B-school students in Professor Jim Patell’s "Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability" course at Stanford University head to places like Burma to examine farming and irrigation methods in rural areas.
Business students are put in teams with engineers, designers, education students, computer scientists, even literature students, to confront a major problem in the developing world. Then they design and build working prototypes to attempt to correct it. The course’s first offering resulted in the creation of a company called Cosmos Ignite Innovations that produces low-cost lighting systems for developing countries.
Patell says the most important component of the course is learning that it’s O.K. to fail. "If you don’t get something the first nine times, then you’re encouraged to get it on the tenth, because this is school," he says. "We’re not expected to solve these problems."