Thoughts on Relevance (part 3)

After discovering that their company name, Novo Watches, was already taken, the crestfallen group of students started searching for a solution. Halfway through Startup Weekend and too far into their business model to start over, they met to plot a path forward.

Once again at this point in the vacuum of a normal classroom setting, I’d have just encouraged them to move forward with the name Novo Watches. Since the “company” would disband as soon as the grade was assigned in a class, trademark and IP issues wouldn’t apply. At Startup Weekend, though, the team fully intended to bring their company into the market and hoped to win the Startup Weekend’s fellowship and funding. As such, they needed a viable business model, which meant they had to address any trademark or intellectual property issues as they appeared.

So they decided to “pivot,” which is the idea of finding a new iteration for a company whenever it’s faced with a setback, such as shifting markets or demand. Their pivot was relatively small, as their business concept was still unique with only the name infringing on an existing business. They just needed to change the name and logo (which didn’t make the graphic designer  happy). The new name they decided on? Pivot Watches.

They also won the “Play-Doh Pivot” award for the Startup Weekend, named after the Play-Doh company which pivoted their company’s product from household cleaner to cherished childhood toy. Since returning from Startup Weekend, the team continues to meet after school in an effort to launch their startup, and they’ve continued to pivot as their concept has evolved. They have a google hangout scheduled with a mover in the watch industry and have started working on customer validation for their new ideas.

As a teacher, watching this entire event unfold was almost painful for me. I wanted to rush in and help the team out and solve their problems. I wanted to tell them the best path forward. I wanted to shelter them from the real world. In other words, I wanted to completely remove the relevance from the activity in some misguided effort to “teach” my students. Ironically, these instincts to “teach” would have the exact opposite effect and kill potential learning. Wrestling with this real world issue in an authentic way that involved real consequences beyond a grade provided my students a valuable learning experience. Just as importantly, I learned a few things about relevance as well.

Image courtesy of John David Pittman
Image courtesy of John David Pittman



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