I know it may seem strange to suggest that business schools are horrible at teaching entrepreneurship. Many business schools today have entrepreneurship programs, heck I was a part of one! So why do I claim that business schools are bad at teaching entrepreneurship? In order for me to make my case, we will need to hop into my time machine and take a look back at the history of business schools. You’ll will see why I can make this claim and what it means for you as a budding business person. So take a seat in my Delorean but don’t touch the time circuits, they are a bit shaky.
So Where Did Business Schools Come From?
I got a fun question: When was the first business school founded? Why was it founded anyway?
Not until the 1880s. Wharton was the first business school- I know this because it’s the first thing they told me when I got accepted. Moreover, the first MBA wasn’t offered until 1908! Although it may seem shocking, it took quite some time for the education system to adjust to what the market actually needed.
Business Schools Were Created to Train Managers, Not Entrepreneurs
Once business schools were created, what did they teach and who taught it? Of course business schools taught management: meaning, how to coordinate, how to plan and increase efficiency. Ultimately, the challenge was to train people how to manage a large organization.
Initially, practicing managers produced the ideas taught in business schools; people like Chester Barnard, who was a practicing executive or Frederick Taylor, famous for his studies on how to increase the efficiency of labor using a stopwatch and optimization tools. As “management” became more established, gradually ideas from other academic disciplines like economics and sociology were also applied to the study of management, particularly after the Carnegie and Ford reports criticized business schools for lacking academic rigor. Gradually, business schools became even better at training managers and became a fundamental fixture of business life. But remember, business schools were created to train managers, not entrepreneurs.
But what about Entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship wasn’t and still isn’t really a topic business schools have been too concerned about. Entrepreneurship only started to emerge in business schools after a burst in technical innovation. Indeed, entrepreneurship didn’t really exist in business schools until the 1990s and only recently has become a mainstream topic. Not surprisingly, the emergence of entrepreneurship in business schools has caused a huge dilemma. Who will teach it? What will they teach? It’s a bit of an oxymoron.
What kind of entrepreneur will teach at an institution that he/she doesn’t own? How can those who simply study entrepreneurship and not actually put it in action, know what to teach and advise to others when things change in business everyday? Business schools are not too worried about these issues. Why? Because no one attending is asking these questions. Most entrepreneurial minded students are paying over $120,000 for a 2 year networking event. This is insane.
Are There Business School Alternatives?
Many like Seth Godin and Richard Branson are pushing for alternatives to business school. They know that business principles need to be learned, then implemented in the real world, thereby learning and doing side by side. You don’t need to spend 2 years and $120,000 to excel as an entrepreneur.
The current state of business education and entrepreneurship training really bothered us as both educators and entrepreneurs. We found that there are no real, substantial alternatives out there…so we decided to create one.
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