Friday, December 19, 2008

Classroom Exercises to Promote Entrepreneurial Thinking

The latest newsletter from The Entrepreneurship Educator suggests a classroom activity involving marshmallows and spaghetti. You can an image search on Google and find many pictures of students of different ages and in various types of courses working on this exercise.

I'll copy entire information below, but what interests me most about the exercise is the list of entrepreneurial concepts that the process teaches.

I'm wondering how I might adapt this exercise to meet the goals of my course which is Spanish & Entrepreneurship. Could the students be required to work with materials that come from outside their own cultural experiences (e.g., some type of soft candy from Latin America and fideos)? Could they be required to build a structure that has some cultural resonance from outside their own culture? In sum, I would want the exercise to reveal one of the main issues in my course--language and cultural knowledge provide insights and opportunities for the entrepreneurial process and enrich the teamwork process.

Here is the newsletter item:

"Using Marshmallows and Spaghetti to Teach the Creative Process

Minet Schindehutte at Syracuse University and Jose Gonzalez of Belmont University have found a creative way to teach the creative process.

Students get two resources – spaghetti & marshmallows – and are told to build the highest possible structure in 15 minutes using only those two materials. The winning structure captured on a photograph gets a prize -- this helps ensure only the structure remaining stable long enough to be filmed is considered as the winner.

The learning outcomes can focus around any of the following (all should be part of debriefing after the exercise):

  • To learn about working as a team and analyze their effectiveness as a team
  • To experience the product development process from start to finish without telling students what it is
  • To see how different teams interpret the same instructions and the difference “out of the box” thinking and approaches make (i.e. entrepreneurial or conformist)
  • To understand the benefits of rapid prototyping and or working with a modular approach (there is always a team that tries 3 or 4 different things from the beginning while all the others work on only one structure)
  • To examine why some students didn’t ‘get into the game’ and factors that caused some out of the creative process.
  • To discuss the role of contribution and leadership.
  • To recognize that stimulus rich environments are much more conducive to creativity than incentives
  • To understand how planning pays off – those who took time to plan tend to come up with better structures at the end than those that jumped into sticking marshmallows to noodles right away
  • To experience how competition and having fun enhances the creative process."

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