Entrepreneurs and educators agree on two fundamental points. The first is so obvious that it hardly bears repeating but let's restate it anyway: entrepreneurship is very, very important. Entrepreneurs are the critical driver of job creation and economic prosperity.
The second is equally important and often left unsaid: academic institutions can and should play a more central role in improving the quality and quantity of entrepreneurs. While many conversations we have on this topic start by someone asking whether entrepreneurship can be taught, they typically end with an impassioned discussion on how to improve entrepreneurship education in the United States and around the world. Why not learn lessons from successful and failed entrepreneurs and the many entrepreneurial "experiments" they have undertaken? To ignore this wealth of knowledge and expertise, to insist that entrepreneurship is an art learned only through experience is to ignore the potential to develop systematic lessons, to ignore the power of analysis and to fail to apply tools of social science to a critical part of our economy.
We at MIT have engaged in this process of systematizing the lessons from entrepreneurs around the world especially from those engaged in the sorts of science and technology-based entrepreneurship that can lead to high growth and job creation in sectors as diverse as biotechnology and clean energy. Recently we were asked to think more deeply about what could be done to improve Entrepreneurship Education based not just on our research and our teaching experience at MIT, but from what we experienced through our involvement and dialogue with dozens of other institutions providing education experiences for students with entrepreneurial aspirations -- whether they hope to start companies on graduation, later in their careers or from inside large corporations.
A group of us at MIT deeply associated with entrepreneurship education, after considerable discussion, have drawn on lessons we have learned at MIT and elsewhere to identify a list of ten suggestions for organizing education and programs in this area at university campuses. While at first, it seems simple, upon further reflection the list of ten points we agreed upon was anything but; it is a mix of the obvious and (we think) the not so obvious. We believe these ten steps, many of them requiring educators to look well beyond the walls of their current classroom, have the potential to build an educational experience that produces many more successful high impact entrepreneurs. At a minimum, by laying out our approach we hope to engage in a meaningful dialogue on what should be done in this area in order to meet the needs of our increasingly sophisticated customers, students at institutions of higher education, and to meet the needs of our economy.
Below are 10 ways to improve entrepreneurship education: