Can Entrepreneurship be Taught?

Hand pointing at a Entrepreneur word illustration on blue background.

This post is inspired by its namesake, posted by Eleanor Carman on FounderDating. Eleanor asks “Many universities across the U.S. have started offering an entrepreneurship major/minor. The theme I hear from most entrepreneurs is that you really learn as you go. And if these skills can’t be learned, then what is the value of these programs?”

Shades of Gray

There is no black & white answer to this question. Like the world we live in, only shades of gray. For context, let me preface my sharing via Gary Vaynerchuk’s observation that “for every Instagram there’s 5 million Instashits”. That said, my experience is that it’s more of a nature / nurture vantagepoint:


1) Entrepreneurship, of the instagram type, requires attributes like resilience, courage, curiosity and others that you don’t learn in an MBA program. I also don’t believe it’s a DNA thing, but rather about being raised in an environment that fosters entrepreneurial attributes required to succeed as an entrepreneur. To varying degrees, we can all be entrepreneurial (i.e. think outside the box & take initiative), but that doesn’t mean you’re an entrepreneur.

This includes “collision theory”, as expressed by Steven Johnson in WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM.

Entrepreneurial (Business) Operating System

2) The right MBA, or any other entrepreneurial education framework, can provide you with the tools, insights & operating system required to increase your probability at succeeding as an entrepreneur. It gives you the Business Operating System, which otherwise you would have to learn on your own, but they are indeed out there. i.e. The Founder’s Dilemmas, The Business Model Canvas, Lean Start-up, Strategic Execution Framework, Sales Operations (including a 4 funnel system), Agile Manifesto Principles, Cascade Planning, etc. are all features & functionality of an Entrepreneurial (actually any Business) Operating System. The key being knowing when, where & how it’s appropriate to install a relevant component.

I’ve worked with enough serial entrepreneurs worldwide to confidently state that when they learned about some of these “transferable practices”, they immediately realized how they could have suffered less, scaled faster, and often did so in their next venture. The majority of which, by the way, didn’t have an MBA to begin with.

What the right MBA program will definately fast-track is the network you’ll need to succeed faster / easier as an entrepreneur. Surround yourself with smarter people than yourself, and the collective intelligence will elevate your own if you’re purposeful in how you go about it.

Like any other valuable contribution from an educational framework, you will have an opportunity to learn about market dynamics, channels, etc. And all of that you can also learn on-the-job.

In Short

In summary, a formal education and or entrepreneurial education system will increase your probability of success, but it won’t make you something you already aren’t.

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