Can innovation and entrepreneurship be taught?

Following tumultuous economic times and subsequent downsizing and economising of companies, many people in the job market have turned to entrepreneurship as a means of having a more secure source of income – or at least an income under one’s own control. As influential economist Peter Drucker stated, innovation is “the specific instrument of entrepreneurship, the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.” For many, the quest for wealth (or simply a reliable income) comes with an increased interest in entrepreneurship and, inevitably, innovation.

For those who are committed to getting formal training in the fundamentals of business, a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) can be an option. However, while both innovation and entrepreneurship continue to be offered as specialisations within MBA programs, one of the key issues facing MBA programs and the business schools that offer them is the fervent academic debate about whether entrepreneurship and innovation can be learnt in a classroom.

Indeed, with many of the world’s most famous innovators and leading entrepreneurs (such as Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Branson, Buffet, Gates and Jobs) being university drop-outs or having quit school altogether, the question arises as to whether universities can effectively generate innovators and entrepreneurs. Can one learn how to be an entrepreneur or an innovator through lessons taught in a classroom?

Learning the Entrepreneurship Mind-Set

Jordi Montserrat, Professor of Entrepreneurship at the St. Gallen MBA in Switzerland suggested in an interview with that, instead of attempting to turn students into entrepreneurs, teachers can “reveal entrepreneurial spirit and gear the students with the right methods and the right approach to their objectives. It’s about teaching them the mind-set that animates entrepreneurs”.

Part of teaching this mind-set is to allow students to learn by discovering – an approach used by many Mastersprograms or MBA programs that focus especially on entrepreneurship. In teaching entrepreneurship, professors must challenge students with a wide range of business-related activities. For example, students can be made to analyse real-world business case studies, and to suggest avenues for improvement. Or also students can be given the task of coming up with ideas for a business, forming a team and building their own company. This practical training enhances students’ ability to address issues from an entrepreneurial perspective, and exposes them to alternative business models and the outcomes of them. And, in figuring out the best ways to improve a company and a business strategy, students start to innovate, almost by default.

Learning Key Skills in Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Thus, teaching innovation and entrepreneurship is about teaching students the necessary skills and sharing the necessary knowledge required to then become entrepreneurs and innovators. Students can learn how to share power, collaborate with others, work in a team and learn from those smarter than them which will benefit their company in the future. Students can also learn theories surrounding finance, markets, organisation, human resource management, strategy, technology and intellectual property – all useful tools to an entrepreneur or innovator.

The best MBA orMasters programs focusing on entrepreneurship combine lectures with practical, collaborative projects in order to enhance students’ understanding of entrepreneurship and to develop key skills that could eventually lead to innovation. These programmes offer a wide range of innovative courses, keep updated with the latest trends in the industry, integrate entrepreneurial perspectives across the curriculum and have an interdisciplinary approach to innovation and entrepreneurship.

Visit QS CourseFinder to find MBA and masters courses in the UK focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation.

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