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Business Schools to Rethink Entrepreneurial Education

Business Schools to Rethink Entrepreneurial Education main image

The Business Dictionary defines entrepreneurship as the “capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage a business venture along with any of its risks to make a profit.” The word first appeared in the French dictionary in 1723, but its meaning has drastically changed over time.

But how has entrepreneurship changed? What does it mean to be an entrepreneur today? Does entrepreneurship manifest within an existing organization as well as individuals?

These were some of the burning questions Nunzio Quacquarelli, CEO of QS, asked a panel of entrepreneurship experts at QS’ Re:Imagine Education conference in London.

The panel ‘Nurturing Entrepreneurship’ featured Asheesh Advani, President and CEO of JA Worldwide; Dr. Jenny Zapf, Founding Director of the Education Entrepreneurship Master’s Program at the University of Pennsylvania; and Dr. Vishal Punwani, CEO and Cofounder of Sophya and Education Tech Mentor at Harvard Innovation Labs.

Entrepreneurship in the 21st century

It’s no secret that society is moving faster than ever. Just look at Spotify, Tinder, Amazon and Uber, to name a few societal advances. Business ventures have not only shaped their respective industries but digitalized our lives too.

All three speakers believed these shakeups affect entrepreneurship – however, the speakers did take their own personal stance on the topic. Because businesses are constantly evolving, Advani said the job market has become much more volatile, with young people experiencing multiple career shifts in short time spans.

Dr. Punwani added that the digitalization of businesses forces entrepreneurs to deal with “high-stake, pressure cooker” types of situations.

What makes an entrepreneur?

According to Dr. Zapf, social media has helped shape the meaning of the word ‘entrepreneur’. She defined an entrepreneurial mindset as a mix of “collaboration, creativity and empathy” that, thanks to social media, influences thousands of people around the world.

Advani echoed Dr. Zapf’s definition and says that entrepreneurs have the unique power of self-advocacy, which he described as “the unshakable belief that you will succeed.”

Can business schools teach entrepreneurship?

A key question throughout the panel discussion concerned business schools, and whether entrepreneurship can be taught academically – a talking point that has long been associated with higher education, with many believing you are born with an entrepreneurial mindset.

However, all three agreed that entrepreneurship can be both learned and taught. Dr. Punwani said that the only way for business schools to create entrepreneurs is to provide students with the skills necessary to handle changing careers multiple times and moving across industries.

However, with applications to some of America’s most elite MBA programs on a decline, business schools will need to not only convince students that a degree is still worth it, but also rethink entrepreneurial education.

Dr. Zapf said: “Universities need to be holding up a mirror to see what’s working and what’s not.”

When asked how to describe an entrepreneurial-driven school, Dr. Zapf described it as innovative, willing to change and “an interesting mix of the right people.”

Advani built on this description further. As someone who isn’t in academia, he argues that top schools for entrepreneurship would need to offer transferable skills, access to the marketplace and – most importantly – a dynamic alumni network.

Dr. Punwani agreed. He said: “The interesting thing about universities is you just have to take a look around, look at the schools that are doing really great things.”

When asked who is truly making a different, he said: “It’s people who think about innovation in a way that sort of tells the rest of the world ‘we think that this is where the world is going and we’re comfortable grabbing the bull by the horns and going that way’.”

The future

It will be interesting to see if b-schools will be able to keep up with the ever-changing job market. In the meantime, all experts on the panel agree that, despite technological shifts, entrepreneurship will always be driven by human connection.

Written by Linda Mohamed

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 

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