The question: can entrepreneurship be taught has been the source of a long-standing debate. In a recent study, 37 of 38 countries surveyed believed entrepreneurship can be taught and entrepreneurs can be made. People under 35 have the strongest belief, with 70% agreeing that entrepreneurship can be taught vs 65% of 35-49 year olds according to the Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report 2014.
On one hand, successful serial entrepreneurs like Richard Branson argue you have to learn by doing and these skills are intrinsic. “In my experience, success as an entrepreneur depends upon a fairly unusual combination of personality traits and instinctive skills, most of which can only be honed on the job.” Those in agreement argue that budding entrepreneurs studying the topic in depth could be tempted to fall into endless planning and engineering without real-world experimentation. Real life, they argue is full of uncertainty and it gives entrepreneurs the knowledge and experience to make better judgment calls through experimentation.
On the other hand, there is a strong argument to support the importance of studying common pitfalls, the failures of previous entrepreneurs and best practice in order to make more informed entrepreneurial decisions. For example, entrepreneurs often dramatically underestimate the time and resources it will take to successfully launch a venture, as well as overestimate projected profits. By educating entrepreneurs about easily avoidable decisions, success rates could indeed be boosted.
Can entrepreneurship be taught through education?
Yes, but not from a book! Pablo Martin de Holan, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at EMLYON Business School argues that anyone can acquire an “entrepreneurial mindset” through relevant life experiences, because entrepreneurship, like management is a practice, and like any practice can be improved. However, the crucial factor is the way entrepreneurship is taught. In a recent article in the Financial Times entitled “The bitter truth about entrepreneurial success” Professor Martin de Holan argued that many businesses schools are not doing their students justice when teaching entrepreneurship. He argues the role of Business Schools is to provide a safe environment where aspiring entrepreneurs can experiment and learn from their mistakes and from those before them in order to minimise their risk of failure.
Professor Martin de Holan considers the focus on ‘Action Learning’ sets the Global Entrepreneurship Program – a one-year Entrepreneurship Program taking place in France, China & the US, apart from others of its kind, saying: “EMLYON has spent a lot of resources over a number of years to develop a pedagogy that focuses on how you learn by doing. So not by reading a book and repeating what the book says, but by doing things. We believe that you learn more, the learning is broader, but also deeper…Not every school does the same thing.”
How can entrepreneurship be taught effectively?
EMLYON Business School has a reputation as a leading European institution in entrepreneurship. With the 1# ranked Incubator in France, launching 950 companies since its creation in 2008 and the pioneer of the leading World Entrepreneurship Forum, the Business School teaches evidence-based entrepreneurship based on what scientific evidence proves to be true. Students will learn how and why entrepreneurship happens, as well as critically how and why it fails. Professor Martin De Holan argues that understanding entrepreneurship and innovation cannot come from just studying successful entrepreneurs of the past, but having a strong understanding of the context in which something was a success can then enable us to learn how to apply these principles to our own entrepreneurial activities. He states it is the winning combination of the right idea at the right moment in time that creates the success stories.
Professor Martin De Holan also explains that students of the entrepreneurship program are encouraged to fail “many times” during their time at EMLYON, as mistakes in the classroom are much less costly than in real-life. Students of the Global Entrepreneurship Program have time to work on their own entrepreneurial projects as well as on Business Projects for sponsor companies during their studies in order to understand the importance and lessons of real-life application.
How is the Global Entrepreneurship Program different to other entrepreneurship programs? Professor Martin de Holan and Global Entrepreneurship Program alumni Morgane Hillen tell you more…
Can entrepreneurship be taught? Further research in neuroentrepreneurship needed
Professor Martin de Holan believes studying neurentrepreneurship, defined as “using neuroscience to understand entrepreneurship research” can shed a lot more light on this subject. Talking about his research paper ‘It’s all in your head: Why we need Neuroentrepreneurship’ published in the Journal of Management Inquiry in June 2013, Professor Martin De Holan says “neuroscience is opening new doors both for new research questions but also for new results and insights into how entrepreneurs behave, how they think, how they do what they do and why they don’t do certain things.”
Existing neuroscience research has already proved that an entrepreneur processes information in a different way to a non-entrepreneur, through use of a different brain cortical organisation. Much study has been done on what entrepreneurs are or have (attributes) or what they do (behaviours), but Professor Martin De Holan believes an important extension of this study is to look at the pedagogy of entrepreneurship and the consequences to the brain of certain types of lessons in entrepreneurship to discover whether this makes it more or less entrepreneurial. Only then can we discover the best way to teach entrepreneurship and develop entrepreneur’s skills.
Study entrepreneurship across 3 different continents
Students of the Global Entrepreneurship Program, a joint program run by EMLYON Business School (France), Zhejiang University (Asia) and Purdue University (USA) study entrepreneurship in three different continents as well as work on a semester-long consulting project for a local company with students from other countries in order to reinforce teamwork on a global level and acquire practical experience in addition to academic knowledge.
Discover the Entrepreneurship Program – in France, China & the US
Share your thoughts!
Do you think entrepreneurs are born and not made? Or do you believe that anyone has the capacity to become an entrepreneur within the right context? Tell us your thoughts about the long-standing debate ‘can entrepreneurship be taught?’ in the comments box below!