Instructor resources

If you’re an instructor teaching students about entrepreneurship, one of your key objectives may be to equip them with an entrepreneurial mindset.  If you’re doing that in the introductory course, so much the better, because Break the Rules! will give them six tangible and actionable mindsets that they can examine in case studies and/or practice in a real-world exercises or a project that you assign to them. And, even better,  the six mindsets are there to take with them as they explore the rest of your entrepreneurship curriculum.

At the end of each of Chapters 2 through 7, they’ll get several pages of key lessons that can be taken away from that chapter’s case studies, so they can see how the six mindsets have been applied by some of today’s most inspiring entrepreneurs – and equally importantly, by others who have stumbled or failed. They’ll also get a few pages of advice in each chapter about practical steps they can take now to make each of the mindsets their own.

As Steve Blank, the godfather of the lean startup movement, reminds us, most of what needs to be learned about the prospects for any new venture are likely found “out of the building” and outside your and John’s classrooms The same thing is true for what needs to be learned about entrepreneurship, and about being or becoming an entrepreneur, more generally. Thus, John’s advice to you is to get your students “out of the building,” whether that means working on a class project, empirically assessing an entrepreneurial opportunity they have in mind, or interviewing local entrepreneurs about how they put one or more of the six mindsets to work.

Here, then, are some teaching materials, most of them available from The Case Centre (or from John if you ask him!) that will help your students learn how they, too, might become “entrepreneurial”. And  a suggested exercise and an offer, too!

Case studies from around the world (most with Teaching Notes by John)

Chapter 1: (Introduction)
 Lynda Weinman
Nobel (A), (B), and (C)
– Patrick McGinnis
Chapter 2 (“Yes, we can!”)
SubWay Link (A) and (B)
MOVE Guides (A), (B), and (C)
Chapter 3: (“Problem-first, not product-first logic)
– Apex Ski Boots
– BeautyBooked
– CREE (A), (B), and (C)
Silverglide Surgical Technologies (A) and (B)
Simon Cohen (A), (B), and (C)
Chapter 4: (Think narrow, not broad)
Big Beautiful Hair
Dental Post
– Mondher M’Henni
Visual Optical (A) and (B)
Chapter 5: (Ask for the cash, ride the float) (A), (B), and (C)
– En Grande
The Loot (A), (B), and (C)
Chapter 6: (Beg, borrow, but don’t steal):
Big Beautiful Hair
Chapter 7: (Instead of asking permission, beg forgiveness later)
Concept Arbitrage in India (A) and (B)
Chapter 8: (Conclusion) 
– Lynda Weinman
Nobel (A), (B), and (C)
– Patrick McGinnis
– Interview one or more entrepreneurs in the local community. Ask them to what extent each of the six counter-conventional mindsets is one that they’ve applied on their entrepreneurial journey.

An offer from John

Break the Rules! is not a textbook, of course. But if you decide to make it required reading in your undergraduate or graduate course, John is often happy to make a guest appearance for you, whether in-person or via Zoom, his schedule permitting. Don’t be afraid to ask!

For your Opportunity Assessment course.

  • Assign student teams a project to empirically assess the attractiveness of an opportunity they have in mind.
  • Assign John’s book, The New Business Road Test, as their guide
  • Get them “out of the building” to gather primary and secondary research as evidence of feasibility – or not
  • Grade the quality of the work, not the attractiveness of the idea
  • Give two awards: one for the best work on a project judged as feasible; another for the best work on a project judged as not feasible. 

For your Business Planning or Entrepreneurial Finance course

Assign for one class session Chapter 1 of John’s book, The Customer-Funded Business, along with a related case study, to teach them how to bootstrap and fund their business – without VC.


  • (A), (B), and (C)
  • En Grande
  • Nobel (A), (B), and (C)