Through I-Corps South Instructor Academy (IA), participants learn how to instruct teams on implementing the lean startup methodology, as well as strategies for success when coaching these teams to prepare for the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program at regional and national levels. The lean startup methodology is based on listening to customers, and being on the teaching team in this coaching capacity is a significant mindset switch from our traditional concept of teaching. In this space, we are not experts in an industry and cannot tell teams what they should or should not do to have their startup endeavor be a success. Instead, we can guide teams to follow the steps in customer discovery and listen to customer needs to determine if there is a market fit.
In order to illustrate how the teaching team should engage with I-Corps teams, typically we get into full-on actor mode to role play and present as if we were I-Corps teams. At first, IA participants watch these “teams” receive feedback from the teaching team. The next day, IA participants act as the teaching team and provide feedback to the acting I-Corps team as they present. It is a fun exercise that begins to show what cohort teams and teaching teams experience. In the Instructor Academy program that recently closed, led by Melissa Heffner and Sara Henderson, we had an added advantage in showcasing the methodology as it coincided with a national I-Corps TEAMS cohort and IA participants were able to watch the program’s national teaching team provide feedback to I-Corps TEAMS.
As IA participants watched the I-Corps TEAMS, they had discussions via a group chat in real time to discuss the strategies that the teaching team was using and how they related to IA lessons. Some tips that IA participants were able to pick up were simple teaching techniques, such as remember to get student names correct. This is something I-Corps South lead instructor Keith McGreggor recognizes and values. They also saw how many times the teaching team says, “who cares?” and “why?” As the presentations went on, one observer noted, “The teaching team is not allowing as many things to slide at this point in the presentations.” The teaching team practices direct, honest feedback to allow teams to develop rapidly throughout the program.
Throughout the three days, we had a great time hosting 26 entrepreneurship instructors, representing over 15 universities across the country. At the close of the program, a participant reached out to share, “Thank you very much for this and the entire program. It was an excellent use of my time and I'll encourage my colleagues to sign up for your next session.” This is the greatest compliment we can receive and we look forward to working with his colleagues! To learn more about Instructor Academy and how it can benefit your university, visit the website here.