“You have to have a system that rewards innovation – which means almost by definition rewarding failure – because you can’t innovate and be creative without failing a lot of the time.” — Howard Morgan
I’ve tried lots of things in teaching, research and outreach. Here are some of my more spectacular failures:
- eCornell course. early in the life of eCornell, I spent months building an on-line course only to be eliminated from their strategic plan.
- Lesson: Choose partners carefully.
- Positive Outcome: The work resulted in re-working my approach to teaching my own on-campus course.
- NSF grant. I crafted an NSF grant for a large, shared online database of digital video on entrepreneurship content for educators in Science, Teaching, Engineering and Math and got about 20 universities on board. We were rejected twice.
- Lesson: Just because your idea is good and you have strong partners does not guarantee others will see value.
- Positive Outcome: We recycled much of the grant to get funding for eClips, focusing just on Cornell, rather than all the other universities.
- Online Course with Continuing Education. We created and promoted an online Business Planning series, but after the initial offering we determined that the demand that we generated did not result in enough profit. We failed fast and learned that marketing to a disperse audience (prospective entrepreneurs) with small budgets is difficult.
- Lesson: If you build it, they will not necessarily come.
- Positive Outcome: I learned how to do good voiceovers, which has been very useful in creating podcasts.
- Entrepreneur Education and Outreach Program. Although I don’t have a formal extension appointment, I always wanted to share the things I have developed with small farms and other firms. I constructed the EEO program during one of my sabbatical leaves. It never really got off the ground.
- Lesson: Good outreach cannot be done without high touch as well as high tech.
- Positive Outcome: I have had many inquiries over the years and I hope that the website, although not fancy, has helped some small businesses.
I have also had successes:
- eClips. For more details, see here.
- Online, real time trading simulation. In the late 80s, with one of my students, John Pinna, I put together a real-time trading system so my students could practice trading in the futures and options markets. I ordered a little satellite dish and mounted it (illegally?) on top of Warren Hall, snaking the wire down from the roof and through my window to a pricing terminal, which I would put outside my office during the day so students could monitor prices.
- Lesson: Students love to get their hands dirty.
- Positive Outcome: One of the most engaged students at that time stayed in touch over the years and is now my business partner, Tony Eisenhut. He still remembers playing that game!
- Concept Mapping. I learned about concept maps early on in my academic career. C-maps are a diagram that show relationships between and among concepts. I have used them extensively in working with graduate students and in my research.
- Lesson: Visual representations can clarify.
- Positive Outcome: I met my husband, Tom Owens, when I was giving
- Small Business Management Workshop. This innovation was one I adapted from a course taught by my predecessor. For about ten years, I worked with local businesses to identify focused problems that student teams could tackle in my course. It was time intensive and eventually I had to sacrifice it for other teaching responsibilities, but it remains my favorite teaching experience.
- Lesson: Experiential learning is messy, fun, and profoundly meaningful.
- Positive Outcome: To this day, I get email from students who say this was the most influential experience during their years at Cornell.
- Live Case Study in Real Time. See my teaching note on this here. In the spring of 2009, in my course on business planning, I experimented with a real-time framework by selecting and bringing an entrepreneurial team into the classroom virtually (via Skype) in short bursts on a regular basis throughout the semester to discuss current issues facing the company and track the progress of the company.
- Lesson: You don’t need a lot of money to be innovative if you are using some of the newer technologies.
- Positive Outcome: I am currently using the material generated to create a multi-media case.
Stay tuned for more!