Carl Schramm, the former long-time president of the Kauffman Foundation, isn't satisfied with the state of American entrepreneurship. It's not because people aren't getting into it — it's because they're not being taught correctly.
And it's society's fault, he says.
"The world needs more entrepreneurs: They make innovation real and advance what Brink Lindsey, of the Kauffman Foundation, has called the 'frontier economy,' he wrote in a recent column at Harvard Business Review.
"If their ranks are too thin, it is a failure of society—particularly because the knowledge and skills of a successful entrepreneur can be taught."
Schramm's theory is that leaving the education of entrepreneurs to schoolteachers is "inherently weak." Why? Because their choice of profession shows that they don't take risks — at least not economic ones. Plus, the material taught in college-level courses doesn't fit with what entrepreneurs need to succeed. You don't learn what it really takes the get a business started.
"The need is particularly acute in the United States," he writes. "Much economic success in the rest of the world has occurred through “catch-up growth” that leverages innovations hatched by U.S. entrepreneurs. If America falters in this, its economic advantage withers—and the rest of the world suffers, too."
What do you think about Schramm's theory? Let us know in the comments.
Interesting argument and I would agree. We can certainly point the finger at ourselves, the Baby Boom Generation, for not having done the best job, as a whole, of teaching the generation that follows the values many of our parents taught us.
Entrepreneurial success comes from belief, tenacity, hard work not only from creativity and surely not just from an MBA (I have one) that deludes you you are smarter than everyone else. That training works well for Wall Street trading, or investment banking but it is poor training for testing ideas in the market.
The first step toward entrepreneurship is to go "sell" something to somebody - It is miserably hard work, one's ego is exposed to more rejection than a High School dance, but it is where one finds out what the real world thinks of that brilliant idea or of the shining prototype or that finished product you bet the company on. There you see what the market wants not what you want, and there is no fancy PowerPoint deck to hide behind. It is you in the market and it is brutal - no thin skins need applying.
Since the days of Netscape youngsters have been incessantly drilled with the idea that a "brilliant idea" is the key to rapid growth and financial success: a browser, an online auction, a Facebook, an iPod. The reality is that all those brilliant ideas, first and through their development had to be incessantly "sold" to someone. Concepts have to be sold to partners and family and friends that share the earliest funding burden ; product development plans and ability to scale operations must be sold to seed funders; products have to be sold to consumers; the prospects for explosive growth has to be sold to VCs; the rationale for continued growth must be sold to the public in an IPO, or to a management team in a M&A exit.
Selling seems to be pretty fundamental to a business career and, for that matter, with different settings and nuances, to engineering, scientific and political careers. Yet, how many high schools curricula even mention it let alone teach the basics? How many business schools have specific courses on the subject, let alone curriculum requirements? Teaching "Selling" has been left to few private companies that developed formal training and a sterling reputation for it: Xerox, IBM, P&G, or to sales training consultants occasionally hired by big institutions. The curious and self driven can help themselves to an endless library including Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Stephen Covey, Zig Ziglar and hundreds more. In the last twenty years multi-level marketing organizations have done perhaps more than anyone to promote and standardize training, at least of techniques appropriate for their products.
In the end effective "selling" depends on the skills of: listening with a genuine interest, rapid organization of what is learned, ability to identify points of consonance dissonance between parties, clear and effective written and verbal communications, valuing honest long term relationship over expedient quick deals, the individual initiative to get into the market and play the game. Creativity alone generates only ideas. Implementation is key and selling is the first step to implementation.
Unless we can honestly say we have been effective teaching the above skills to the coming generations, Carl Schramm is correct: as a society we have failed at a very achievable task.