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unCon 2013 Session: Entrepreneurship Education

Moderator: Blake Sims
Can entrepreneurship be taught? In an era
where the word is being used in nearly every sector and at ever level, it’s a
very good question to ask.
The session was led by Blake Sims, a Master’s
Candidate in International Education Policy at Harvard School of Education ( http://gse.harvard.edu
). Sims was a middle school teacher before going back for her graduate degree
and recently started a blog called Innovation Garage ( http://www.innovation-garage.com
).
As more and more of us in the US look at our
“innovation economy,” a quick Google search will tell you it’s a question many
are asking, including:
•      
Entrepreneur
( http://www.entrepreneur.com/video/228490
)
Just the idea of defining entrepreneurship
can be a tricky one. It’s taken on such ubiquitous usage over the last decade
that it can include everything from starting your own business to being
entrepreneurial within a large corporation.
So, is entrepreneurship mean starting a
business or is it a way of thinking? If you can teach it, how do you teach it?
Can schools foster creativity more? Are our schools currently teaching the
creativity out of our students? How do we launch programs in high schools on
self-reflection and problem solving? How do we help people utilize their
creativity to be an entrepreneur? What are the motivations for becoming an
entrepreneur?
Not surprisingly, the session attracted more
people who think you can than thought you can’t. Several were parents
interested in how they can better prepare their children for the innovation
economy and several were high school students (at least one from Milton Academy
( http://www.milton.edu
) ) and college students who were already managing their own entrepreneurial
enterprises—from dog walking businesses to a college nightlife shuttle service
(in Boston for when the T shuts down and no cabs are available) to family dry
cleaning businesses to ed tech startups) to entrepreneurial journalism.
The session discussed child-centric programs
like Destination Imagination (http://www.destinationimagination.org ),
which serves as a “global leader in teaching the creative process from
imagination to innovation” and their role in preparing youth for future career
opportunities.
Many look at entrepreneurship as developing
the skill of problem solving, through which all other pursuits can be achieved.
There’s also the concept of how to sell: how to sell an investor on an idea,
how to sell a consumer on a purchase, or how to sell your product or service.
As an entrepreneur, at the start, all of these responsibilities are usually on
your shoulder.
One of the best parts of the conversation was
about whether entrepreneurship is a formal education, or is it a culture you
foster across disciplines?
A key piece of entrepreneurship is how to get
people over the fear of risk and failure. While many startups gurus encourage
entrepreneurs to fail fast, learn, and make a better product or service next
time, human nature is not so inclined to enjoy failure. Of course, there’s also
the advantage for younger people who are less inclined to fear risk when
starting a new venture.
Plus, we acknowledged that getting a startup
business going is hard. It’s hard to acquire capital, it’s hard to find the
right people to help your company grow, but, in my experience, most
entrepreneurs simply don’t let any obstacle get in their way.
The session also brought to light a variety
of local entrepreneurial ventures like Boston College’s Lynch Leadership
Academy (  http://www.bc.edu/schools/csom/lynchacademy.html
), Build Boston ( http://www.build.org/buildfest ) 30 Hands
Learning ( http://www.ipresentonline.com
), Jeremiah Burke High School’s technology program ( http://www.boston.k12.ma.us/burke/Site/Home.html ), and
Tufts University’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program ( http://gordon.tufts.edu/programs/entrepreneurial-leadership-program
).
In an era where entrepreneurs pitching
investors has become mainstreamed by ABC’s Shark Tank television series ( http://abc.go.com/shows/shark-tank/about-the-show
), perhaps the idea of being an entrepreneur are helped simply by showing
everyone a little bit about how it works to develop a business idea, find
funding, manage ownership and growth, and, once again, pursuing the American
dream.
Several books recommended included titles by
Seth Godin ( http://sethgodin.com
), Steve Blank ( http://steveblank.com
), as well as Bill Aulet’s  (https://entrepreneurship.mit.edu/faculty/bill-aulet
) Disciplined Entrepreneurship (http://disciplinedentrepreneurship.com
) , Tony Wagner’s Creating Innovators (http://www.tonywagner.com/resources/creating-innovators
) and David and Tom Kelley’s Creative Confidence ( http://www.creativeconfidence.com
). Another participant suggested reading Wired magazine’s recent article, How a
Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses ( http://www.wired.com/business/2013/10/free-thinkers
) and attending events like Startup Weekend (http://startupweekend.org
) to see how enterpreneurs think, work, and act.
While we didn’t answer all our own questions,
it’s clear many are working on determining how to better foster entrepreneurship,
for people of any age. In the years to come, it’s likely we’ll have much more
data about how education is impacting American entrepreneurship. I can’t wait
to see what works.
By Charles McEnerney

Charles McEnerney is a Principal at
Layers Marketing ( http://layersmarketing.com ), a
full-service agency handling traditional, web, and mobile marketing
based in Boston, Massachusetts. Charlie has worked in marketing roles at
media and entertainment companies for more than 25 years, including at
ArtsBoston, Fast Company magazine,
HBO, MovieMaker magazine, the Seattle International Film
Festival, WGBH Boston, and in film, audio, and music production. Current
and recent Layers Marketing clients include Appsembler, The Arts
Fuse, Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, The Eliot School of Fine
& Applied Arts, Future of Music Coalition, Jamaica Plain Music
Festival, and the Over My Shoulder Foundation. Charlie teaches the four
marketing courses at Emerson College as well as workshops and seminars
about marketing and social media.

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