Business Schools in an Age of Entrepreneurship

Long gone are the days when business schools designed curriculum to specific business tracks or traditional learning models, taught solely in a lecture format, or tested only from a textbook.

From accounting to supply chain management, industries and businesses as we once knew them are changing, and so are the ways in which we prepare tomorrow’s business leaders. New professions and job titles emerge each and every day – which were unheard of just one decade ago. This transformative shift requires business schools to fulfill students’ insatiable need to create, innovate, ideate, and even disrupt.

Regardless of whether a student goes on to work for an established company or launches an independent venture, global businesses of today require employees to master a sharper set of entrepreneurial skills to stay ahead of the rapid changes happening in global economies.

To thrive in this entrepreneurial era, business schools need to position students to learn from thinkers of the past, build on their passions, and engage with diverse communities surrounding them today. At top business schools, from day one, students have countless academic paths to follow that tap into their entrepreneurial mindset. A prestigious Business school, Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business, has a rich history of innovation and entrepreneurship that is seen through their curriculum, how they encourage students to follow a creative process, and how they engage in the communities (not just business communities) around them. This last factor – engagement – is what really differentiates the entrepreneurial-minded student from others.

From undergraduates to MBAs, business schools promote experiential learning through innovative curriculum to push students outside of traditional business education and into this entrepreneurial mindset. For some Business Schools, this includes hands-on curricular experiences, oftentimes with live cases and entrepreneurial experimentation that enable students to understand and analyze the breadth of today’s business problems. Doing so, students quickly learn how to be resourceful and strategic, and how to analyze goals of a business alongside their own ideas. This mindset is critical for all students as they make their way into the workforce and are pushed to understand complexities and issues of ever-changing industries. In the classroom, students also meet successful and budding entrepreneurs who provide perspectives as to how powerful this mindset is in today’s global economy and how quickly the environment is changing.

Business schools must also provide students with opportunities to put their ideas into motion, implement what they learn in the classroom, and find their own creative process. No business professional or entrepreneur has found success without mistakes and missteps, so students need to learn how to: take initiative, plan productively, develop their own models, and rebound from failure. Hands-on, real-time opportunities allow students to overcome fears, and empower them to try new things. Oftentimes, we see how failure and frustration motivate students to take completely new approaches to problem-solving; later in their careers. This is what drives them to become disruptors. Business Schools should introduce competitions that would avail students with all kinds of opportunities and opens doors to take their ideas to market. It should also encourage their students to apply, attend and pitch at their startup ventures, at renowned startup events like SXSW Interactive in Austin. When business schools have opportunities to see the creative process of others, it only stimulates their own.

Lastly, business schools must engage the communities that matter to their students. This does not mean that they should ever shy away from their established corporate partners, or disengage from companies that have invested time and resources into their business college. Rather, Business Schools should find new ways to position their students as thinkers and doers, unafraid to experiment and in finding their own creative processes to deliver value. It also means that every Business school must have a footprint in the startup community globally, and establish relationships to connect their entrepreneurial students with the resources (including employment) that they are searching for.

There is no longer a single path to success when it comes to business students and their careers. There is no single way to teach them and more than ever, business schools are embracing nontraditional ways of making business happen. The entrepreneurial era allows them to find their own path; our job as business schools is to give them the tools to pave it.

Authored by:

Ken Szymusiak

Managing Director, Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University

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