One of the first questions I’m asked about the Idea Maker course is whether it can be used for just a few classes or whether it’s a semester-long thing.

And the short answer is: both, and everything in between!

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time

In my classes I’ve had the good fortune of being able to assign the Idea Maker course and the associated tools as the key resource – sort of like a ‘super textbook’ for a large portion of a semester, e.g. 8-10 weeks. And I do this using an activity I put into my course outline under the title of the Venture Design Studio. I’ll write more about the VDS soon, including how to structure the assessment and how to get the students assessing their own ideas.

But you don’t need to have that kind of time available in your semester and here I wanted to give you a few introductory examples of how you might go about integrating the material into your course in different ways.

Example 1 – If you only have a hour or two to spend on it in class

Sometimes I have to meet the demands of a full curriculum and just don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to ideation. Or I might be able to make some more wholesale changes next semester but don’t have the room this time around.

But I still want my students to have the benefit of working with better ideas.

There are two ways to handle this:

1. Use the toolkit to complement what you’re already doing in the classroom

The first quick way in is to point your students at the idea generation tools in our free toolkit »  You can do an awful lot with these in a short period of time and although you may have to do some framing, the tools are designed to fit right in and complement what you’re already doing.

2. Assign the course as a project

Another option is to assign parts or all of the Idea Maker Course » as an assignment or project that runs in the background while you’re doing other things in the classroom. The course is made up of five ‘days’ of content but it’s designed to be a self-paced and self-contained learning experience.

We have entrepreneurs and corporate innovators who go through the whole thing without any traditional classroom time or teacher support, and there’s no reason your students won’t be able to do the same thing. If this is of interest to you then we encourage you to get engaged with the Idea Maker for Educators version of the course »

The outcomes here would be that your students have a portfolio of high potential ideas ready to use in your course.

Example 2 – If you have a few lecture hours spread over two weeks

In this example, I want to show how I might structure things in a few lecture hours spread over two weeks. This might be the case when I’m teaching a class on business planning – or involving business modeling, design thinking, or the Lean Startup – where I want my students to be working with some halfway decent ideas. Because we all know that everything goes more smoothly when they are!

In this example we’ll make use of days 1 and 2 of the Idea Maker course (Day 1: Getting Your Idea Down and Day 2: Pitching Yourself and Your Idea). And by having the students seek feedback we also introduce them to the tools for assessing their own and other people’s ideas (the tools for Assessing and Validating your Ideas). You don’t have to include all of these if you don’t want, and you can include more (see below). I’m just doing it this way here as an example.

Click to expand each of the sample weeks below:

Week 1: Welcome and some idea generation

Welcome students! This is our first week together. We’ll be getting to know each other a little, and you’ll learn what the course is all about. We’ll be covering some pretty important stuff, you’ll have a few things to complete to get your feet under you, and we’ll formally begin learning how to come up with really big value ideas.

DateActivities and topicsThings due or assigned
MondayWelcome and introduction (to each other and to the course). Today we’ll meet each other, I will provide an introductory lecture, and I’ll review the course outline.Before next class you need to complete your Personal Ideastorming assignment
WednesdayBring your Personal Ideastorming assignment with you to class today. Today we will do some Group Ideastorming which will include:
  • Sharing and letting your individual ideas emerge
  • Pre-assessing them as a group
  • Converging on a ’best’ idea
Expect to share and listen in a dynamic hour-long session. All of this will be to help demonstrate the ideation process and set the stage for your own work to develop your ideas.
Before next class you need to:
FridayFor class today:
  1. Bring your Idea Napkin » from the first day of the Idea Maker Course
  2. Have the link to your Idea Page » ready to share with others
In class we will workshop your Idea Napkins and create feedback teams - colleagues to whom you’ll send your Idea Pages for feedback over the weekend. You’ll also have a chance to work on your ideas during the class. Keep in mind that everything we’re doing now is meant to help you come up with a better concept on which to work throughout the term.
Over the weekend:
  • Complete and send your Idea Page to everyone in your feedback team, asking them to give you feedback in the embedded comments section at the bottom of the page (this will encourage them to learn the scoring system found here »)
  • Revise your Idea Napkin and Idea Page based on the feedback you receive

Week 2: Landing on an early stage concept

Welcome back! Coming into this second week you should have an idea in hand and well articulated in the form of an Idea Napkin and an Idea Page. It won’t be the best idea in the world (yet) or even your final version of the idea. But you have it down and you should have been putting in the time to get feedback from others – which will help and which is more than many innovators do at this early stage. This week we’re going to go a little deeper to help ensure you have the most impactful and feasible venture opportunity possible as a starting point, and then we’ll begin to transition into the rest of the course.

DateActivities and topicsThings due or assigned
MondayFor class today:
  1. Have the link to your current Idea Page » ready to demonstrate the feedback you have received
  2. Bring your current / updated Idea Napkin » that you worked on over the weekend
In class I’ll introduce and we will begin the work of developing two pitches to accompany your idea: 1) a concept pitch; and 2) a personal pitch. These will form the basis of Day 2 of the Idea Maker course between now and Wednesday …
Before next class you need to:
WednesdayBe ready today to deliver your personal pitch and your concept pitch in front of others. You’re going to see that you now have two ’prototypes’ of your idea:
  • The concept, i.e. what’s on your best Idea Napkin
  • The story, i.e. what’s in your pitches
We’ll work on these and, especially, on getting you some feedback. Coming out of today you should be ready to cut new ’best’ versions of the concept and pitches, and put these into an updated version of your Idea Page.
Before next class you need to:
  • Revisit Day 1 and Day 2 of the Idea Maker course content to revise your Idea Page (and the Idea Napkin and pitches as part of the process)
FridayIn class today we’ll begin the transition from ideation to the next stages of the course. We’ll also look at the weaknesses in our process so far (including the fact that you haven’t put anything in front of a potential customer, or supplier, or partner) and what you can do about it as we proceed in the course. I will also introduce our next set of activities.Over the weekend:
  • Do any work you can to revise and iterate on your idea - the more you can iterate and pivot it now, the easier things will be for you throughout the course!

Subsequent weeks: Getting on with your course

Note: I won’t go into the subsequent weeks here. Just wanted to emphasize that you should be ready to pick up with / segue into your regular course schedule with better ideas and a bit of a mindset shift in hand. And, because of our deliberate bridges out to them, also having some of the basic competencies and cultures under development for processes such as business modeling, design thinking, lean startup, and others.

Of course, you don’t have to stop with what we’ve seen here. You can also pepper later tools and stages of the process throughout your course as you see fit. Or go through a deeper version of the process that includes value proposition design and what we call ‘breaking it and better it’ – both of which are part of the broader Idea Maker course.

Here I’ve assumed a traditional lecture hour structure with three hours a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Your schedule might be different, of course. I regularly adjust the same content to fall between lecture and lab hours, on two days a week, and even on one night a week.

I also assume that you’re an educator signed up with access to the Idea Maker Course for Educators »  and that your students will have access to the same course, including our Idea Pages »  Of course you don’t need to use all of these components and, as I do below, you can draw upon only some of them and all of the tools in our free toolkit »

Finally, I also refer to a few other activities, such as the Minefield Activity and the notion of Personal Ideastorming. I’ll be getting to these soon too as other entries in this Educator’s Hub but for now just wanted you to see how they fit.

Example 3 – If you have more class time

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been lucky at several universities now to be able to assign the Idea Maker course and the associated tools as a sort of ‘super textbook’ for a large portion of a semester. It provides a

I developed the notion of a Venture Design Studio, for example, that’s still in use at Mount Royal University in Calgary and which was based on many of the same tools and approaches used in the course. I delivered a version to students in a focused bootcamp mode at Millikin University and at the Monterrey Institute for Technology and Higher Education. And I’ve taught it that way to engineering students at the University of Calgary several times now.

The Venture Design Studio is a whole post to this hub on its own so I’ll get to that soon, including how to structure the assessment and how to get the students assessing their own ideas.

In the meantime though I want to point you to the quick nav menu containing the full course topic list – it’s the little black tab at the bottom right side of every page with the light bulb () on it.

If you haven’t signed up for the Idea Maker Course for Educators »  yet, you can peruse the outline and look at the sample lessons (check out the little icons).

If you have signed up then, as you know, you can peruse all of the content and when signed in you can also access the main course menu »

A few more quick thoughts … using it in your competitions or in your incubator / accelerator

We’re also quite excited about supporting people who want to use all or parts of the Idea Maker Course to make their idea competition or tournament better.

Or as the first stage in a business model or business planning competition – to get better ideas in the front end.

(Imagine how much better your participants ideas might be if they went through a focused, supported, self-paced curriculum. And if they each came with an Idea Page » with which they could get early feedback, pre-assess, share with others, and submit to you!)

Or as a support for students and entrepreneurs working in a incubator or accelerator. We meet so many people who

More on these possibilities soon.

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to be in touch.

And thanks for being here!

Alex.

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