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Dr. Jeff Street


Practicing Entrepreneurship Exercise: Puzzles and Quilts

Description: Given the unprecedented level of uncertainty in business and entrepreneurship, students must learn how to navigate effectively in an increasingly uncertain world. This exercise consists of students starting in one room with the task of completing a jigsaw puzzle. Students are systematically moved to another room, where they are asked to create a quilt from a selection of fabric pieces. This exercise is an interactive challenge designed to help raise student awareness of the difference between predictive and creative thinking.The debrief explores jigsaw puzzles as predictive, managerial thinking and quilt making as entrepreneurial, creative thinking.

Suitable for 20 to 40 students.

Time Plan (60–70 Minutes): The exercise begins in a room with tables for each team. Students are asked to clear their table in preparation. A boxed puzzle is placed on each table. The second room (or hallway) required is a large empty space. A table (fairly long) is placed in front of this room or space, and fabric pieces are piled on the table. The piles should be messy, with all the fabrics mixed up (not sorted by size, color, or any other dimension). Puzzles and quilt pieces provided by teacher.

Faculty Member: Jeff Street; Discipline: Entrepreneurship, Strategy, Management

Teaching Note: The takeaways from the debrief are:

Puzzle as managerial thinking:

• The goal is well defined (the puzzle picture is typically on the outside of the box).

• Determine resources to achieve the goal (puzzle pieces).

• Create a plan (put pieces in piles by color, and start with the edges).

• Execute the plan (edges first).

• Measure progress along the way.

• Goal achieved – the puzzle looks just like the picture on the front of the box! Well done!


Quilt as entrepreneurial thinking:

• Entrepreneurs start with what they have rather than what they need (fabric pieces).

• When entrepreneurs are not sure what to do their only choice is to act (pick a group and get to work).

• The design of the quilt emerges over time because it’s difficult to plan (the quilt keeps changing every time a new person enters the group and the environment changes).

• You never really know when it’s quite finished.

• Creating something new requires iteration rather than linear problem solving.