Time-Capped Education: Why 3 Days are Better Than 3 Months for College Students.

Time-Capped Education: Why 3 Days are Better Than 3 Months for College Students.

The demand for entrepreneurship education is rapidly growing at universities with almost 90% of students now believing that entrepreneurial skills are “vitally important given the new economy”. [1] With the rise of campus incubators (like those at Duke, UCLA, and Syracuse) and private incubators (like Y Combinator and Techstars), the opportunities for students to pursue ventures while still in college are dramatically increasing.

There are a number of avenues to accelerate your entrepreneurial journey – classes, incubators, etc. There is a strong case to be made for short format entrepreneurship programs as the most effective choice for that journey. After running over 100 3DS programs on 5 continents, our experience shows that entrepreneurial learning happens best in 3 days versus 3 months for college students.

Here’s why.

Time constraints create focus.

Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” For example, think about the last time you procrastinated a school assignment and maniacally cranked it out the night before. Fighting against the clock (aka clutch time) leads to a state of intense focus and efficiency.

The idea of time-capping projects is not new. Productivity hacks like the Pomodoro Technique advocate for 25 minutes of intense work output interspersed with break intervals. Goal-setting theories like the SMART criteria – making goals Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-related – also preach creating time-bound goals.

The email-marketing powerhouse, Mailchimp, is a great example of a company that manipulates time for productive sprinting. Ben Chestnut, CEO of Mailchimp, encourages his team to consistently crank out new products by having them work in cyclical 1-week stretches of intense focus. The success of Mailchimp stems from the company’s ability to harness one of the most effective creative forces out there: time.

In terms of building a company over the span of a weekend, knowing that your team only has 72 hours intensifies the process of ideation, marketing validation, prototyping, and so on. Not only does this intensity increase focused productivity, it also leads to a heightened level of execution in a simulated high-pressure startup environment.

Short form immersions empower students to move fast and break things…without fear of failure.

Let’s first talk about the importance of failure. Failing is a stigma that’s deeply ingrained in our cultural consciousness. Failure is seen as the polar opposite of success. Success and failure, however, are not dichotomous opposites but rather necessary complements. Failure is embedded in the process of creating something great since, at its core, failure is simply “trial-and-error learning.”

The key to successful failures is to fail quickly and with a purpose. First, failing early (and cheaply) allows teams to avoid the pitfall of escalating commitment – a tendency to keep throwing energy and time behind a failing course of action. Scrapping a bad product you built in two days is cognitively and emotionally easier than scrapping a bad product you’ve been working on for the past two months. Secondly, successful failures have end goals in mind. They disprove or validate assumptions in order to reiterate a product or plan of action.

For short burst formats like 3 Day Startup, students are given permission to fail. Since the level of expectations is different for a 3-day event versus a 3-month program, students can view the exercise as a safe space for entrepreneurial experimentation. The 3DS “laboratory” gives students permission to fail and fail quickly.

Students can commit for 3 days.

Lastly, university students are generally resource-crunched individuals when it comes to time and money. While entrepreneurs obviously have to make professional and personal sacrifices, it’s impractical to ask students to make a long-term commitment to a startup idea without some level of validation. It’s like getting married without a few first dates.

A three day immersion is a manageable short-term commitment that’s less intrusive on the life of a university student. Once startup ideas are validated and show promise, students should take it to the next level and apply for that incubator or accelerator program.

[1] Time’s How Entrepreneurship Can Fix Young America

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