BY SOM DEB - STAFF WRITER
Everywhere I turn these days, it seems, I encounter the word “entrepreneurship.”
It isn’t hard to see why. We live in a highly digital era, and the rise of celebrity entrepreneurs such as Tesla’s Elon Musk, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey have inspired a whole new generation to chase The Next Big Thing. Some primary schools are even introducing coding classes to give students a head start at a young age.
But can entrepreneurship really be taught? Sadly, business schools have faced skepticism from some critics who say the M.B.A. degree just doesn’t amount to much in this area.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, “A Smart Investor would Skip the M.B.A.,” author Dale Stephens argues that the money spent on a business degree would be better spent on specialized training, relocation expenses and networking. Employers would rather hire individuals who have actually tried to build a business, he contends, rather than simply studying how to build one.
Perhaps entrepreneurship cannot be taught, but Mr. Stephens misses the point. True, many of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs – like Virgin’s Richard Branson, Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Michael Dell – never even graduated from college. Still, there is something to be said about providing business-school students with a risk-free environment in which they can pursue opportunities, learn from others and cultivate an entrepreneurial way of thinking.
After all, entrepreneurship isn’t about building the next Facebook. It is about having the freedom to implement change. Living in the U.K., I often felt that failure was discouraged. In the U.S., however, I’ve been impressed by the more positive associations with risk-taking; it is clear that occasional failure is regarded as a valuable learning opportunity.
At Anderson, I see entrepreneurial spirit everywhere I look. In just the past few weeks, for example, my classmates have launched new ventures such as the Anderscotch Club and this very publication –evidence of what a business school can offer to those who have an entrepreneurial bent.
Most of us will never start our own businesses. But in the leadership roles we do take on, we will have the ability to enact change – whether it is modifying a system or pushing a new way of thinking – and that, I would like to tell Mr. Stephens, is why a smart investor should not skip the M.B.A.