Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. If you are an MBA, or if you are looking to partner with an MBA, bear in mind that the majority of MBA graduates, particularly those from top programs, become consultants or investment bankers. This of course depends on the hiring climate in these and other professions, but the reality is that most MBAs (at least the ones I’ve come in contact with) are highly risk-averse and have a tendency to over-analyze. As they say, “analysis-paralysis”. This lesson is not meant to discourage you, rather it is included to point out a basic reality: if you are an MBA, you have been trained to analyze extensively before making a decision and taking action. The reality is that many situations in entrepreneurship do not lend themselves to a large volume of analysis, rather you need to be willing to trust your “gut” quite often. So if you are an MBA, or looking to hire or partner with one, just realize that most MBAs talk a good game about how entrepreneurial they are, but when it comes down to it, they usually are quite uncomfortable in the unprotected, resource-constrained world of entrepreneurship. Don’t say I didn’t tell you, if you or one of your employees / partners ends up concluding that entrepreneurship is not for you after all, and without much warning takes a job with with a big and “comfortable” company (do they still exist?).
I hope you’ll allow me a blog post that is a bit less practical (it’s not “7 ways to do xyz”) and a bit more of an indulgence on my part.
I have been involved with entrepreneurship and entrepreneur education for roughly 20 years (really 30+, if you take into account all the entrepreneurial things I did as a kid). I have been amazed by how much the educational process has changed in that time, and I see it changing even more dramatically over the next few years. The whole concept of “open learning”, coupled with the reality that fewer and fewer parents will be able to afford to send their kids to top-notch educational institutions, will have a profound effect on how entrepreneurial education happens, and on what is considered “quality” education. I expect a lot more education to take place purposefully on an experiential basis (I say “purposefully” because, in my opinion, most of the best education has always happened that way, but by default), with a far higher degree of dependence on open sources, even at the higher end.
So what again is “open learning”? Well, I’m not sure of the official definition out there, but from my point of view, it is educational material that is available free of charge, or at low cost, when compared to what it would cost from, say, a top university. I had heard a couple years back, for example, that MIT had released a bunch of its course materials, which anyone with a computer could get access to. It didn’t make much of an impression on me at the time. It wasn’t until recently, when a good friend of mine pointed out to me the vast quantity of university-level lectures, some video, some audio, available (free!) on sites such as Itunes (see iTunesU), that it occurred to me how much this is likely to change the education process, especially in the area of entrepreneurship. And it appears this is only the beginning.
The free availability of the above mentioned coursework, along with the reality that a lot more successful practitioners now make their educational “systems” and short, practical programs available at a very reasonable cost (particularly in light of where college tuition has gone), is a complete game-changer in my opinion. How important is it to have a degree from a fancy school? I think for certain applications and certain professions, it makes a real difference. For others, such as most entrepreneurial endeavors, it probably isn’t worth much. It can help a lot with some other things, such as connections, but in the end, are those connections worth $250k plus? They could be, but there may be much more economical ways of obtaining them. I think the entrepreneurial mentoring I received at my business school was worth more than the traditional, formal education I received, and again, that is likely something that can be obtained elsewhere on a more time- and cost-effective basis.
So what am I saying? The education game is changing, in some cases dramatically, particularly in the area of entrepreneurial education. Open learning, experiential learning, and training/mentorship from successful practitioners may be just exactly what the doctor ordered for the vast majority of startup entrepreneurs and small business owners. What do you think? Please let me know with your comments below.
If you found this article interesting and/or helpful, please go ahead and get it out to your Twitter followers and your Facebook friends. There should be buttons for this below and also a button to “Like” this article, if in fact you do. Again, please leave me your comments below. I’m very interested to hear your opinion on this topic.
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