THE BLOG
01/21/2014 09:40 am ET | Updated Mar 23, 2014

Is It Time for Colleges to Apply More Academic Muscle to Develop Entrepreneurs?

Cambridge, Massachusetts is known as one of the higher education and start-up meccas in the U.S. Those of us that live close by, understand and embrace it, and probably take it for granted more than we should.

Peets Coffee, located in Cambridge's Harvard Square, is my ideal ideation location where my brain fires on all cylinders activating new ideas. I know why this happens. Creative energy permeates the air. I love to listen-in on conversations that are going on around me. Sometimes just feet away from my table I hear some amazing things in which I scratch my head and wonder if the next Steve Jobs is sitting next to me. Hmm.

Young people are everywhere in Harvard Square. A high percentage of them are students. They're writing, researching, studying, building start-ups and writing code. You name it, they're creating it. This unique entrepreneurial environment causes me to think about how I can merge my own business skills with college students to create something special. With the word start-up on the mind of every business school in America, my brain tells me we should all activate student entrepreneurialism.

Growing Young Business Minds

Because I am in higher education, I am trained to think. As a marketer, I am a cerebral, creative thinker that loves to be innovative and step outside the box, find a new idea and bring that idea back inside the box to figure out if it's doable or not. I think about this process of coming up with new ideas all the time. Then I ask myself, how can higher education implement innovative, entrepreneurial tactics into the pedagogical framework that exists now? In my opinion, colleges and universities should re-channel some of their energies and knowledge to help foster and grow young business minds for the next generation.

The Next Generation

Here's another question that comes to mind. Are we as an academic community throughout the US doing our best to equip the next generation? I believe the answer coming from the university world would be yes. I think the answer coming from the business world would be no. Interesting. I believe there could be a middle ground.

Queue Start-Ups

As I read about businesses, both large and small, I can't help but think about the trends in domestic and global business. Having once served in an executive officer role for a global brand, I understand that business is not what it once was, and it is changing at breakneck speeds that even the quickest MBA minds struggle to keep pace. I also wonder if higher education in general is prepared to equip students with the right skills to not only find jobs, but to create their own jobs. Hmm, now there's an idea. Queue start-ups.

Follow The Trend

The global economy doesn't seem to be booming in growth with large multinational companies creating jobs for graduates. It appears that technology, sciences, social media and technology firms are popping-up everywhere. Is this the trend? Should colleges focus on developing business owners and entrepreneurs instead of teaching theoretical disciplines and liberal arts? Whoa, now slow down some of you might say. Others might say, great idea, keep going. So which one is it? Good question.

Exclusive Entrepreneurialism?

Let me be clear, I am not an advocate of dropping liberal arts majors and moving all education to exclusively entrepreneurial tracks. I believe that would create other challenges we are not prepared to handle. Just imagine, all your college classes were labeled entrepreneurship 101, 201, 301 and 401. I believe if we did this, many students would not enroll at all, then what? If exclusive entrepreneurialism is not the answer, then what is?

Here's a thought. Let's teach and train our next generation to be innovative in their thinking, creative problem solvers, and also have baseline entrepreneurial skills so that they can start their own business. I know this sounds crazy, but with recent grads not finding jobs, and other grads accepting hourly wage jobs requiring only a high school diploma, something needs to change. Let's keep in mind, our country was built on and continues to thrive on small businesses. Let's continue that trend and train our next generation of students to be entrepreneurs.

Learn To Think Different

Why am I ranting about business in this manner? I see a trend in start-ups popping-up and I am not seeing explosive growth in large corporations. College grads, here's some advice. Get to know an entrepreneur or small business owner. Shadow them and learn the ropes. They will provide you with valuable insight on business at the ground level where it all begins. That's innovation and creativity at its best. Entrepreneurs will also help you learn to think like a business owner. Let's just say, entrepreneurs think differently. Here's a quote from Entrepreneur.com.

Entrepreneurs are barrier breakers whose optimistic view of the world combined with their creative thinking has the ability to address even the toughest of challenges, including the government's approach to innovation.

Advice For Students

Students; learn to create from just an idea. Craft a vision and execute on that vision. Remember, a great idea is just an idea unless you act on it. The ability to take your idea and create a sustainable business model is a valuable lesson and truly separates the successful entrepreneur from the dreamers. It also separates the successful college students from the wannabes.

Advice For Colleges

Colleges; partner with small businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups. Figure out how to do this and you will have a winning business program on your hands. Students will receive real business exposure and experience and will be exposed to meetings, strategies and processes that will equip them with valuable tactical knowledge and business thinking skills. This will be valuable for them in their career for years to come. The goal is for students to learn what types of skills they really need in the business world. We don't want students to just survive after college. We want them to thrive.