“What are the key priorities you need to focus on when you launch a new startup,” is a question that I asked the students in my Entrepreneurial Discussion Group class on Friday afternoon. “Don’t answer,” I told them, “just think about it for a moment then let’s try this exercise before you answer.”
I’ve done this exercise on several occasions and I always enjoy the look on the student’s faces when I explain to them their task.
“Ok, let’s divide you into your discussion teams,” I tell them. The students quickly divide into 5 groups of six students spread around the classroom.
“Now, here is your assignment,” I say with a smile. “For the next 15 minutes I want each team to design and build their ideal entrepreneurial resort using these Legos. Imagine that you are creating a resort to house new startups for 1-4 week stays and you need to furnish the right environment to help them succeed… go!”
I hand out the Legos and set the timer and step back to watch what they do. Team-1 starts out strong grabbing a green board and a handful of blocks that they spread on the table and start analyzing. Team-2 starts out fast too although they don’t have a green board and instead improvise by building walls as their perimeter. Team-5 stumbles at first, only later do I find out that some of the team members have never played with Legos before – that was a first!
“Time’s up,” I shout as my iPhone sounds the 15-minute alarm. “Team-1, tell us what you created.”
Each team takes turn and shares their creation with the class. Team-1 indicates the creation of a collaboration room that allows the startup members to focus. Team-2 introduces the concept of a Tower of Experts where entrepreneurs can seek mentorship and advice. Team-3 uses architecture with symbolism of opportunity, focus and risk taking to keep the visitors mind on the task at hand. Team-4 shows off a sleek air transport that can ferry the entrepreneurs quickly to meet with customers and back to the resort.
After the last team presents I summarize the list of features that each of the teams created in their Entrepreneurial Resorts and the corresponding values. Then, I pull back the screen and show them the list I jotted down before they started of the top 5 things first-time entrepreneurs often tell me they need when starting a company: An office, business cards, a website, an LLC, a new computer.
Then I enumerate the top 5 things my students came up when creating their Entrepreneurial Resorts: Collaboration, access to experts, focus on priorities, efficiency and easy access to customers.
As I expected… the teams were spot-on!
Then I explain to my students the secret to this process… Basically, it’s really hard to be creative and visionary about something that you are completely immersed in the granular tasks of executing. You need to find a way of stepping back and changing your perspective sometimes to come up with the best solutions.
The Entrepreneurial Resort rarely fails to shine a bright light on the critical things you need as a startup… If you haven’t visited one I strongly encourage you to check one out! 🙂