2018 Seminar

Problem solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship

  • Welcome to Problem solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
  • This course is designed to help you develop your thinking and planning skills.
  • You will spend most of your time in class working with other students.
  • This is not a lecture class.
  • You will choose a problem or issue that you want to “fix”.
  • You will then deeply research your issue or problem.
  • After you understand your issue or problem, you will create a business plan or action plan that solves the problem or issue.
  • You will be making 4 presentations about your plan.
  • You are expected to learn how to effectively use a variety of apps such as:
    • PowerPoint or other presentation apps.
    • Planning tools such as mind map and outline apps.
    • Basic blogging tools.
    • Data and graphing apps.
    • Writing tools such as Hemingwayapp and Grammarly.
  • The class will be challenging, very challenging.
  • Syllabus

Week 15


Week 14 (July 18)


  • Preparation for final presentations.


  • Prepare a 12-15 minute presentation explaining your MVP.
  • Have a good hook in your introduction.
  • Use a maximum of 5 visual aids.
  • Make sure you include your SWOT analysis.
  • Also make sure that you explain benefits not features.
  • Clearly explain the problem and the solution.
  • Practice.

Week 13 (July 11)

Class canceled.

Week 12

What is your minimally viable product (MVP)?



  • Begin to plan out your final presentation. This will be a 12-15 minute talk.
  • Make sure you find data that support your claims.
  • Make a detailed mind map or outline of your ideas.
  • Please save your mind map or outline as a PDF.
  • Send your mind maps or outlines to the email address. The subject line and file name should be:

assigned student number_Week 12_HW.

  • You will be working on your final presentations for the rest of the semester. Class time will be spent on sharing your mind maps or outlines and slides with classmates to get feedback.
  • Your final presentations will be given on July 25.

Week 11

Explaining and describing benefits.


  • Explaining your benefits.
  • Group shared reading task:
    • Understanding your user. Read this article from Entrepreneur Magazine about how to market your product.


  • Read this article from Medium about Minimal Viable Products (MVP).
  • Use all the tools and strategies available to you so that you can understand the article.
  • Make an outline or mind map of your first MVP on paper.
  • Use it to prepare a 4-5 minute presentation that explains your MVP with a clear focus on the benefits. This will be a graded presentation.

Week 10

Understanding features and benefits.


  • Review of SWOT.
    • It is important that you understand the terms, ideas, and how to use them to analyze your idea.
  • Group work explaining your SWOT analysis to your classmates. This will take up most of the class.
  • Introduction to features and benefits. In your groups, view this short presentation about features and benefits. Make sure you completely understand what is explained.
  • More from the Dummies website. Do you think I really like their stuff?


  • Read the Dummies guide to features and benefits again.

  • Make a chart/table of the features and benefits of your idea.

  • Email your chart/table to me using the class email address. The subject line should be F week 10 homework. The file name should be “F_ week10_hw”. Please do not include the “ marks.

  • Print out your chart/table and bring it to class next week.

Week 9

Methods and systems for assessing goals and objectives.


  • Explaining your revised plan to classmates while they play devil’s advocate.
  • Understanding and using a SWOT analysis.


  • Using your outline, continue to work on the SWOT analysis of your plan. You should print out the form and fill out each of the sections.

  • Bring your SWOT analysis to the next class.

Week 8

Presenting your first draft of a business/action plan (midterm presentation).

Special notice: I will be on time for the class.


  • Peer editing of outlines.
  • Problem statement explanations.
  • Solution statement explanations.
  • Practice presenting your draft business/project plan.


  • Based on the feedback you received in class, add more levels of details to your plan.
  • Add a new section outlining how you will implement your plan.
  • Please try using these online writing tools to help improve your writing:
  • Send the updated outline to me using the email address I give you in class.
  • Name your file this way: Assigned student number_Week8_Updated outline. It should look like this: F65_Week8_Updated outline.

    Week 7

    Developing a first draft of a business/action plan.


  • Review.

  • More practice with playing devil’s advocate and responding to questions.

  • What does a business plan really do?

  • What information is needed?

  • What is an executive summary?

  • Turning a mind map into an outline.


  • Make a mind map that clearly explains the problem you are trying to solve and your solutions.

  • Turn your mind map into a properly structured outline with 2 sections:

    • Section 1: Problem
    • Section 2: Solutions
  • Send the outline to me using the email address I give you in class.

  • Name your file this way: Assigned student number_Week7_outline. It should look like this: F65_Week7_outline.

Week 6

Different kinds of business/action plans.



  • Using the questions asked by your classmates, update your mind map. Make sure you add extra levels of nodes to your mind maps.
  • Print out 2 copies of your mind map and bring it to the next class.
  • Decide which type of business plan is best for your project. Make sure you can explain your thinking to your classmates in the next class.

Week 5

Understanding business/action plans.


  • Review.
  • Collaborative reading exercise. Take a look at this article from Inc. magazine about “Why you should start your business today”.
  • Business plan discussion. For your idea that you explained last week, try to answer the questions in the “WRITING BUSINESS PLANS: HOW TO IDENTIFY CUSTOMERS AND COMPETITORS” section in the Dummies Cheat Sheet. If your plan is not a business, change “customer” to “user”.
  • Making the plan work. In your groups, make sure that all members understand the ideas and vocabulary for the “MAKING A BUSINESS PLAN WORK” section.
  • If we have time, we will watch the Shawn Achor TED Talk. If not, please watch it at home.


  • Use a mind map to answer the questions below:
    • Explain the need for your product or solution.
    • Clearly describe your product or service.
    • What is the target market, or what group of people would benefit?
    • What are the unique benefits of your idea?
    • Who are your competitors?
  • Print out 2 copies of your mind map and bring them to class.
  • Be prepared to use your mind maps as a tool for working with other students in the class next week. You will be practicing how to be “a devil’s advocate”.

Week 4

Introducing your problem/issue to the class.


  • Review. Please cover the previous 3 classes.
  • Presenting your problem/issue. Please use the evaluation form.
  • What is a business/action plan?


  • Please read the Business Plans for Dummies Cheat Sheet.

  • Make sure you understand the basic ideas and can explain them to your classmates next week.

    Week 3

    Framing a problem and asking the right questions.


  • Review.

    • What did we do?
    • What were the key ideas or most important ideas?
    • How can you use what you learned in another class or in your life?
  • Spaghetti sauce discussion. Please see the week 2 homework section.

  • Framing a problem and asking questions.


  • Find a problem or issue that needs to be solved. This can be a business problem, a social issue that needs to be addressed, or a need that people have that is not being met. Here are some examples:
    • Create a web app that helps students find other students for studying together.
    • Create a business plan that gets students to school from Wadamachi, Yokohama, and Mitsuzawa stations.
    • Find a solution for homeless people living in Yokohama or Tokyo.
  • Make a mind map of the problem you choose. Make sure to include multiple causes for why the problem exists. Also provide concrete details about the problem.
  • Using your mind map, prepare a 3-4 minute small group presentation about your problem.
  • Please follow the directions I give you in class about structuring the presentation.

Week 2

Introduction to creative thinking and problem solving.



  • First, watch the Malcolm Gladwell talk about Choice, happiness, and spaghetti sauce.

  • Second, answer the following questions. Make sure you think carefully and deeply about the questions and your answers. Make notes and be prepared to discuss your ideas in class next week.

    • Why does Gladwell admire Moskowitz?
    • What did Moskowitz do that is important?
    • What does “There is no perfect Pepsi; there are only perfect Pepsis” mean?
    • What did Moskowitz discover about spaghetti sauce?
    • What did Gladwell mean when he said “Most of you like milky, weak coffee.”
    • How can Moskowitz’ ideas be used in other fields, such as medicine, education, business, product design….?
    • Were you convinced by Gladwell’s talk?
    • How did he persuade you to accept his ideas? Please think about this. Was his presentation structured as an argument or usual PowerPoint presentation? Or did he do something differently?

Week 1

What is innovation and entrepreneurship?


  • Brief introduction.