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Can Entrepreneurship be taught…or is it learned?

JC Holmes asked the question on MO.COM as many before him have. JC said (entrepreneurship) was like riding a bike, “a culmination of skills and knowledge brought together to accomplish something.” How true. So can it be taught? Who knows? Not in the traditional collegiate manner….death by PowerPoint lectures. I would argue that it can be encouraged. So how do you find a collegiate environment that promotes entrepreneurship and encourages venture creation?


The old-school logic is that college students interested in business should take a predetermined dose of:

· Accounting
· Finance
· Management
· Marketing

These lecture courses are all taught as discrete disciplines. This educational model has been, and will continue to be, very successful at producing CPAs, CFAs, and great employees in their respective disciplines. While this model may be very good at preparing graduates for a life of Fortune 500 companies it seems outdated based on today’s students.

More and more, college-aged students today are interested in being more than corporate employees. They want opportunities. They have ideas. They want to improve things. They want ownership of something. The old-school model leaves many students today wanting more. Simply put, the student needs to put the skills and knowledge together…just like the culmination of skills it takes to ride a bike.
Just like entrepreneurs find a niche, some colleges are finding a niche. The niche is a new business model that focuses, not on preparing students to be Fortune 500 employees, but on preparing them to be entrepreneurs.


What do they look like? For starters, entrepreneurship is a inter-disciplinary approach that needs to connect academic theory with practical application and experience. If this is true, look for schools that have a significant amount of extra-curricular activities that foster creativity and action. For example, look around for campus entrepreneurship clubs, elevator pitch competitions, business plan competitions, student-run businesses in campus centers or student unions, wherever students gather on campus.
While most business schools have similar courses in accounting, finance, etc., schools that encourage entrepreneurship have a different approach to the same disciplines. E-schools have coursework such as:

· Venture Creation
· Family Business
· Technical Entrepreneurship (with tools to protect intellectual property)
· Social Entrepreneurship
· Small Business Accounting
· Corporate Entrepreneurship/Intrapreneurship
· Venture Capital/Financing
· Small Business Management

Ideally, these topics are integrated. In a perfect world a student could complete the various components to a business plan in each course that would culminate in a completed business plan ready for presentation and implementation at graduation.
While all this is great, does it help you learn entrepreneurship? Not without the proper encouragement outside the classroom. For example, are the faculty actually entrepreneurs…or are they researchers? Are there living arrangement opportunities on campus that facilitate like-minded entrepreneurs being grouped together in residence halls? Since we’re talking about a collegiate environment are business incubators available? Are there angel investors or venture capitalists organized for mentoring and financing?

Entrepreneurship is not just a discipline.

Entrepreneurship is a manner of thinking. It is an attitude, a lifestyle. If you want to learn entrepreneurship at the collegiate level you must find the right environment…in coursework that demonstrates how all the skills that JC talked about are used together. Entrepreneurs cannot be passive listeners in large collegiate lectures. They need to be engaged with encouragement and opportunities. So can entrepreneurship be taught…probably not in the same way that traditional disciplines are taught… but it can be learned.

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