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Entrepreneurship can't be taught in schools, but some education helps

Posting in Education

There's been a lot of focus on entrepreneurship as the foundation of innovation, and many complaints that college business schools don't teach enough of it. One observer, however, says entrepreneurship is a skill that is impossible to teach.

That's the view of Antonio Neves, founder of THINQACTION, a coaching service for entrepreneurs. In a recent article in Business on Main, Neves observes that the many entrepreneurs he has spoken to over the years represent a broad range of educational backgrounds, from high school graduates to MBAs. However, none of these individuals gained their acumen in classes. And, historically, colleges have trained students to become middle managers in large organizations.

Entrepreneurship is a state of mind and a passion to fill an unmet need while building one's own success -- something that can't be bottled, and often is difficult to replicate. Often, entrepreneurs don't have the patience to sit through several semesters of classes. Some entrepreneurial proponents, notably Peter Thiel, say that individuals would be better off financially if they dropped out of college and spent the time creating their own businesses.

Advocates of entrepreneurial higher education say such coursework provides students with the tools to identify opportunities and develop successful business models. But for many, entrepreneurial education should extend beyond the classroom.

Numerous colleges and universities have launched entrepreneurial tracks in recent years. But does taking these courses assure greater success in such endeavors?  Well, maybe, but.... Neves quotes Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup:

"'You might as well learn as much as you can from as many sources as you can. 'Experience may indeed be the best teacher, but you can certainly supplement that education with more traditional or nontraditional kinds."

Learning entrepreneurial skills in college may give students an advantage, especially in terms of contacts and know-how when it comes to securing capital. Neves observes that a record 16% of the Stanford's Graduate School of Business class started their own companies. (Famously, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer dropped out of that school in 1980 to join Microsoft in its startup phase.) However, college is also expensive, and a freshly graduated entrepreneur is also often saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of personal debt.

As Michael Karnjanaprakorn, CEO of Skillshare, put it: “The only way to learn about entrepreneurship is by doing it.”

(Photo: Stanford University News Office.)

— By on January 22, 2013, 11:02 AM PST

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure