things. You can no longer do a full day, you can perhaps do three hours max virtually
  • Break things into very, very small chunks, bite sized chunks, one-minute, not 20-minute presentations for teams. And micro videos so people can watch to learn things
  • You got to break everything up – 10/15 minutes, it can’t be anything longer than that
  • Keep everything very, very short
  • Make things very bite sized, even when you’re all together online
  • The chunking concepts worked really well for students, and array those chunks of information in a buffet rather than a monolith – to make it easier for students to access
  • Make certain you boil your class down and reiterate, “these are the five things you needed to take away from this discussion.” Because at the end of the day, there are a little bit overwhelmed
  • Students being overwhelmed was a running narrative

Reach of the Classroom

  • Educators can reach a much larger audience, even a worldwide audience. And that really opened up the educators minds that they can teach not just to a single group, but to a much larger group
  • Having a worldwide audience is now possible. Which is a huge strength and has network benefits that people couldn’t anticipate
  • Teaching remote enabled being able to increase access. There were some great examples of enabling students in Africa to participate in programs from Australia, which had never happened before
  • It made me think of us as teachers without borders. That access is really pushed out to everybody now, to a much, much increased attendance
  • We can bring more people in from outside the classroom. Not only the theorists but constituents for customer development, or with Main Street businesses and local constituents
  • We’re no longer restricted by the size of the classroom. This year we’ve gone from 8 teams and 32 students to 16 teams and 80 students

Guest Speakers

  • A year ago students would have looked down on not having in-person guests. Today they’re blown away by who we can get
  • Remote teaching offers a broader access to more guest lecturers. It’s a lot easier for guests to say yes in because they don’t have to drive in, they can do it from their offices
  • Pre-recording some guests enables access to guests who normally would say no because of their schedule

Customer Discovery

  • Getting out of the classroom in some ways can be a lot easier when you’re never actually in a classroom. There aren’t the same travel and logistical challenges.
  • Getting zoom interviews is actually easier. So some of the discovery process has been easier online
  • Mixed results, we were able to get more people engaged to get more people do more interviews, and because people are more available online. But we couldn’t go as deep and couldn’t do more of the informal observation, that part of really getting to some insight
  • We need to know what sweet spots for customer development work best with zoom and that don’t work best with zoom. We need to give our students greater guidance around that point.

Minimal Viable Products

  • The very important role the MVP plays today, especially when you’re working in zoom. If you can get the product quickly, cheaply, and without using a lot of funding, you need to do that, because that’s going to get you a lot further along in terms of what you can learn from a customer development perspective.

Breakout Sessions

  • Organize to have more class time in the breakout rooms in smaller groups, because this is where engagement really happens
  • As soon as you jump into a breakout session as a professor, you’re going to kill the discussion. Be sensitive, don’t jump in, let them finish the discussion on their own
  • Breakout sessions held via zoom help maintain team chemistry
  • Keeping the same team composition in the breakout sessions make those sessions work really well, compared to when they had split teams

Student Engagement

  • The wallflowers within the class get to use chat, versus in person where they’re not going to participate at all.
  • How do you create energy during zoom sessions, especially during international calls?
  • There’s a drop off in engagement after one hour. Basically, they just disappear from the zoom
  • Some of the good things was being able to institute virtual pitching, virtual customer discovery, and in some cases a hosted special session to motivate faculty and students
  • Encourage students to learn the skill to consult with each other. This is a crucial skill. To be able to guide each other and say, “Well what did you learn about your customer discovery. And what did you learn about the value proposition.” Have them take the role of the educator a little bit

Collaboration

  • We need to find ways to allow students/teams do distance socialization. Find those kinds of activities in a way that gels the team and make that work out
  • Socializing happens naturally in person. You go out to dinner after things, you go get pizza, you hang out. That’s much harder to do virtually
  • Finding collaboration tools which can be used both during the zoom sessions but also outside of class. So students and the overall class can interact, both during the official hours, as well as during the unofficial hours
  • We’re no longer having these bigger networked conversations where you can have the serendipitous meet at the watercooler or the trade show, and kind of increase the creativity. But because of that some of these interactions have become more meaningful and purposeful because they’re very focused
  • Providing those tools is really important because they can’t just go have a cup of coffee after class, they can’t all get together at seven o’clock
  • Eventually bonding does happen if the teams meet on a regular basis and really connect over time
  • Community building is very challenging in remote context. Even though you’re able to get across a lot of the learning objectives, you’re missing a lot of these intangibles
  • Using tools like Mural, Discord, Slack and ClassEdu creates a sense of community and ongoing collaboration
  • Get the input from the students about what collaboration tools they’re most fluent in 

Team Formation

  • Teams have more trouble forming and norming under the current circumstances
  • There’s the forming, storming, norming, performing kind of thing about teams that happens through working together over time, and socializing
  • Team formations to really gel as a team can happen in this kind of remote environment – but it takes longer

Students/Teams

  • Continually push more for diversity in students/founders; older people, Hispanics, women, brown and black – people of all of all flavors
  • Having someone who looks like them lead the class info/recruiting sessions for diverse students. This dramatically changes the class makeup
  • Be sensitive to students’ personal situations
  • Students will turn off their videos, not because they’re checking out, but because of their location (bedroom, basement, sitting in their underwear, etc.)
  • Suggest a class rule that participation is part of the grade. When they do talk, they have to put the camera on. That’s a compromise on the sensitivity
  • In the online environment, it is a little bit more difficult to gauge feedback from teams
  • You need to work hard helping build highly engaged and motivated teams
  • You want to push them to take advantage of being virtual and conducting extreme customer discovery
  • On the other side, teams who might have started out strong at the beginning of COVID, and found it easier to do things virtually, have now hit a serious virtual fatigue, and are kind of disengaged and not excited about it. And just really exhausted, too exhausted to take anything more on

Mentorship

  • Mentorship becomes a lot easier. Rather than having to get people face to face meeting, we are now able to connect people. we are being able to bring the right mentors from around the country or even around the world to help our students with mentoring
  • There are three kinds of mentors; process mentors – those that know what’s coming up. Technology mentors, and then market mentors. Zoom makes it easier to have more people involved
  • Reach out to older/retired entrepreneurs, find them and put them into the mix as mentors, sometimes as founders and coaches and so forth. They’ve got time they’re willing to help
  • Keeping mentors and investors engaged over the video was a bit of a problem. They managed to shorten and simplify the process that tended to help. But q&a engagement is still a little bit of a struggle.

Exams

  • Exams need to be testing more of the understanding in the application of the concept
  • You can have an exam that is open for six or 24 hours. And then you’re able to actually ask the students to demonstrate more of the understanding of the concepts

Post-Covid Teaching

  • How do we make sure that our students who may be falling behind and may not have been able to keep up because of the COVID pandemic?
  • How do we make sure that they’re on track after we get back?
  • How do we make sure that we are adjusting for their return and the return to normalcy after we get back?

Main Street

  • We as educators need to not treat solopreneurs or Main Street businesses as second-class citizens in our classrooms or incubators, or our meetups. They’re embracing the risks and challenges that big tech startups are embracing
  • Main Street customers had product market fit, and now they’re experiencing for the first time falling out of product market fit
  • Business owners are distracted, focused on day-to-day issues. And they’re impacted personally
  • Looking at all aspects of the entrepreneur has been a real focus on prioritizing the human element, when folks are dealing with layoffs, or cash flow issues, or potential eviction
  • How do we work with companies/startups that are maybe not so much innovation driven, but necessity driven? Because of the dislocations being created by COVID-19, and economic dislocation
  • How do we provide services at scale to help coaching? We had some people who had sent their students to help those local businesses in this time of need and pivoted their classes from doing the next step to helping mainstream businesses do it
  • And we had people doing that, both in Africa and in San Jose. And with Hacking for the community in Hawaii and going out to rural areas. But we still struggle with how to engage, especially with rural communities to help them do that
  • When you go out to rural areas, that younger people who are already fluent in the tools are more are more likely to engage
  • Similarly, the idea that empathy and engagement is extremely scalable. So some of the core principles here have really scaled a lot
  • One of the things that was really interesting was connecting entrepreneurial students with waitresses and bartenders to help them figure out how to get additional funding to compensate for the lack of subsidies they might not have been able to receive
  • It’s not always a sexy company that the student gets to work with. But they get to see real impact. And it’s something that they can use in their skill sets as project managers as they continue forward
  • SBDC (Small Business Development Centers) have a very strong demand for a modified lean Launchpad curriculum program for Main Street businesses. The individual Small Business Development Centers are doing the best they can to come up with a “just getting started” program. They’re all unique. They could benefit from what universities learned from the Lean Launchpad/Lean Startup approach
  • Getting businesses online, giving them social media skills, coaching on the canvas, as a critical thing they were doing for Main Street businesses
  • The teams aren’t done when they’re done with the class. In fact, they’re actually starting a real business during the class.

University Experiments

  • At Ryerson the University incubators are open to entrepreneurs throughout the community, not just enrolled students.
  • UT Rio Grande, where many students did not have access to good internet connections, improved their WiFi to extend it to their parking lots
  • To graduate from the University of Buckingham, you must found a startup before you get your diploma. The startup doesn’t have to succeed. And if it fails early enough, you get to do another one
  • We talked about a need to extend beyond the canonical I-Corps to post class curriculum to understand how the larger ecosystem can be part of that. We also talked about the need to track more than team activity more than just interviews. But to measure engagement with mentors and instructors. And the insights that come from those engagements

Hacking for the Environment and Oceans

  • Real benefit in teaching smaller niche cohorts more focused on a specific problem area
  • All of the coastal universities are finding that this methodology should have impact in these spaces
  • These courses are more complex to put on than even Hacking for Defense type classes, because you’re trying to bring a diverse community together
  • The types of sponsors are 1) nonprofits and from foundations, 2) Coastal Conservancy organizations 2) CEOs who hoping people will help them solve problems. 34) venture funds that are starting to be impact funds, particularly. It’s kind of a very diverse group.
  • For anyone interested in offering this class see –https://www.commonmission.us/sustainability-and-prosperityhacking-for-environment-oceans

The video of the entire breakout session reports is below.

If you can’t see the video click here.

Summary
When the National Science Foundation stopped holding their annual conference of I-Corps instructors, it offered us the opportunity to embrace a larger community beyond the NSF – now to include the Hacking for Defense, NSIN, and Lean LaunchPad educators.

When we decided to hold the online summit, we had three hypotheses:

  1. Educators would not only want to attend, but to volunteer and help and learn from each other – validated
  2. Instructors would care most about effective communication with students (not tools, or frameworks but quality of the engagement with students) – validated
  3. Our educator community valued ongoing, recurring opportunities to collaborate and open source ideas and tools – validated

A big thanks to Jerry Engel of U.C. Berkeley, the dean of this program. And thanks to our organizers The Common Mission Project which provided all the seamless logistical support, and sponsors VentureWell and GCEC and every one of the breakout room leaders:

Ali Hawks – Common Mission Project UK, Chris Taylor – Georgetown, Philip Bouchard – TrustedPeer, Jim Hornthal- UC Berkeley, Michael Marasco- Northwestern, Bob Dorf – Columbia, Tom Bedecarré – Stanford, Dave Chapman – University College London, Paul Fox – LaSalle Univ Barcelona, Phil Weilerstein – VentureWell, Stephanie Marrus – University of California, San Francisco, Jim Chung – George Washington University, Babu DasGupta -University of Wisconsin, Todd Warren – Northwestern, Jeff Reid – Georgetown, Micah Kotch – Urban-X, Radhika Malpani – Google, Todd Basche- BMNT, Todd Morrill – VMG

Join our educators slack channel here

Save the date for our next Educator Summit – June 3, 2021 online.

Build Back Better – The Educators Summit

SAVE THE DATE for the 3rd edition of Lean Innovation Educators Summit
December 16th, 10 – 1pm PST, 1 – 4pm EST6 – 9pm UTC

In July 2020, 400+ educators gathered online to discuss and share best practices for Lean education in the virtual environment. We learned a ton.  And we’re going to do it again.

Join me, Jerry Engel, Pete Newell, and Steve Weinstein and over 1,000 educators from 65 countries and 220 universities for our next Lean Innovation Educators Summit.

Why?
COVID-19 has dramatically altered the business landscape. Main Street businesses are severely affected. While many parts of the high-tech sector are growing, others are either contracting or shutting down. Amid these uncertain times we believe that Lean educators can prepare students for this new investing climate and help communities recover.We’ll discuss how the pandemic has shifted not just the way we teach, but also what we teach about today’s investing climate and how we can use the Lean methodology to make an impact on our communities.

What
While we’ll hear from investors and Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, the heart of the summit are the breakout sessions. In these sessions you and your peers can discuss and share best practices with Lean educators from around the world.  We’ll then share the results of the breakout sessions with everyone.

Our breakout session leaders include:
Tom Bedecarré -Stanford University, Chris Taylor- Georgetown University, Philip Bouchard- TrustedPeer, Jim Hornthal – UC Berkeley, Michael Marasco – Northwestern University, Bob Dorf – SOM, Dave Chapman – University College London, Paul Fox – LaSalle Univ Barcelona, Phil Weilerstein – VentureWell, Jim Chung – GWU, Todd Warren, Jeff Reid – Georgetown University, Ali Hawks – CMP, Radhika Malpani – Google, Stephanie Marrus – UCSF – Jessica Fields – CUNY, Todd Morrill – VMG, Rathindra [Babu] DasGupta – University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Micah Kotch – Urban-X and Logan Petkosek, Nicole Liddle, Emily McMahan.

Thanks to the Common Mission Project team and organizers – Logan Petkosek, Nicole Liddle, Emily McMahan.

How
This session is free to all but limited to Innovation educators. You can register for the event here and/or learn more on our website. We look forward to gathering as a community of educators to shape the future of Lean Innovation Education.

When
See you on December 16th 10 – 1pm PST1pm – 4pm EST, 6pm-9pm UTC.
Register here
Live captioning for the hearing impaired.

The Educators Summit: Adapting to the COVID Economy

In July 2020, 400+ educators gathered online to discuss and share best practices for Lean education in the virtual environment. We learned a ton.  And we’re going to do it again.

Join me, Jerry Engel, Pete Newell, and Steve Weinstein for the 3rd edition of Lean Innovation Educators Summit on December 16th, 1 – 4pm EST, 6 – 9pm UTC

Why
COVID-19 has dramatically altered the business landscape. Main Street businesses are severely affected. While many parts of the high-tech sector are growing, others are either contracting or shutting down. Amid these uncertain times we believe that Lean educators can prepare students for this new investing climate and help communities recover.

We’ll discuss how the pandemic has shifted not just the way we teach, but also what we teach about today’s investing climate and how we can use the Lean methodology to make an impact on our communities.

What
We’ll hear from investors, entrepreneurs, public policy leaders and of course your colleagues on how we can help our communities adjust, recover and rebound.

The event will begin with a panel of VC, government and private capital investors and then a fireside chat about the future of the investing climate and COVID recovery efforts. We’ll then go into breakout sessions so you can discuss and share best practices with your peer Lean educators from around the world.

How
This session is free to all, but limited to Innovation educators. You can register for the event here and/or learn more on our website. We look forward to gathering as a community of educators to shape the future of Lean Innovation Education.

When
See you on December 16th 1pm – 4pm EST, 6pm-9pm UTC.

Register here

 

Hacking 4 Recovery – Time to Take A Shot

Rise Up

“Let’s do something to help with the pandemic.” In April, with the economy crashing, and the East Coast in lockdown, I heard this from Stanford instructors Tom Bedecarre and Todd Basche, both on the same day. And my response to them was the same, “I can’t sew masks and I don’t know how to make ventilators.” But after thinking about it, it dawned on to me that we could contribute – by creating a class to help existing businesses recover and new ones to start.

And so, Hacking for Recovery began, starting first at Stanford and next offered by University of Hawaii for the State of Hawaii.

After teaching 70 teams – 50 at Stanford and 20 in Hawaii – 275+ entrepreneurs – we’ve proven three things: 1) people can take control of what happens to their lives/careers during and after the pandemic, 2) in five days teams can make extraordinary progress in validating a business model and, 3) this process can be replicated in other areas of the country that need to recover and rebuild businesses.

Here’s how it happened.


I realized we had the ability to rapidly launch a large number of companies on the path of validating their business models. We could offer a 5-day version of the Lean LaunchPad / Hacking For Defense / National Science Foundation I-Corps class that’s trained tens of thousands of entrepreneurs. The class already existed. I had been teaching it at Columbia University for the last seven years. Brainstorming with my Stanford co-instructor Steve Weinstein, we streamlined the material for a virtual class, and told Tom and Todd we could do it.

In two months, they recruited 200 students (50 teams) on 6 continents and in more than a dozen countries. What united the students was their belief that while the pandemic had disrupted their lives, here was an opportunity to shape their own future.

To support them we found 31 mentors, and 4 great Teaching Assistants. The entire course – from team recruitment to the actual class sessions – was hosted online through Zoom.

We ran the Stanford class three times, each in 5-day sessions. (The syllabus is here.)

The teams were able to do customer discovery via video conferencing (getting out of the building without physically getting out of the building) averaging 44 interviews in 5 days. In aggregate they interviewed 2,259 customers. But it just wasn’t the aggregate numbers that were impressive it was how much they learned in five days.

The results?

200 students will never be the same. Rather than bemoaning their circumstances, they decided to rise up and take their best shot. Immersed in a rapid-fire hands-on experience, and surrounded by mentors and subject matter experts, every team not only changed the trajectory of their company but left having learned a methodology for high-speed business model validation to help jump-start a business idea in these chaotic times and beyond.

The topics the teams worked on mirrored the opportunities created caused by the pandemic and sequestering. Over 40% were working on telemedicine, 28% in remote education or remote work. Other teams tackled problems in travel, small business, sustainability, etc. The 50 team concepts at Stanford fell into these categories:

  • 21 Health/Telemedicine
  • 9 Education
  • 5 Remote Work
  • 3 Travel
  • 3 Sustainability
  • 3 Small Business
  • 6 others

More than 15 of the teams have already committed to continue to pursue their startup ideas and are applying to accelerators and seeking funding.

When the sessions at Stanford were completed, we helped the University of Hawaii and Maui Economic Development Board STEMworks launch the Hawaii version of Hacking 4 Recovery – to rebuild the State’s economy, which has been uniquely devastated by the coronavirus lockdown. 20 teams just finished their program. With more to come. Other regions can do the same.

Take a look at a selection of the presentations below from Stanford’s cohorts. Considering some of the teams consisted of incoming freshmen, their progress is kind of mind blowing.

While we enabled 70 teams to start companies, what we really generated was hope – and a path to new opportunities.


AntiCovidAI – a novel mobile app to detect COVID-19 symptoms. Team included Stanford undergrad, Stanford alum, DCI Fellow, Stanford staff member and a graduate student taking courses at Stanford. We had 21/50 teams focused on health/telemedicine concepts

Nightingale – a telemedicine platform connecting nurses to caregivers to close the home healthcare gap.

Diffusion – led by a Stanford Ph.D, this team is developing a sensor to prevent head and neck injuries from falls, especially for seniors in nursing homes.

Edusquared– this team of 4 women who just graduated high school and are entering Stanford in September created an educational subscription box for young Special Ed students. 9 of the teams worked on Education concepts.

Work From Anywhere – the team designed a service to help people move to new locations as remote working allows employees to work from anywhere. 5 teams developed concepts related to Remote Work.

Eye-Dentify – was led by a Knight Hennessy Scholar who wants to help bring eyecare to remote underserved areas. Many of the teams focused on social impact.

Escape Homework – team developed an “Escape Room” platform to make remote learning for k-12 students  fun and engaging. (Post class, the team wrote a blog post describing their experience in the class. Worth a read here.  And they shared their page on virtual educational resources here.)

Voyage – was a global travel advisory platform for pandemic information.

Parrot – fun language app – crossing Duolingo with TikTok. Four rising Stanford sophomore women.

All 50 Stanford presentations are here: Session 1, Session 2 and Session 3.

Total Stanford participants: 200 (Men 51%, Women 49%)
Representing a broad cross-section of the Stanford Community:

  • undergrads  25%
  • graduate  14%
  • Summer Session Students  10%
  • Alumni  30%
  • Faculty/Staff  2%
  • DCI Fellows  3%
  • Other/misc.  16%

Thanks to the instructors who taught the class: Tom Bedecarre, Steve Weinstein and Pete Newell and to the guest lecturers: Mar Hershenson, Tina Seelig, and Heidi Roizen.

In addition to the instructors, each team had mentors who volunteered their time: Jim Anderson, Adi Bittan, Teresa Briggs, Rachel Costello, Phil Dillard, Freddy Dopfel, Mimi Dunne, Dave Epstein, Eleanor Haglund, Joy Fairbanks, Susan Golden, Rafi Holtzman, Pradeep Jotwani, Phillipe Jorge, Vera Kenehan, Robert Locke, Kris McCleary, Radhika Malpani, Stephanie Marrus, Allan May, Rekha Pai,Don Peppers, Alejandro Petschankar, Kevin Ray, Heather Richman, Eric Schrader, Craig Seidel, Kevin Thompson, Wendy Tsu, Lisa Wallace. Plus another 27 subject matter experts as support.

And when a class with a million moving parts appears seamless to the students it’s directly proportional to the amount of work behind the scenes. Without our teaching assistants who volunteered their time none of it would have happened: Head TA’s: Valeria Rincon / Jin Woo Yu and TA’s Nicole Orsak and Diva Sharma.

Lessons learned

  • While we enabled 70 teams to start companies, what we really generated was hope and a path to new opportunities
  • With the open source curriculum available here, it’s possible for any school or region to get a version of this class ready in 8-10 weeks
    • The 5-day format of the class works well
    • It can stand alone or complement the 10-week or 14-week courses
  • Having teaching assistants are critical to managing the admin side of marketing, recruiting, team formation, communications and overall support for the teaching team
    • Team formation requires heavy lifting of emails/team mixers/team – as well as match-making by TA’s and instructors
  • Having a large pool of mentors and subject matter experts is important in 5-day crash course, to support teams looking for interview subjects and contacts for customer discovery

Teaching Lean Innovation in the Pandemic

Remote education in the pandemic has been hard for everyone. Hard for students having to deal with a variety of remote instructional methods. Hard for parents with K through 12 students at home trying to keep up with remote learning, and hard for instructors trying to master new barely functional tools and technology while trying to keep students engaged gazing at them through Hollywood Squares-style boxes.

A subsegment of those instructors – those trying to teach Lean LaunchPad, whether in I-Corps, or Hacking for Defense – have an additional burden of figuring out how to teach a class that depends on students getting out of the building and talking to 10 to 15 customers a week.

400 Lean Educators instructors gathered online for a three-hour session to share what we’ve learned about teaching classes remotely. We got insights from each other about tools, tips, techniques and best practices.

Here’s what we learned.

When I designed the Lean LaunchPad/I-Corps/Hacking for Defense class, my goal was to replace the traditional method of teaching case studies and instead immerse the students in a hands-on experiential process that modeled what entrepreneurs really did. It would be guided week-to-week by using the Business Model Canvas and testing hypotheses by getting out of the building and building Minimum Viable Products (MVPs). After trial and error, we found that having eight teams presenting in a three-hour block was the maximum without exhausting the instructors and the students. That format, unwieldy as it is, remained the standard for a decade. Over time we started experimenting with breaking up the three-hour block with breakout rooms and other activities so not all students needed to sit through all the presentations.

When the pandemic forced us to shift to online teaching, that experimentation turned into a necessity. Three hours staring at a Zoom screen while listening to team after team present is just untenable and unwatchable. Customer discovery is doable remotely but different. Teams are scattered across the world. And the instructor overhead of managing all this is probably 3X what it is in person.

While we were making changes to our classes at Stanford, Jerry Engel was smart enough to point out that hundreds of instructors in every university were having the same problems in adapting the class to the pandemic. He suggested that as follow-up to our Lean Innovation Educators Summit here in Silicon Valley last December, we should create a mid-year on-line Summit so we could all get together and share what we learned and how we’re adapting.  And so it began.

In July, 400 Educators from over 200 universities in 22 countries gathered online for a Lean Innovation Educators Summit to share best practices.

We began the summit with five of us sharing our experience of how we dealt with the online challenges of:

If you can’t see the presentation slides click here

But the core of the summit was gathering the collective wisdom and experience of the 400 attendees as we split into 22 breakout rooms. The one-hour discussion in each of the rooms covered:

  • What are your biggest challenges under COVID-19?
  • How is this challenge different now than during “in-person” learning?
  • What solutions have you tried?
  • What was most effective?

The output of the breakout sessions provided a firehose of data, a ton of useful suggestions, teaching tips and tools.I’ve summarized the collective notes from the breakout session.

Customer Discovery and Minimal Viable Products
The consensus was, yes you can “get out of the building” when you physically can’t. And it’s almost good enough.

  • Discovery can be done via Zoom or similar remote platforms and in some ways is more effective – see here
  • During Covid most people no longer have gatekeepers around them
    • Sending lots of cold emails works (at least in COVID times)
  • You could find the best mentors and the best sponsor for a given project
  • Building and demonstrating hardware MVPs is a challenge
    • One solution is to send a design file to a fab lab to be printed
    • If you would normally have your potential customer hold, feel or use the product, make sure you video a demo someone doing that
  • For software MVPs create video demo snippets of less <1 minute to illustrate each of your features
  • It’s critical to offer a “How to do customer discovery remotely” and “how to build remote MVPs” workshop

Class Structure
3-hour long classes are challenging in person and require a redesign to be taught online.

  • Keep students engaged by having no more than four teams in a presentation room at one time
    • Have other teams in breakout rooms and/or with other instructors
      • Breakout rooms must be well thought out and organized
      • They should have a task and a deliverable
  • Break up lectures so that they are no longer then 15 minutes
    • Intersperse them with interactive exercises (Alex Osterwalder is a genius here, providing great suggestions for keeping students engaged)
    • Work on an exercise in class and then talk more to it in office hours
    • Avoid canned video lectures
  • Be more prescriptive on “what is required” in the team presentations
  • What’s the goal for the class?
    • Do you want them to test the entire Canvas or …
    • Do you want them to work on product market fit?
      • Teams will naturally gravitate to work on product/market fit
  • Vary the voices at the “front” of the room
  • Guest speakers – previously extraneous but needed now to break up the monotony
    • But if you use guests have the student’s whiteboard summaries of what they learned
    • And have the guests be relevant to the business model topic of the week
  • Understand that while students attend your class they actually pay attention to their mentors
    • Recruit mentors whose first passion are helping students, not recruiting or investing in them
    • Ensure that you train and onboard mentors to the syllabus
    • Have the mentors sit in on the office hours and classroom
  • Invite lurkers, advisors, and others “invited” to show up and chime in
  • Be prepared for the intensity of the preparation required as compared to pre-COVID times
    • Recruiting students and forming teams is especially hard remotely
    • Double or triple down on the email and other outreach
    • Hold on-line info sessions and mixers

Teaching Assistant
Having a Teaching Assistant is critical

  • If your school won’t pay for one, get some unofficial “co-instructors”
    • They don’t have to be a teacher–use an admin or a student intern
  • They are critical to managing the admin side of marketing, recruiting, team formation, communications and overall support for the teaching team.
  • Team formation requires TA heavy lifting of emails/team mixers/team
    • as well as match-making by TA’s and instructors
  • During class TA’S need to be focused on chat, breakout room and presentation logistics
  • Don’t assume (or let your TA assume) that prior practices will work in a virtual environment.
  • Be prepared to try different approaches to keep class moving and engaged
  • Pre-class write up a “How to TA in a Remote Class” handbook
    • Go through it with your TA’s before class
  • Use security in advance; avoid open entry (Zoom Bombing)

Student Engagement
Zoom fatigue came up in almost every breakout session. Some of the solutions included:

  • Play music as students arrive and leave
  • Recognize that some may be in different time zones – take a poll in the first class session
  • Start each class session with an activity
    • Summarize key insights/lessons learned from their office hours and customer discovery
    • For those using Zoom – use the Whiteboard feature for these summaries
  • Have students turn on their camera on to ensure the class they’re engaged
    • And have their microphone off, their full name visible, and a virtual background with their team ID
  • Create deeper connection with the students
    • ask them to anonymously submit a statement or two about what they wish you knew about them
    • ask the students to bring something to class that tells us something about them
      • have them bring it to the breakout rooms to share with their teammates and others
  • Randomly cold call
    • Don’t be afraid to call out students by name, as Zoom format makes raising hand or asking a question more awkward
    • Ask their advice on what someone else just presented or what they learned from the other team
    • After doing this a couple of times, everyone will become active (so not to get called on)
  • Require additional student feedback on chat – critical to keeping engagement high
    • Focus on quality of feedback over just quantity.
    • Have the students and mentors use chat during team presentations to share contacts, insights
  • Dial back the radical candor– take the edge off as the students are already stressed
  • Offer longer office hours for teams

(All the breakout session slides are here.)

Summary
When the National Science Foundation stopped holding their annual conference of I-Corps instructors, it offered us the opportunity to embrace a larger community beyond the NSF – now to include the Hacking for Defense, NSIN, and Lean LaunchPad educators.

When we decided to hold the online summit, we had three hypotheses:

  1. Educators would not only want to attend, but to volunteer and help and learn from each other – validated
  2. Instructors would care most about effective communication with students (not tools, or frameworks but quality of the engagement with students) – validated
  3. Our educator community valued ongoing, recurring opportunities to collaborate and open source ideas and tools – validated

The Common Mission Project is coordinating the group’s efforts to create an open forum where these instructors can share best practices and to curate the best content and solutions.

A big thanks to Jerry Engel of U.C. Berkeley, the dean of this program. And thanks to the Common Mission Project which provided all the seamless logistical support, and every one of the breakout room leaders: Tom Bedecarré – Stanford University, John Blaho – City College of New York, Philip Bouchard – TrustedPeer, Dave Chapman – University College London,  James Chung – George Washington University, Bob Dorf – Columbia University,  Jeff Epstein – Stanford University, Paul Fox – LaSalle University Barcelona,  Ali Hawks – Common Mission Project UK, Jim Hornthal – U.C. Berkeley,  Victoria Larke – University of Toronto,  Radhika Malpani – Google,  Michael Marasco – Northwestern University,  Stephanie Marrus – University of California, San Francisco,  Pete Newell – BMNT/ Common Mission Project US, Thomas O’Neal – University of Central Florida,  Alexander Osterwalder – Strategyzer, Kim Polese – U.C. Berkeley,  Jeff Reid – Georgetown University,  Sid Saleh – Colorado School of Mines,  Chris Taylor – Georgetown University,  Grant Warner – Howard University, Todd Warren – Northwestern University,  Phil Weilerstein – VentureWell,  Steve Weinstein – Stanford University, Naeem Zafar – U.C. Berkeley, and the 400 of you who attended.

Looking forward to our next Educator Summit, December 16th online.

The video of the entire summit can be seen here

Educators Summit: Lessons from Teaching in the Pandemic

SAVE THE DATE for the Lean Innovation Educators Summit:
Lessons from Teaching in the Pandemic
July 24, 10-noon Pacific, 1-3pm Eastern, 6-8pm London

As educators the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all.

We’ve faced the challenges of teaching remotely, while virtually managing students scattered across the world, keeping students enthusiastic and engaged via video, helping them conduct customer discovery when they can’t get out of the building, and rolling with uncertain teaching schedules now and in the future. We’ve all been making it up as we go and have begun to see a glimmer of patterns of what’s worked and what hasn’t. 

Since the Pandemic we’ve taught three classes remotely – Hacking for Defense, Hacking for Oceans and our first of three Hacking for Recovery classes. I know I’ve learned a ton – some surprisingly good and some just surprisingly.

But more importantly there are hundreds of educators who have also learned valuable lessons. If you’ve learned something you’d like to share, or would like to hear how others are modifying their pedagogical approaches for the pandemic, you’re invited to join us virtually and collectively in this two-hour on-line session (with an additional one hour of breakout sessions for follow-up discussions on topics of interest.)

Some of the topics we’ll cover include:

  • Converting and scaling existing programs and classes
  • Standing up new programs from scratch
  • Improving diversity and inclusion in tech innovation education
  • Addressing K-12 opportunities
We invite you to submit your own instructional innovations for a virtual poster session. We will also be having subgroup discussions to engage in active give and take.

So save the date for the Lean Innovation Educators Summit on July 24th, 2020.

This session is free to all, but limited to Innovation educators. You can register for the event here and/or learn more on our website. We look forward to gathering as a community of educators to shape the future of Lean Innovation Education in the COVID-19 era. 

Clayton Christensen

Say not in grief he is no more – but live in thankfulness that he was

If you’re reading my blog, odds are you know who Clayton Christensen was. He passed away this week and it was a loss to us all.

Everyone who writes about innovation stood on his shoulders.

His insights transformed the language and the practice of innovation.

Christensen changed the trajectory of my career and was the guide star for my work on innovation. I never got to say thank you.

Eye Opening
I remember the first time I read the Innovator’s Dilemma in 1997. Christensen, writing for a corporate audience, explained that there were two classes of products – sustaining and disruptive. His message was that existing companies are great at sustaining technologies and products but were ignoring the threat of disruption.

He explained that companies have a penchant for continually improving sustaining products by adding more features to solve existing customer problems, and while this maximized profit, it was a trap. Often, the sustaining product features exceed the needs of some segments and ignore the needs of others. The focus on sustaining products leaves an opening for new startups with “good enough” products (and willing to initially take lower profits) to enter underserved or unserved markets. These new entrants were the disruptors.

By targeting these overlooked segments, the new entrants could attract a broader base of customers, iterate rapidly, and adopt new improvements faster (because they have less invested infrastructure at risk). They eventually crossed a threshold where they were not only cheaper but also better or faster than the incumbent. And then they’d move upmarket into the incumbents’ markets. At that tipping point the legacy industry collapses. (See Kodak, Blockbuster, Nokia, etc.)

Christensen explained it wasn’t that existing companies didn’t see the new technologies/ products/ markets. They operated this way because their existing business models didn’t allow them to initially profit from those opportunities – so they ignored them – and continued to chase higher profitability in more-demanding segments.

Reading The Innovator’s Dilemma was a revelation. In essence, Christensen was explaining how disruptors with few resources could eat the lunch of incumbents. When I finished, I must have had 25 pages of notes. I had never read something so clear, and more importantly, so immediately applicable to what we were about to undertake.

We had just started an enterprise software company, Epiphany, and we were one of those disruptors. I remember looking at my notes and I realized I held a step-by-step playbook to run rings around incumbents. All I had to do is to exploit all the gaps and weaknesses that were inherent in incumbent companies.

We did.

Thank you, Clay for opening my eyes.

Inspiration
Christensen’s impact didn’t end there. For the last 20 years he inspired me to think differently about innovation and teaching.

Building better startups
After retiring I began to think about the nature of startup innovation and entrepreneurship. It dawned on me that the implicit assumption startups had operated under was that startups were simply smaller versions of large companies.  Over time, I realized that was wrong – large companies executed known business models, while startups searched for them.

I went back and reread the Innovator’s Dilemma and then a ton of the literature on corporate innovation. My goal was to figure out how to crack the code for startups like Christensen did for corporations. My first book The Four Steps to Epiphany was a pale shadow of his work, but it did the job. Customer Development became one of the three parts of the Lean Startup as Eric Ries and Alexander Osterwalder provided the other two components (Agile Engineering and the business model canvas.) Today, the pile of books on startup innovation and entrepreneurship likely equals the literature on corporate innovation.

Teaching a different kind of innovator
Unlike corporate executives, founders are closer to artists than executives – they see things others don’t, and they spend their careers passionately trying to bring that vision to life. That passion powers them through the inevitable ups and downs of success and failures. Therefore, for founders, entrepreneurship wasn’t a job, but a calling.

Understanding the students Clay was teaching gave me the confidence that we needed to do something different. The result was the Lean LaunchPad, I-Corps and Hacking for Defense — classes for a different type of student that emulated the startup experience.

Dropping the curtain on Innovation Theater
The next phase of my career was trying to understand why the tools we built for startups ended up as failing (i.e. Innovation Theater) in companies and government organizations, rather than creating actual innovation.

Here again I referred to Christensen’s work not only in the Innovators Dilemma, but the Innovators Solution. He had introduced the idea that customers don’t buy a product, rather than they hire it for a “job to be done.” And offered a set of heuristics for launching disruptive businesses.

I realized what he and other management thinkers had long figured out. That if you don’t engage the other parts of the organization in allowing innovation to occur, existing processes and procedures will strangle innovation in its crib. In the end companies and government agencies need an innovation doctrine – a shared body of beliefs of how innovation is practiced – and an innovation pipeline – an end to end process for delivery and deployment of innovation.

Thank you, Clay for all the inspiration to see further as an educator.

How to Measure your Life
For me, Clay’s most important lesson, one that put his life’s work in context, was his book How to Measure Your Life.

In it, Christensen reminded all of us to put the purpose of our lives front and center as we decide how to spend our time, talents, and energy. And in the end the measure of a life is not time. It’s the impact you make serving God, your family, community, and country. Your report-card is whether the world is a better place.

He touched all of us and made us better.

Thank you, Clay for reminding us what is important.

You left us way too early.

Getting Schooled – Lessons from an Adjunct

This post previously appeared in Poets and Quants

I’ve been an adjunct professor for nearly two decades. Here’s what I’ve learned.


Colleges and universities that offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to teach innovation and entrepreneurship classes may benefit from a more formal onboarding process.

The goal would be six-fold:

  1. Integrate adjuncts as partners with their entrepreneurship centers 
  2. Create repeatable and scalable processes for onboarding adjuncts
  3. Expose adjuncts to the breadth and depth of academic research in the field
  4. Expose faculty to current industry practices
  5. Create a stream of translational entrepreneurship literature for practitioners (founders and VC’s.) 
  6. Create fruitful and mutually beneficial relationships between traditional research faculty and adjunct faculty.

In my experience as both an adjunct and a guest speaker at a number of universities, I’ve observed the often-missed opportunity to build links between faculty research and practitioner experience. Entrepreneurial centers have recognized the benefits of both, but a more thoughtful effort to build stronger relationships between research and practice—and the faculty and adjuncts who are teaching – can result in better classes, strengthen connections between research and practice, build the Center’s knowledge base and enhance the reputation of the Center and its program.  (See here for what that would look like.)

An adjunct is a non-tenure track, part-time employee. Innovation and entrepreneurship programs in most schools use experienced business practitioners as lecturers or adjunct faculty to teach some or all of their classes. In research universities with entrepreneurship programs adjuncts are typically founders, VC’s or business executives. Tenure track faculty focus on research in innovation and entrepreneurship while the adjuncts teach the “practice” of entrepreneurship.

It’s Been A Trip
I’ve been an adjunct for almost 18 years, and I still remember the onboarding process at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. I started as a guest lecturer, essentially walk-on entertainment, where the minimal entry was proving that I could form complete sentences and tell engaging stories from my eight startups that illustrated key lessons in entrepreneurship.

Feeling like I had passed some test (which I later learned really was a test), I then graduated to co-teaching a class with Jerry Engel, the Founding Executive Director of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship at Haas. Here I had to master someone else’s curriculum, hold the attention of the class and impart maximum knowledge with minimum damage to the students. While I didn’t realize it, I was passing another test.  

I knew I wanted to write a book about a (then) radically new entrepreneurship idea called Customer Development (later the foundation of the Lean Startup movement). Concurrently, Jerry needed an entrepreneurial marketing course, and suggested that if I first created my class, a book would emerge from it. He was right. The Four Steps to the Epiphany, the book that launched the Lean Startup movement, was based on the course material from my first class. I don’t know who was more surprised – Jerry hearing that an adjunct wanted to create a course or me hearing Jerry say, “Sure, go ahead. We’ll get it approved.”  

And here’s where the story gets interesting. John Freeman, the Faculty Director of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship at Haas, began to mentor me as I started teaching my class. While I expected John to drop in to monitor how and what I was teaching, I was pleasantly surprised when he suggested we grab coffee once a week. Each week, over the course of the semester, John gently pointed (prodded) me to read specific papers from the academic literature that existed on customer discovery in the enterprise and adjacent topics. In exchange, I shared with him my feedback on whether the theory matched the practice and what theory was missing. And herein lies the tale.

I got a lot smarter discovering an entire universe of papers and people who had researched and thought long and hard about innovation and entrepreneurship. While no one had the exact insights about startups I was exploring, the breadth and depth of what I didn’t know was staggering. More importantly, my book, customer development, and the Lean methodology were greatly influenced by all the research that had preceded me. In hindsight, I consider it a work of translational entrepreneurship. 18 years later I’m still reading new papers and drawing new insights that allow me to further refine ideas in the classroom and outside it.

The Relationship of Faculty, Staff and Adjuncts
What I had accidentally stumbled into at U.C. Berkeley was a rare event. The director of the entrepreneurship center and the faculty research director were working as a team to build a department which explored both research and practice in depth. Together, in just a few years, they used the guest speaker > to co-teacher > to teacher methodology to build a professional faculty of over a dozen instructors.

A few lessons from that experience:
A successful adjunct program starts with the mindset of the faculty research director and the team building skills of the center director. If they recognize that the role of adjuncts is to both teach students practical lessons and to keep faculty abreast of real-world best practices, the relationship will flourish. 

However, in some schools, this faculty-adjunct relationship may become problematic. Faculty may see the role of adjuncts in their department as removing the drudgework of “teaching” from the research faculty so the faculty can pursue the higher calling of entrepreneurial research, publishing and advising PhD students. In this case, adjuncts at the entrepreneurial center are treated as a source of replaceable low-cost teaching assets (somewhere above TA’s and below PhD students.) The result is a huge missed opportunity for a collaborative relationship, one that can enhance the stature and ranking of the department.

When there is support from the faculty research director, the director of the entrepreneurship center can build a stronger program that enhances the reputation of the faculty, program and school.

At U.C. Berkeley this support eventually led the entire school to change its policy toward adjuncts, giving them formal recognition – designating them ‘professional faculty,’ creating a shared office space suite, inviting adjuncts to participate in some faculty meetings, etc.

A side effect of this type of collaboration is that the faculty-adjunct relationship offers the school an opportunity to co-create translational entrepreneurship.

Translational entrepreneurship is fancy term for linking entrepreneurial research with the work of entrepreneurs. As a process, adjuncts would read an academic paper, understand it, see if and how it can be relevant to practitioners (founders, VC’s, corporate exec or employees) and then sharing it with a wide audience.

While Jerry and John built a great process, they didn’t document it. When John Freeman passed away and Jerry Engel retired, the onboarding process went with them. Linked here is my attempt to capture some of these best practices in an “Onboarding Adjuncts Handbook” for directors of entrepreneurship centers and adjuncts.

It’s worth a look.

Lessons Learned

A small investment in building repeatable and scalable processes for onboarding adjuncts would:

  • Allow entrepreneurship centers to integrate adjuncts as partners 
  • Expose adjuncts to the breadth and depth of academic research in the field
  • Potentially create a stream of translational entrepreneurship literature for practitioners (founders and VC’s.) 
  • The result would be:
    • Better adjunct-led classes
    • Deeper connections between research and practice
    • Better and more relevant academic research
    • Enhanced reputation of the center and its program
  • See here for a suggested onboarding handbook
    • Comments, suggestions and additions welcomed

We Needed a Bigger Room – The Lean Educators Summit

It’s a bit bittersweet. We used to be able to fit all the Lean Educators in my living room and have space left over. No longer.

Turns out we needed a bigger room for the Dec 4th-5th Lean Educators Summit.

The good news is that if we’ve turned you away or you were on the waiting list we moved to a bigger venue.


It’s been almost a decade since we first started teaching the Lean Methodology. It’s remade entrepreneurship education, startup practice and innovation in companies and the government. But in all that time, we haven’t gotten a large group of educators together to talk about what it’s been like to teach Lean or the impact it’s had in their classrooms and beyond. It dawned on us that with 10 years of Lessons Learned to explore, now would be a good time.

This one class launched the National Science Foundation I-Corps program, (designed to help turn our country’s best academic research into companies), the I-Corps @ the National Institute of Health, I-Corps @ the Department of Energy, I-Corps @ NSA, Hacking for Defense and Hacking for Diplomacy, Hacking for Cities and Hacking for Non-profits. Hacking for Oceans is coming next.

Educators Sharing Best Practices
So, for the first time ever, Jerry Engel, Pete Newell and Steve Weinstein and I are getting all educators from all these groups together for a “share best practices” summit – December 4th – 5th.

We’re going to cover:

  • The effectiveness of our programs [including I-Corps and Hacking for Defense]: What we have learned so far and how to make it better
  • Customer Discovery and Lean Innovation in Academic Settings vs Non-Academic Settings such as incubators and accelerators
  • Tech Commercialization: innovators vs. entrepreneurs –  motivating scientists and engineers
  • Lean Innovation in the Enterprise, Not-for-Profit and Government – what’s different
  • International: Success and Challenges of Lean Innovation and Customer Discovery in  Europe and Asia [and South America? Australia?]
  • What’s next for Lean and entrepreneurial education
  • and much more…

Agenda is below.

Register here

See you there!

%d bloggers like this: