You Decide: Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught?

2012-04-25 17:54

It has been a debate that can not be settled. Can entrepreneurship be taught in a formal school classroom or lecture hall? Or is entrepreneurship strictly inspiration and intuition?

In 2000 while working as a librarian at Tshwane University of Technology I developed a programme called Innovation, Ideas and Entrepreneurship for the students.

The purpose of the programme was to develop information database on these three concepts: Innovation, Ideas and Entrepreneurship that will provide education and training to students making innovation and entrepreneurship a way of life and integral part of student’s learning. This I believed was important to students whether they plan to study physics, international relations, psychology or art. Regardless of whether they envision working for oneself or for big business.

In the 1990s I read and studied a book called “What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School”, by Mark H. Mccormack who is considered as the father of sports marketing. Following the book I later watched an educational video by the same author. The video was titled “What they still don’t teach you at Harvard Business School”. Both (the book and the video) become bestsellers in the New York Times for 15 years.

Subsequently in 2009 Larry Chiang published a book called “What They Don't Teach You at Stanford Business School”.

Way back in the early 1900s Napoleon Hill did a large scale practical research on personal success in general as well as in business. Napoleon Hill spent about 20 years studying and interviewing 500 of the most successful people at the time,  people like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie. The result was a book called “Think and Grow Rich”. A book that went on to sell over 20 million copies and remained on the New York Bestseller list as a classic bestseller of all times.

It is interesting that this book that has propelled many people to starting businesses and becoming masters of their own destinies does not attribute formal education as one of the factors that you should have if you want to think and grow rich.

“In Think and Grow Rich” Napoleon Hill writes:

“What is EDUCATION, anyway? This has been answered in full detail. As far as schooling is concerned, many of these men had very little. John Wanamaker once told me that what little schooling he had, he acquired in very much the same manner as a modern locomotive takes on water, by “scooping it up as it runs.”

“Henry Ford never reached high school, let alone college. I am not attempting to minimize the value of schooling, but I am trying to express my earnest belief that those who master and apply the secret will reach high stations, accumulate riches, and bargain with life on their own terms, even if their schooling has been meager”.

Napoleon Hill continues: “All achievements, all earned riches, have their beginning in an idea: “You might as well remember that nothing can bring you success but yourself. If you are ready for the secret of success, you already possess one half of it.”

“Entrepreneurship is about having guts -- something professors cannot teach”, adds entrepreneur Paul Fleming, who founded P.F. Chang's China Bistro, a restaurant chain based in Arizona (US) that bring in close to a billion dollar revenue annually in sales. "The steps you have to take, the risks you have to take -- I don't think in a million years you can teach it in a classroom."

“Ultimately, building a successful business is about passion”, says Doris Christopher, who founded Pampered Chef in Addison, Illinois (US), which she eventually sold it to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway in 2002. "The passion for your business is not something you can learn in a classroom."

Consider three of today's great entrepreneurs: Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. All of them are famous first year university dropouts, and they tell how classroom and lecture hall education was standing in the entrepreneurial spirits..

The young African American coach and entrepreneur owner of Delcin Consulting Group, Catherine Delcin highlights that:

“Risk aversion is not a strong suit of those who accept the entrepreneurship calling. Those drawn to it are mostly the radical, unconventional personality types. The people, who are not the "9-5 type". How do you know that you are not the 9-5 type? It's a gut feeling that tells that there is something more out there for you. It's a burning desire that pushes you to take a risk despite the fact that you have a good paying job and a stable life”.

As I recently discussed in my recent article here about the business personal success story of the Hong Kong based young entrepreneur Jennifer Cheung. Jennifer has this to say about success in business:

“Any entrepreneur will tell you, starting and running a business is not easy, especially one in Food & Beverage. You run into problems and challenges that no textbook, classroom and any previous experience can either really prepare you for or teach you what to do. But at the end of the day, when you’re crazy about what you do, it’s just not that much hard work. So while it might still be manically stressful at times, the passion you have for the content inspires you to move forward.”

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