November 20, 2007

Can entrepreneurship be taught?

I was recently speaking on "Myths & Facts of Entrepreneurship" in Entrepreneurship Summit 2007 at IIT Kharagpur (KGP) on behalf of NEN. Overall, the event was nice, but it made me think over few points.

1. Can we really teach entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship, as I see is,

  • An instinct,
  • An attitude to create something new,
  • An activity which creates value in the entire social eco-system, 
  • A creative expression of interest in solving problems around us 

Till date, I am yet to meet an entrepreneur who has been taught about this subject in a formal setting, and that he has actually gone out and done it, and made it successful. It is a state of mind, which develops naturally, based on his surrounding and experiences, which makes him think about life and career in a given way.

Such events (like Entrepreneurship Summit) can inspire someone to be an entrepreneur, make a person desire to start a venture, but I am not sure if it can create the state of mind.

2. In many cases, I have seen that entrepreneurship is not be plan. It is by destiny. There are hundreds of people who were pushed to the wall and were left with no choice to take on the world all by themselves. They rose up to the occasion and did what it takes to survive. Today we call them successful entrepreneurs. This again emphasize that entrepreneurship is a state of mind that is there or emerges under given circumstances – mostly adverse situations.

3. Most wanna-be entrepreneurs start off with a business plan which predicts his revenues, profits, break-even point and growth trajectory. If you see most successful entrepreneurs, they never planned, they dreamt. They created value and chased their dream. The dream was not the riches that entrepreneurship can bring, but a dream to dominate / be successful in a given domain and create value that can change the world. They want to lead. 

For example, Bill Gates never planned to become the "richest person on the planet" through Microsoft. He dreamt of a PC on every desktop in the world! He worked hard to make his dream come true and reaped the rewards in form of the riches that he got in the process as a result.

Wealth is a by-product of entrepreneurship, not the destination.

So, the question again comes – Can you teach someone to lead, dream, continuously innovate, rough-it-out and fight back. I think – NO. You can only motivate someone to do so.

Your comments are welcome to debate my point of view!

 

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Comments on Can entrepreneurship be taught? »

November 27, 2007

Deepak Panigrahy @ 9:10 am

Very True, Entrepreneurship can never be taught. I believe that we have two sort of people in this world. One who creates the kind of world with his dreams to make the second kind of people live there. The first kind of people we call them as Entrepreneurs. Moreover, as you mentioned Money is a by-product and the main product is their dreams and their passion towards their dream to make it true, makes people successful business-men/women.

January 19, 2008

Kent Pawar @ 2:47 pm

Sir, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article… It contains that bitter-truth that many of us are not ready to accept. I have to say that your article is to the point, well thought and very motivational in nature. Thank you for writing this article.

January 21, 2008

Ankesh Kothari @ 8:54 pm

You can teach anyone to play golf. You can't teach anyone to become as good as Tiger Woods. Similarly, you can teach entrepreneurship to anyone. You can't always turn him into the best entrepreneur out there.

The hats an entrepreneur has to wear: management / marketing / finance / innovation / production / supply chain and distribution. All of these topics can be taught.

The x factor is: the ability of a person to think and calculate and take risks. There aren't many people who like taking risks even if the payoffs may be better than what they currently enjoy. But you can train someone to move out of their comfort zones and take more risks too (improv acting classes and public speaking classes achieve that – but towards another goal.)

To take your objection:

>Can you teach someone to lead, dream, continuously innovate, rough-it-out and fight back.

* Leadership can be taught. It stems from expectations.
* Dreaming is teachable. Its improving ones imagination. The best way to teach about dreaming is by teaching history (yes its true. Glorify the past and people will want to make their futures better. Thats how a small island of Britain conquered the world – when their king read the tale of King Arthur).
* Innovation can be taught. In fact, there are systems like TRIZ that lets you innovate at your will.
* Rough-it-out and fight back are both personality characteristics. And imho can be taught too. Just like you can motivate someone to keep on playing a game that he sucks at – until he becomes better.

So in short – entrepreneurship is teachable imo. But some people will be better at it than others.

January 23, 2008

Abhishek Rungta @ 6:52 am

Ankesh,

Thank you for contributing your thoughts.

Though I agree that several capabilities (or hats) that an entrepreneur need to wear can be taught, but they are not all you need to "have" to be an entrepreneur. These skills are required in managers as well. By having a good understanding of these subjects can make someone a top-tier manager, but not necessarily a top-class entrepreneur.

However, in my opinion, it is very difficult to teach someone to take financial and career risk based on their knowledge of the above mentioned subject. There will remain issues such as teaching someone to lead, dream, innovate, rought-it-out and fight back. You can surely inspire someone to do so and if he does so, it will be entirely due to a change in his perspective and attitude which is a by-product of the "state of mind" that I tried to explain in my post.

I might be wrong. But I think time will have the last say. If we start seeing new successful companies coming from entrepreneurs coming our of institutes which claim to teach entrepreneurship, I will be very happy – even if I have lost the debate.

Abhishek

Ankesh Kothari @ 7:16 am

Thanks Abhishek.

Actually – there are a few educational institutions – not in India though – that have led to successful startups.

One noteworthy college is: Babson college in USA. They have a course for entrepreneurship. They help students set up for-profit ventures: planning, launching, managing and liquidating – students have to do it all. The profits are given to a non-profit agency in the locality.

The IIT business plan competitions held once a year in India are also good. They help guide a lot of students. But its not as comprehensive as the Babson college course.

January 23, 2009

Gunjan Bagaria @ 1:44 pm

Awesome…So true! It definitely comes from within…An idea to solve simple daily chore or to make a particular process more effective or to add more value to an existing system…

It surely is an art you learn with time and the most crucial role is played by FAITH N PATIENCE…Again something I truly believe in…Like Sai says: shradha( not ur wife) or Saburi…

I wish you all the best in all your new ventures…!!!

TC, Keep smiling, keep creating jobs as we survive because you create them…lol

Gunjan Bagaria @ 1:46 pm

And as you said…Wealth or Money should never be the focus or you'll end up creating another Satyam..>Dont know whether it truly was satyam or was a Mithya…lol

February 10, 2010

svanitha @ 5:21 am

Very well said I whole heartedly agree with you.It has been true Entrepreneurship cannot be taught. It is an instinct, attitude an inner voice that motivates one to something it very sponateous and certain events in life changes one's whole purpose of life.

svanitha @ 10:21 am

Very well said I whole heartedly agree with you.It has been true Entrepreneurship cannot be taught. It is an instinct, attitude an inner voice that motivates one to something it very sponateous and certain events in life changes one's whole purpose of life.

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