The question continues: study entrepreneurship, or just jump in? Does a degree help? Can anybody teach entrepreneurship in the classroom? Can anybody learn it?
You may have seen this post here from last week, about one problem with entrepreneurship education. That post was enhanced by John Wren’s comment there:
I haven’t seen any research that shows a connection between being a successful entrepreneur and having studied entrepreneurship, have you?
Interesting emphasis on research there. Can anything be true or false without research? Does a tree fall in the forest if there’s no rigorous research that says so? It would be hard to research this right, because entrepreneurship is a relatively new idea in university business schools. The idea has exploded in the last 10-20 years, but a lot of the all-stars didn’t really have a choice. That makes meaningful research less likely.
Research or not, education is good when it works; when it fits with life. Short cuts are good too. Knowledge is good. Wasting time is bad. All of that can be school.
Education in trade or business related subjects is about making things better, faster, and easier. If you can learn in a day in class what would take you a roller-coaster ride through the hard knocks, is that better? If Bill Gates did Microsoft without studying entrepreneurship, does that mean you don’t want to?
Things change. Shakespeare didn’t have a PhD in Literature. So how did he learn Shakespeare?
I think the value of studying entrepreneurship depends a lot on the specific case. Not that these are the only cases, or polar opposites, but:
- Start with the basic truth of studying what interests you. Don’t study business to get ahead in business; study business because you’re interested. Don’t study literature to get ahead, or science or math, either.
- If life gives you a valid choice, general education is better than business education. I’m really glad I studied Literature first, then Journalism, then business. I’m glad my children majored in education, history, psychology, and political science instead of business. First learn to think, analyze, read, and write, and you can learn business later. Not everybody gets that choice. Not everybody wants it. But if you can, that’s good.
- Entrepreneurship is the best of business. You have to get your head around the whole business, not some functional part. Studying entrepreneurship is the best way to study business.
- It’s not for nothing that I’ve spend a long time focused mainly on business planning. That’s also about getting around the whole business, not just parts. Strategy, operations, marketing, finance, they all come together in startups and small business. Which we call entrepreneurship.
- When it works out right for you it can be a big advantage, you’re already in school, and you’re interested in the subject, it’s a natural part of that time of life that people dedicate to learning, it can be a huge advantage. I did business school exactly at a career inflection point, jumping from business journalism to business, and it worked really well for me. Entrepreneurship would have been even better, but that wasn’t an option. Today, for you, it is.
Ultimately, there’s no formula here that works. You have to decide for yourself. I’m really glad for my two years in business school, even if they weren’t teaching entrepreneurship. That doesn’t mean I recommend it for everybody.