With the entrepreneurial iron still burning hot, it's safe to say that entrepreneurship isn't just about founding and running businesses anymore. Entrepreneurship is considered the modern form of social chivalry. An oath taken by a daring few. A venture for the intellectual elite. In today’s work environment, the title “Entrepreneur” is almost analogous to knighthood.
So, what does it take to become a successful entrepreneur? Is there some sort of a college degree or qualification for taking the entrepreneurial path? What about a rule book of dos and don'ts? Or, are some people just born entrepreneurs?
Truth be told, there is no well-paved, sign-board-laden road to becoming an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is like parenting -- you can read every book there is, attend numerous workshops and seek advice from those with experience, but the only way one can become good at it is through experience.
So, if entrepreneurship cannot be taught, can it be learnt? The answer is both Yes and No.
Just as a course in art does not make one an artist, entrepreneurship as a subject or a specialisation won’t necessarily make entrepreneurs. However, the traits and qualities of entrepreneurial thinking – a spectrum of colours and shades which constitute the entrepreneurial palette – can be acquired through first-hand experiences. Or, as they say, learning on the job.
However, this could spell danger as most "lessons" are learnt from making mistakes, and failure in the corporate world can have dire consequences. What then, can be done to better prepare entrepreneurs before their ships set sail?
The answer lies in incorporating entrepreneurship as a part of our education system. Not as a theory course, but as a guided, hands-on approach to nurturing children; beginning with the latter stages of primary school all the way through high-school. Some may argue that entrepreneurship as a concept is out of their scope of understanding at such an early age. However, an emphasis has to be made on the fact that the aim of this undertaking is NOT to breed next generation's entrepreneurs. Nor is it to teach children about how to run a company. Rather, the focus is to provide them a means of imbibing useful entrepreneurial skills and traits, such as out-of-the-box thinking, effective communication, teamwork, leadership, money and time management, etc. Empowering children with these qualities will help in the all-round development of their personalities. If they choose not to pursue entrepreneurship as a career, these qualities will still benefit them in their professional and personal lives.
Here are a few benefits of exposing children and teenagers to the entrepreneurial culture:
Encourages innovative ideas and out of the box thinking: Innovation and the ability to find novel solutions to everyday problems have been the trademark of human ingenuity. Providing children with ample opportunities to be individualistic and use their creative side will sow the seeds of tomorrow's thinkers, innovators and leaders. From an entrepreneurial perspective, teaching children to think on their own will breed a generation of innovation-driven problem solvers, instead of entrepreneurs who found copycat-model startups of those already existing in the market.
Develops one's soft skills and personality: Some key traits in all successful entrepreneurs are communication, leadership and efficient management of time and money. These skills are essential to be successful in all aspects of life.
Dealing with failure: Failure and setbacks are almost second nature to the entrepreneurial process. What is most important is to learn from one's mistakes and persevere through the hard times. More often than not, students are unprepared to deal with shortcomings as failures are looked down upon in this world of cut-throat competition. This is clearly evident from the large fraction of teenagers who pick up bad habits or even self-harm as a means of dealing with negative emotions. Exposing children to setbacks on a minuscule scale and teaching them to deal with it in a positive way can go a long way in building their emotional intelligence (EQ).
Facilitates development and economic growth in rural and backward areas: It is a common scenario in villages for students to discontinue education after their 10th grade. Lack of access to educational institutions and poverty are the primary reasons for this choice. Without a undergraduate degree, it is almost impossible for them to find a skilled job. Exposing these students to the entrepreneurial lifestyle will empower them to become self-sustaining individuals. It will teach them to make the best use of what they have and exploit the numerous opportunities for entrepreneurship available in rural areas. Thus, improving the standard of living for themselves and the community.
Creates a feeling social responsibility: Social entrepreneurship in schools is a great way to educate youth on the social, cultural and environmental problems around us. Also, their contributions – monetarily and through fieldwork – can benefit the society in several ways.
Children make up for their lack of experience by learning through experimentation. This gives them the amazing ability to mould their brains on a daily basis. For a child, an entrepreneurial venture can be anything, from selling their own arts and crafts to setting up a waste paper management system for the school or even conducting workshops. The possibilities are endless. The nature or domain of the venture and the success they achieve through it are secondary. The real metrics to validating their success should be the lessons they learn in the process. What new skills have they acquired? Have they realised the importance of planning and the need for a strategy? Are they making conscious attempts to improving efficiency? Answers to such questions provide a better understanding of their real progress.
A well-guided process of learning through one's formative years will vastly contribute to their overall growth. Entrepreneurship is the mainstay of the modern industry. Through innovation and perseverance, entrepreneurs are constantly pushing past the boundaries of the impossible. In the innovative world we live in, isn't it high time that schools play an important role in building entrepreneurs?