What future for entrepreneurship education?
The world has changed in a way that now requires us all to think like entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs are resilient and resourceful. They are creative and critical thinkers who can recognize opportunities, mobilize resources and make things happen when the rules are unclear and the path is not well defined. Simply put, they possess the personality traits and learned skills that the world demands today. They are the pioneers of innovation and progress on a global scale.
Academic, business, government and non-profit leaders around the world have begun to recognize that teaching entrepreneurial skills and harnessing the entrepreneurial personality traits of learners is essential to creating the societies of the future. As stated in a report by the World Economic Forum, “It is not enough to add entrepreneurship to the perimeter – it must be at the heart of how education works.”
The positive economic impact of entrepreneurship is well understood, but how people develop and harness an entrepreneurial mindset is an area that needs to be explored further. If we dedicate more resources to understanding the underlying causes of this mindset, we can usher in a new era where entrepreneurial thinking can be applied across industries, organizations and borders to drive things forward. a better future.
The academic world knows that entrepreneurship education is important. Initiatives have exploded in recent years, from college and university programs to government-sponsored and non-profit initiatives. We’ve seen incredible growth in innovation labs, bootcamps, incubators, accelerators, and university programs that teach the “how” of entrepreneurship. The next step must be to understand “why” entrepreneurial thinking is crucial for the future, so that more inquisitive minds can be encouraged to use it as a framework to create change.
Traditionally, the subject of entrepreneurship is considered a business discipline. After all, the term “entrepreneur” is generally used to describe someone who organizes and operates a business. As such, many existing programs are designed to focus on building new businesses and fail to recognize the wider application of entrepreneurship as a teachable framework for thinking beyond the traditional business realm. .
If we want to put entrepreneurial thinking at the heart of our teaching, we must start by redefining the term “entrepreneurship” in a way that everyone can adopt in their daily lives, even if they have not started a business.
Some first principles to consider when reframing entrepreneurial education:
Entrepreneurship is not the same as a management mindset. The attitudes and skills required to create useful products and services are distinct from those required to maintain those same things. Although not everyone has the desire to start a business, many want to create initiatives that pursue a larger goal, even within large organizations. A 2021 McKinsey report indicates that 62% of employees wanted to derive even more meaning from the work they do. When creating a new product or service, or trying to reach a new customer segment, entrepreneurial thinking can help anyone initiate change. Applying entrepreneurial thinking can also enable people to align their skills and characteristics to achieve their professional goals with their personal goals, and to “do good” and “do well” in their careers.
Thinking like an entrepreneur is a creative and generative process. At its essence, entrepreneurship is a toolbox of discovery; a process by which an individual or small group of individuals seeks the intersection of their interests and abilities, and the needs of others. As such, we must redefine entrepreneurship as the self-directed pursuit of opportunities to create value for others. Anyone can adopt this definition. The question we should all ask ourselves is: what can enable us to make our talents more useful to more people? How can entrepreneurial thinking become a force for good in the world?
Entrepreneurial thinking will lead us to dream bigger and bolder. The process of entrepreneurial discovery requires deep listening, connecting and executing. He doesn’t necessarily need access to venture capital or an MBA. Nor does it require us to quit our jobs or drop out of school. It requires us to develop a keen sense for an opportunity and then the willingness to sit down and listen to clients, including educators and learners, to solve their problems. If we are to move entrepreneurship from the perimeter to the core of education, we must empower everyone to practice entrepreneurship as a problem-solving tool – something that can be applied in any context – and which can continually help us address large-scale challenges. scale.
Entrepreneurial thinking can be transformative, inspiring learners to reimagine themselves and the world around them in ways that lead to positive and lasting change.
If we are to embed entrepreneurship at all levels of education, we must consistently provide all students and educators with opportunities to develop the skills needed to identify and solve real-world problems in resource-limited circumstances. Opportunities to discover how to be useful outside known systems, with guided paths, professional teachers and predictable results. It is only through this process – and within these constraints – that one can truly develop entrepreneurial attitudes and skills.
It is important to focus on encouraging entrepreneurship as early as possible in education. Organizations like Synthesis, an immersive learning environment that challenges students to develop their critical thinking through simulations, or project-based learning projects (APPs) funded by the George Lucas Education Foundation through Edutopia, are point to show us what is possible when we put entrepreneurial skills and qualities at the center of education.
But how can we create a learning environment that fosters entrepreneurial thinking?
Create the conditions for exploration and growth. If we want to make entrepreneurship a core life skill, we also need to create the right conditions for the development of entrepreneurial attitudes and skills. Entrepreneurial discovery learning is distinct from traditional learning. You cannot develop entrepreneurial attitudes and skills using traditional teaching methods. Schools like Acton Academy, the Blue Valley Schools Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS), and higher education programs like the innovative Minerva University foster learning environments for entrepreneurial thinking.
Allow children to explore, fail and learn from failure from an early age. By implementing strategies such as allowing students to correct their own exams, teachers encourage students to take ownership of their mistakes, even at a young age. Other strategies such as setting up peer-to-peer feedback loops on group members’ performance in school projects allow students to understand that their voices and opinions matter. It gives them a healthy environment to grow from their experiences, learn to iterate, and apply a growth mindset to overcome challenges. An environment that allows learning to fail will be conducive to the creation of entrepreneurial thinkers.
Encourage learners of all ages to work on solving real-world problems. By giving students exposure to real problems and providing them with a safe environment to work on solutions, we encourage them to be solution-oriented. Encouraging students to start a new initiative in their community, raise funds for important scientific research, or engage with the world around them is a great way to empower them as entrepreneurial problem solvers. When we are given the chance to participate in these programs, both formally and informally, we are much more likely to engage in our work, recognize the value of education, persist in the face of difficulties, and ultimately prosper.
Although not everyone wants to start a business, everyone can benefit from entrepreneurial thinking. It can even uniquely position women to advance their careers in goal-oriented industries, as explored in InnovateHERs: Why Purpose-Driven Women Entrepreneurs Rise to the Top. We are all driven by an innate need to explore and grow, to be engaged in meaningful work, and to meet human needs through our own efforts. Integrating entrepreneurial thinking into education will prepare the next generation for the future. In this way, we will embrace the entrepreneurial spirit as the human spirit; it’s not just in some of us, it’s in all of us.
Special thanks to Laura Smulian, researcher and writer, for her contributions to this article and to InnovateHERs – Why Purpose-Driven Women Rise to the Top.