“How to Create a Think Tank in Your Classroom”
It happens every Spring – ideas come to life in elementary and middle schools across the country. The end of the school year is in sight, curriculums are on track, and teachers are given the freedom to incorporate projects that interweave creativity, inventions, and out of the box thinking.
This is also the time of year when my inbox explodes with requests for author visits to help inspire these young minds to consider the world of entrepreneurship. I’ve spoken at “Invention Conventions,” listened to “Inventor Reports,” helped kids “Launch a Business,” and inspired students at “Career Days” – all wonderful ways to young minds thinking about the real world and how their ideas can change the world.
So how can you create a Think Tank in your classroom?
First, read how other people built their businesses.
Reading how others did it is one of the most important teaching strategies in business school so why shouldn’t it work for elementary and middle schools? Called Case Studies, they are the foundation for teaching MBA programs at Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, and Northwestern’s business schools. After graduating business school, I created a writing company that composed MBA case studies for some of the top business schools in the world. And it was those case studies that inspired my nonfiction children’s book series, From an Idea to… (LEGO, Nike, Google, Disney) as well as my new book entitled Idea Makers: 15 Fearless Female Entrepreneurs.
Lessons of perseverance, bravery, resilience, and creativity run deep throughout all my children’s books. They help inspire kids to think about their own ideas and teach them the steps it takes to turn an idea into reality.
Next, hold a Brainstorming Session
Most great ideas come from a person’s passion. Think Steve Jobs with computers, Walt Disney with animation, and Milton Hershey with candy. Each of these founders knew their industry inside and out and loved spending every waking minute working on it. Entrepreneurs need to have passion for their idea. So, it’s important that kids really understand who they are and where their passions lie. Here is one of my favorite brainstorming session exercises:
- Have each student write their name in the middle of a piece of paper and circle it.
- Next, have them write 4-10 things that is important to them and helps define them. I’ll call these Circles of Passion. This could be a sport, an instrument, a relative, a food they like to cook, a friend, a pet, a toy, a language… you get the point. Now circle each of those words.
- From those 4-10 circles comes the real idea generation. Each student should think about those words. I mean really think about them. If it’s a sport, for example, what do you love about it, what do you hate about it, what problems are there with the equipment or the field, the uniform or the shoes or their hair when they play it, etc. If the child wrote down a sibling or cousin or grandma, what’s special about them, what do you admire about them, what do they struggle with or what do you help them with? There could be 20 branches coming from one passion and zero coming from another.
- Looking down at the child’s paper, he or she should tons of words and phrases on their paper. Now have the student ask themselves: Is there a problem in here? Could they solve that problem?
Keep these business concepts in mind
A few ideas should start to pop out now. Hooray! Now it’s time for your students consider some business concepts to see if their idea has legs. We call these the 4 P’s in business school.
- PRODUCT: What does your product do? What will it look like? What will the packaging look like? Take water, for example. You can find water bottles in plastic, aluminum, and glass. You can find small bottles, tall bottles, skinny bottles, fat bottles. Some water is from spring water, some from Fiji or Iceland, some are just purified tap water.
- PRICE: How much it would cost to create the product? How much could it sell for? This is a great time to incorporate math into discussions about profit margins.
- PLACE: Place is another way to say distribution. Where will the product be sold? Some examples include online, Amazon, Walmart, boutique stores, farmer’s market, door-to-door, etc. What are the steps to get the product into each of these options?
- PROMOTION: How do people find out about the product or service? Examples include : social media, flyers, PR, etc.
Now it’s time to show off these ideas!
Consider holding a pitch day in your classroom or a Shark Tank competition with parent volunteer judges. Another idea is to hold a town fair where all the kids display their idea and parents are invited to visit each business and listen to their pitches.
Good luck and be sure to tag me if you post it online! @LoweySichol
Published March 1st, 2022 by Chicago Review Press
About the Book: Entrepreneurship can change your life—and even the world.
Idea Makers shares the incredible stories of 15 women who changed the world through their entrepreneurship. Author Lowey Bundy Sichol presents five industries that women are leading in recent years: food, fashion and clothing, health and beauty, science and technology, and education.
Jenn Hyman brought couture fashion to everyday women with her idea to Rent the Runway. Morgan DeBaun supports Black journalists through Blavity. And Sandra Oh Lin is inspiring kids everywhere with KiwiCo activity boxes.
Readers learn about how the women featured risked their early careers, gave up their salaries, and sometimes even went against the approval of their families to follow their passions and start their own businesses. Today, these women are modern leaders worth billions of dollars and employing tens of thousands of individuals.
Young women today are embracing innovation and idea making, and the women profiled in Idea Makers will show them how that can change the world.
“Idea Makers: 15 Fearless Female Entrepreneurs leads with the notion that in growing the entrepreneurs of the future, representation matters.” —Suzanne Schaefer, Vice President, Bain & Company
“Lowey’s book is written with kids in mind—curious, creative, and ambitious kids.” —Rebecca Burstein, Founder and Principal, Burst Marketing Strategy
“It’s rare to find books that capture the attention of older and young readers alike, but Lowey Sichol has done it again.” —Karen Loggia, Director of Marketing and Communications, Tension Corporation
“A must read for every kid (and adult) who has a crazy idea and big dreams! In Idea Makers, Lowey Sichol tells the inspirational stories of 15 female entrepreneurs who had the vision, passion, and determination to build iconic companies.” —Alexis McLaughlin, CEO, 2020 On-Site
“This book is amazing! It is full of empowering stories that are sure to inspire a new generation of creative thinkers and future entrepreneurs. Readers are going to love it!” —Todd Burleson, School Library Journal 2016 Librarian of the Year
“Informative and inspiring, Idea Makers tells the transformational stories of 15 amazing women entrepreneurs. Lowey Sichol skillfully brings each of those stories to life with lessons of creativity, perseverance and passion.” —Kevin Lane Keller, E.B. Osborn Professor of Marketing, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College
About the Author: Lowey Bundy Sichol (her last name rhymes with pickle) is an award-winning children’s author with an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. She is a leading expert in teaching business and entrepreneurship to kids. Lowey’s nonfiction series, From an Idea to… is the world’s first business and entrepreneurship book series for kids, and has received a 2020 Best STEM Book, a Junior Library Guild Gold Selection, and a 2020 ILA-CBC Children’s Choices Book, among others. She is also the founder of Kids Idea Tank, the nation’s biggest entrepreneurship competition for kids age 13 and younger. She lives near Chicago, Illinois. Visit her online at www.loweybundysichol.com, https://twitter.com/LoweySichol, and https://www.instagram.com/loweysichol/.
Thank you so much for this amazing post about pushing our students to the next level!