Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught?

I received an MBA from Babson College world renown for its entrepreneurship program.  The program is always ranked #1 in US News for its excellence in entrepreneurship.  However, entrepreneurship isn’t a science or an art for that matter.  So, can it be taught?  I just stumbled upon an interesting CNN Money article that tackles this very subject.  At first glance, it doesn’t look very promising.  Here are a few quotes from the article.

Entrepreneurship is about having guts — something professors cannot teach, adds PauliStock_000010433935XSmall Fleming, 52, who founded P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, a Scottsdale-based restaurant chain that brought in $675 million in sales last year. “The steps you have to take, the risks you have to take — I don’t think in a million years you can teach it in a classroom.”

Ultimately, building a successful business is about passion, says Doris Christopher, 60, who founded Pampered Chef in Addison, Ill., a direct seller of kitchen tools; she sold it to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in 2002. “The passion for your business is not something you can learn in a classroom.”

Consider three of today’s great entrepreneurs: Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. Not one credits the classroom for his success. All are famously and unapologetically dropouts from college.

To a certain degree I agree with the above quotes.  I was an entrepreneur long before I stepped on to Babson’s campus.  I just wasn’t a very good one.  I had all of the intangibles drive, passion, willingness to take risk.  However, I had no clue on how to set-up a marketing campaign.   Sales simply appeared if I had a good product – at least that is how I envisioned it in my business plan.

Entrepreneurs evolve over time.  Almost no one hits a home run the first time.  Basically, you learn and adjust.  It is during these adjustment periods where schools can make a difference.  After the my first business fizzled, I knew exactly which skill areas needed to strengthen.  Babson proved to be quite valuable from that perspective.  Matter of fact, at least one failed business should be a requirement for acceptance into an entrepreneurial program.

The CNN Money article is all over the map in addressing the question.  The academics say entrepreneurship can be taught and the practitioners say maybe.   Personally, I believe that certain skills like marketing and operations can be taught.  However, passion and desire – the essence of being an entrepreneur; you either have it or you don’t!

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