With the mushrooming of business schools across the country and the world, the question that emerges is whether ‘business’ can be taught. It is true that MBA degrees become geared towards the preparation of students for corporate jobs rather than running of businesses, but as a counter to this trend, specific courses and elective subjects in ‘entrepreneurship’ have emerged.
There are valid arguments on both sides of the question.
Those who hold the opinion that entrepreneurship cannot be taught tend to argue on the following points:
- The nature of entrepreneurship tends to be unpredictable, with so many uncertainties that it is difficult to teach a person to deal with them.
- It is something that a person either has an innate ability for, or does not.
- Entrepreneurship is something that can only be absorbed in the real world, and not in the classroom.
- Skills needed for being successful in business go beyond accounting, law and language skills, and include people skills like leadership and management that are best learned through experience.
Advocates of teaching entrepreneurship agree that it is not a technical skill which can be taught in a traditional classroom environment, but point out to benefits that a well-structures program can bring:
Entrepreneurs are ultimately general managers : The same approach that has worked for training MBA’s has benefits for entrepreneurs as well. The ability to analyse and interpret data, learning how to market, how to handle finances and how to work with people in a team are all things that can be effectively taught and are important to entrepreneurs.
Going beyond gut feel : Entrepreneurs tend to put a lot of faith in their ‘gut’ feeling, and often rightly so. However, there have been times when this gut feel has been hopelessly wrong. Some of India’s best and brightest business leaders have taken gambles that led to disaster, as have those abroad. The importance of knowing when to trust your gut feeling cannot be underestimated. A good entrepreneurship program should be able to provide the tools to analyse data dispassionately and make the distinction between a foolish decision and a visionary one.
Predicting failures : The ability and willingness to take the risk of failure is seen by some as an essential entrepreneurship lesson. However the fact that most failures are in fact avoidable. Learning from the mistakes of those who have gone before will help entrepreneurs of tomorrow to focus their energies on viable business plans.
Entrepreneurship is a complex world, and there is no easy way to determine what might work for a person and what might not. For some, the hurly-burly of the real world is the only way to pick up skills, for others a structured learning is essential for going forward with their lives.
The benefits of a good course in entrepreneurship would be to provide the following:
- Tools to organize and analyze your business ideas.
- Methodologies to align the idea with the needs of the market.
- Peer support and feedback.
- General knowledge and training in the fundamentals of marketing and finance which will always stand an entrepreneur in good stead.
For an individual, it is a matter of deciding whether the benefits from the program justify the cost. Entrepreneurship is a difficult and rocky road – some help to get your started will stand each of us in good stead!