Entrepreneur Office Hours: Issue #210
This month's existential crisis is about cheating on homework
It’s the end of the semester here at Entrepreneur Office Hours headquarters, which means I’m dealing with end-of-semester grades for my Duke entrepreneurship students.
To avoid hopping on my soapbox about the fundamental problem with grades and grading systems in entrepreneurship classes (a soapbox most of you don’t care about), let’s go ahead and accept that grades are a thing teachers have to do (even people who teach entrepreneurship), and that I dutifully submit grades for my entrepreneurship students regardless of how silly I think the process is.
With that caveat out of the way, the reason I’m telling you about grades is because I caught a student cheating (in this case, passing off another student’s work as their own).
To be clear, this is nothing new. Students cheat. They always have. They always will.
What caught my attention about this particular instance of cheating was how subtle it was. In fact, I only noticed it by chance.
My accidental discovery of cheating got me thinking about how often I don’t catch cheaters. Specifically, it made me realize that, in a weird way, catching and punishing cheaters isn’t as noble or praiseworthy as it might seem because it’s less about catching cheaters and more about catching people who are bad at cheating. After all, the people who are good at it never get caught.
To be fair, most of you reading this don’t care about college students cheating on their assignments, so let’s extrapolate by applying the same concept to things you do care about in the business and entrepreneurial worlds.
For example, when you catch an employee who’s embezzling funds, you’re actually catching the employee who’s bad at embezzling funds. By definition, you’ll never catch the one who’s good at it.
Same goes for hiring/firing. The employees you fire for being bad at their jobs are just the employees who aren’t good at hiding when they’re bad at their jobs.
And the hack into your database that you notice is just from the hacker who’s bad at hacking. The hacker who’s good at hacking is someone you’ll never know was there.
Why am I mentioning all of this? I don’t actually know.
Admittedly, my writings usually have some sort of clear point or lesson I’m trying to convey about entrepreneurship. But not today. Today, I think I’m just having an existential crisis about the meanings of right and wrong, good and bad, and other various forms of moral assessment. Or, I’m just looking for anything to distract me from the drudgeries of grading.
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Office Hours Q&A
Dear Dr. Dinin,
I greatly appreciated your poll asking us what live class we would be interested in taking with you. I previously participated in your live audience growth class and it was a great experience. You are a gifted instructor, and your students must enjoy and sincerely value taking your courses.
Unfortunately, I am not as lucky as your regular students, but I would like to take an opportunity to participate in as many classes with you as possible. Which is why I am writing to express my interest in all the classes you have proposed. Because in the poll I could only choose one option, and I chose my favorite, but I would actually be interested in all of them and there was no way to express that.
I know your time is valuable and so I wanted to share my genuine respect and tell you how much I appreciate any classes you are willing to give.
I realize the email I’m answering here doesn’t technically have a question anywhere in it, but it’s so sweet and makes me sound so much cooler than I am that I figured I’d take the opportunity to stroke my ego by publishing it.
Also, it gives me a chance to talk about last week’s poll. The question I asked was if I teach another free, live, online class, what topic would you want me to cover. And the options were:
How to give an amazing pitch
How to send emails that get results
How to get your first 100 customers
Secrets to hiring a great team
How to raise VC
The winner (by a significant margin) was “How to get your first 100 customers.” I was thrilled to see this, by the way, because I figured most people would want a class about raising VC. But raising VC isn’t nearly as important as customer acquisition, and I was glad people had the right priorities.
Based on the results of the poll, my plan is to pull together a live class on how to get your first 100 customers. Look for that class to happen sometime in January or February-ish. I might also try to convince a friend to help since he’s a rockstar at this kind of stuff. Whatever happens, I’ll keep all of you updated.
Also, responding to the request for me to cover all the topics, I plan to. I just want to make sure I’m starting with what people want most, and that’s why I polled everyone.
Thanks, again, to all of you who took a moment to share your opinions. Also, if you have any other suggestions for topics you’d like covered, let me know!
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!