Field Course: Evaluating the Entrepreneurial Opportunity - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Field Course: Evaluating the Entrepreneurial Opportunity

Course Number 6626

Senior Lecturer Michael J. Roberts
Fall; Q1; Q2; 3 credits
8 2-hour sessions
Paper/project
Enrollment limited to 35

NOTE: The course will meet in the i-lab

Career Focus

This field course is designed for students who have an idea for a business that they wish to explore and further develop in the context of a field study. It is not necessarily expected that the output of the field study will be a business plan, or even an affirmative decision to proceed. Rather, the field study is an opportunity to dig into the idea and determine if it is, in fact, viable. The course is targeted to those students who believe they may seriously consider an entrepreneurial opportunity early in their careers, although it is hoped that the skills developed will prove valuable at any juncture.

This course will be especially helpful to students who plan to develop a business plan in the second semester, as part of another course or in conjunction with the Business Plan Competition.

In order to have a productive experience students (individually, or with their team) must enter the course with a specific idea they wish to explore. The course is not an appropriate vehicle for "coming up with" an idea.

Note that students will be encouraged (but not required) to use lean start-up principles to actually begin to implement a "MVP" version of their idea as a way of testing its viability (although not without some customer research first).

Educational Objectives

Students will be expected to conduct both primary and secondary research to address an important question or set of questions related to the development of the opportunities they have identified. Each student, either individually or as a team, will frame a set of questions relevant to the opportunity, gather and analyze data appropriate to address those questions (including data from any MVP), draw conclusions and prepare a written opportunity assessment based on the findings.

Given that students must begin the course with a business idea in mind, the following will prove a useful starting point:.

  • A description of the basic business idea;
  • An articulation of the questions surrounding this idea that the field study is designed to explore;
  • The analysis required to answer those questions;
  • The data required to perform that analysis; and,
  • An expectation of where that data will come from.

It is a requirement that students begin the course with a concrete idea and therefore, students who are enrolled through the EC Preregistration process should email a memo outlining the above to mroberts@hbs.edu prior to the first class.

Course Content and Organization

This seminar will include periodic weekly classroom sessions for ALL students throughout the semester. These sessions will serve as guideposts and milestones along the process of analyzing the opportunity. Students must be comfortable discussing and presenting their ideas to the class. Classroom sessions will include discussions related to idea generation and opportunity analysis, research techniques (i.e. survey and interview protocol development). Deliverables will include a paper. Students may work individually or in teams. Grading: Class Participation (30%); Intermediate work products (20%); Final Paper (50%).