Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Educational Entrepreneurship

Today I listened to at least three paper sessions, probably three papers average, and one symposium. The topics varied widely between the groups, but I definitely got one main perspective from what I listened to: I will enjoy this work. Some of the ideas seemed like simplistic, almost intuitive assertions were being tested to verify their obviousness. Then again, the point of the study is to verify that what is obvious to someone is, in fact, true. Once the simple has been established, then the complex can follow.

The last session I listened to blew me away. Three leading professors in the field of entrepreneurship discussed where they want to see the field go and how they think it can get there. They said a lot of things I could completely appreciate, and many of them made sense to me. They want the scholars to quit dividing their work into sub sectors and specializations and to simply work on the concept. The classic comment from one - he appears to be quite a joker - was "I have been to many of these conferences over the years, and two things we have never done is to define entrepreneurship or to define innovation." What did he mean? The danger of providing a definition for either is to limit the scope of what might be include, and to set up something that can be attacked in some fashion. By leaving it undefined, it can include more people in the work. I see the field as the overarching structure of almost any field of business research. To study any element of firms, their principle components, the motivations of those in positions within them... anything can fall under the study of entrepreneurship, so long as what is being examined is the drive to find or create opportunities. As one business school explained, entrepreneurship should be the focus of the educational process, because the desire to find opportunity needs to be instilled in every student, regardless of what opportunity they wish to seek. I can see collaboration with the field of education (and by that I mean elementary education as well as collegial studies) to help students learn from a young age to seek after those things that matter most to them. A student driven by desire will work harder, work smarter, and learn more than a student simply trying to pass tests and complete reports. Education needs to instill and inspire passion for learning within students. I know I cannot begin to work on these thoughts now, but as I go forward in my career, I hope and pray that I can build on the idea of entrepreneurship in education.

Update: I sat in on a session today that definitely went right along with this perspective for me. At one school, the entire university says "every student an entrepreneur." The discussants talked about how much any student could and should benefit from a study of this discipline. I felt pretty good to hear my own thoughts being echoed by these eminent scholars.

-- Robert

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