The eternal debate for entrepreneurship courses is, can entrepreneurship be taught?

There are aspects of entrepreneurship that, most would agree can be taught, such as methodologies, and frameworks, best practices, business models, etc.

Aspects such as perseverance and creativity can be learned because there are supporting methodologies and tools that can be learned.

However, starting a company requires an understanding of nuances of implementation that tend to come from experience.

 In other words, the question is better framed as, can we teach the experiential part of entrepreneurship?

There are tools for that, such as case studies, simulations (see Entrepreneurship simulation), some form of work co-op, and even running small initiatives such as short lived T shirt companies. All of the aforementioned tools attempt to compress time in a learning environment to provide students the opportunity to experience/explore the key aspects of entrepreneurship. It appears that entrepreneurship can be taught otherwise we would have to be born with a genetic capability for it.

Entrepreneurship is an experiential topic, it’s why entrepreneurs tend to have a board of advisors and serial entrepreneurs are preferred by investors than first time entrepreneurs.

We can provide a resemblance of real life experience through simulations, so the next question is can the experiential side of entrepreneurship be taught in business schools?

A limitation of universities and colleges is that accreditation tends to focus on having predictability, consistency and standardization in courses, which tends to limit what can be done in a course and creates the debate between teaching and grading the mechanics of entrepreneurship such as business plan preparation vs evaluating the business plan as an opportunity.

Some business schools are addressing this by dividing entrepreneurship courses into two levels: the first level course focuses on the mechanics and concepts of entrepreneurship and the second level, by invitation only, the experiential side of entrepreneurship where the evaluation in the course is more on the student’s ability to be an entrepreneur. The latter course requires a different set of tools and professorial skills.

To make entrepreneurship a profession we need to move away from learning just its mechanics and more towards learning how to think and implement like an entrepreneur.


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