Classes begin next Monday. There is library orientation with the new MBA daytime program students on Wednesday, but otherwise this is a pretty open week. Last week I wrapped up creating the syllabus and required curriculum committee forms for my new Coleman class (a post on that coming soon). Also last week I had another two and a half hour workshop with German Fulbright students on feasibility research for German-based business ideas.
A year ago I wrote in some detail about my first experience with such a workshop including some dissatisfaction with my performance. This session went better. The entrepreneurship instructor and I used the same general agenda as last time, beginning with the student describing their business ideas. Next we had students discuss what kind of market information (usually consumer-) a few of the students would need to know before considering the feasibility of their ideas.
Then the students accessed Euromonitor Passport GMID looking for a relevant German market report. For starters I encouraged them to skim the contents of the Consumer Lifestyles in Germany report. That way everyone would have a successful research attempt early in the game. Some students ended up using the Demographics 2030 report with its population heat map; others found product-specific reports relevant to their ideas.
For phase two of their research, the students accessed demographic data for their target German city or state. A few students had opening difficulties finding data for their target place, but teamwork with a classmate usually helped out. The instructor and I chatted with most of the students one-on-one about their specific projects during this time.
We ended with discussions of what to do about missing data and how to find alternative sources, including options for primary market research.
While everyone was ready for lunch by the end of the workshop, I felt more positive about what happened compared to a year ago. The students knew what was expected of them and didn’t seem to get frustrated, even when the desired data wasn’t available. What made a difference? It’s hard to know for sure, but perhaps for these reasons:
- Emphasizing several times at the beginning that the students will be asked to research their topics during the session;
- Discussing early that sometimes the desired data doesn’t exist, or would have to be collected through primary research;
- Having everyone begin with the lifestyles report in GMID, ensuring a good start to the hands-on research time;
- Encouraging students to help each other out with their demographics data;
- The librarian not worrying so much about the deutsche Wörter. Since my German is so rusty, I didn’t try to become expert on the German demographic data sites this time; however, I was able to read enough of their table headers to understand and discuss with the students what they had found.
It was fun finding personal connections with some of the students. One of the students was exploring the idea of a cheesecake store and so for some reason I brought up the Cheesecake Factory (competitive intelligence?) and alluded to Penny from the Big Bang Theory, which indeed many of the German students do watch. I also discussed what Berlin was like in 1990 with a Berliner student who might not have been born back then.
I hope the Germans come back next summer.