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"No, You Cannot Learn Entrepreneurship in a Classroom."

Original text posted by Tapio Peltonen on LinkedIn as a comment to the HBR article "Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught in a Classroom?" by Ashish K. Bhatia and Natalia Levina

Harvard Business Review's article on entrepreneurial leadership (link above)

”In the unknowable future, all leaders will need to be entrepreneurs: visionaries that can imagine, adapt, and act nimbly to address whatever challenges come their way.” Ashish K. Bhatia and Natalia Levina state in their HBR article.undefined

Entrepreneurship arguably blends science and craft; obviously one cannot learn craft by analysis and theory. Entrepreneurship also means being accountable, taking responsibility, skin in the game, for real. Hence, no, it cannot be learned in an executive course or in an MBA classroom. Not beyond the basics. The first best option for learning entrepreneurship is to do it, to become an entrepreneur for a number of years.

All organizations need entrepreneurial leadership, making the best option too limited. That's why we want to suggest a second best alternative: when you have acquired skills and experience in business, you then work closely with entrepreneurs and learn directly from them.

In addition to experience and knowledge about business, success in this immersive and ”phenomenon-based” training requires strong commitment and lots of open reflection from multiple points of view (cf. triangulation). The latter can be supported with high diversity of the teams.

Three notions from working with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial corporate leaders

First, entrepreneurial leadership requires a fair amount of higher-order thinking skills (cf. entrepreneurial metacognition): one needs to be able to think flexibly and change one’s thinking tools as needed. Knowing the ropes just don’t cut it, you need to know how to build the ship - anew and different if needed.

Secondly, entrepreneurship is in itself about learning. Successful entrepreneurs have lots of curiosity and they are constantly learning. Thus, learning to learn is a key (meta)skill.

Third hint is 'different goals for different folks’. I claim that not every leader and manager needs to be 100% entrepreneurial themselves. Instead, every good leader, executive and board member needs to know how to work with strong entrepreneurial leaders, whether inside or outside their own organization.

I concur with the authors: the mounting challenges and ever increasing speed and complexity require more entrepreneurial leadership in all organizations. In fact, it is these very people, the entrepreneurs of all organizations, who are responsible for innovation and change, and hence, for transformation of organizations, industries and ultimately whole societies.

What do you think? Leave your comment and follow the discussion on LinkedIn: Tapio Peltonen's post about the topic.

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