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Can entrepreneurship be taught?

samanthahurstEntrepreneurship is most commonly defined as the activity or practice of using innovation to introduce new ideas, products, or services to the consumer market or target audience. These innovations are transformed into what are called economic goods. The most common form of entrepreneurship is a new business startup. However, the term was expanded in recent years to include political and social reforms as well as activities of an entrepreneurial nature.

Therefore, any individual who assumes the risks of, manages and organises a business is referred to as an entrepreneur. In many business and education circles, there is often a great deal of debate involving entrepreneurship as to whether or not it can be taught. There are basically two sides to the debate regarding this issue, namely education and teaching versus hands-on or real life experience. The former is the proponent while the latter is the opposing school of thought.

A bit of history to chew on

Turning back the clock for a moment, a national survey conducted in the United States of America (USA) over 40 years ago revealed that there were only 16 entrepreneur courses offered in colleges and universities. By the turn of the century, there were over 400 schools that offered a minimum of one course in this subject area while more than 50 of them offered four or more courses in the USA. University of Washington entrepreneurship expert and management professor Karl Vesper claims that money was the primary reason behind this growth in courses.

Colleges and universities have always relied on donations from the wealthiest of alumni. But over the past 30 years, the growing visibility of entrepreneurs has played a significant role in this scenario as well. Additionally, increasing numbers of news stories regarding innovations and personal wealth appeared in conjunction with the rise of entrepreneurial startup ventures. This was especially true in the technology sector. As a result, the mindset that defined what an entrepreneur was that of a risk-taker.

Learning entrepreneurship through education

Those who support the opinion that entrepreneurship can be learned in 4-year college programs contend that since the education process works for MBA programs, it will work where teaching and training aspiring entrepreneurs is concerned. The contention is that by analysing and organising what worked and what didn’t in the past, we can teach it.

Real life is the only teacher

Those opposed to the concept of learning entrepreneurship in a classroom make the comparison that it cannot be taught in such confines anymore than hang gliding can. The only way to learn entrepreneurship and how to be a successful entrepreneur is by going out into the real world and getting your hands dirty. But why is this? Because entrepreneurship can get extremely messy at times. In other words, there are rarely any distinct decisions made in their day-to-day lives – right or wrong.

The best of both worlds

There are those experts who contend that a combination of education and experience is the ultimate way to learn entrepreneurship. This makes perfect sense just like studying to be an attorney or a physician. At some point in time during the education process, they are required to step out into the real world and gain critical hands-on experience or complete their internship before they can receive their degree and start their own practice. Basically, the individual who pursues entrepreneurship in this fashion stands a better chance of being successful in their endeavors.

Samantha Hurst has built up and sold several online businesses, and now runs a business consultancy Click Start Digital.

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