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If life gives you only lemons... throw them away

I've just finished listening to The Art of Teaching Entrepreneurship and Innovation by Tina Seelig, a podcast from Stanford's excellent Technology Ventures Program.

One of the key points I took from the podcast came from a story where Tina had given a group of students $5 and challenged them to create as much value as possible in a set period. Those who did best were those who realised that the $5 was a constraint, not an asset and worked around it. Those who limited themselves to the question, "what can I do with $5?" didn't do as well as the people who asked themselves "how can I generate value".

My favourite response was the group of students who, instead of using their $5, sold the presentation slot, where they were supposed to present their results to the university, to a local company who came in and did an advertising pitch. This group realised that the assets they had transcended the obvious raw materials in front of them.

To make the point clearer, in future years Tina substituted the $5 for post-it notes or rubber bands. Whilst the results of people trying to generate value with only a handful of rubber bands was more amusing, I personally think the lesson about looking beyond the obvious was more important. But, Tina Seelig is obviously a smart lady, I'll trust her vision.

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