Seeing as I have all but abandoned BadskiBlog in pursuit of a better GMAT score the last month, I thought it was fitting to sneak in a blog post about MBA's. There is a steady debate within the business community on whether entrepreneurs are born or taught. My sense is that entrepreneurs are molded both by gifts at birth as well as their experiences and education. Fortune Magazine took a stab at this argument in a recent article in their small business blog by focusing less on the endless debate and more on the opportunities available to hone the entrepreneurial attributes you can control; your education.
Gregg Fairbrothers wasn't born to business. He grew up in an academic household. "I didn't know a debit from a credit," he admits. Fairbrothers studied earth sciences at Dartmouth in the '70s, got his master's at Rutgers, and eventually moved to Tulsa, where he joined Samson, a gas driller, and earned his chops at the right hand of the company's "hard-nosed founder." He picked up an MBA, but that was "just to get the toolkit," he says. "I learned my business on the job."
Today, as founding director of the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, Fairbrothers teaches a wildly popular course on entrepreneurship at the Tuck School of Business.
The article lists a few interesting facts on teaching entrepreneurship and how it has really exploded in the past few decades.
Twenty years ago teaching people how to start their own businesses was a sideshow at B-schools, of scant interest to future consultants and Wall Streeters. Today entrepreneurship education is everywhere. More than two-thirds of U.S. colleges and universities -- well over 2,000, up from 200 in the 1970s -- are teaching it, and they offer it to all comers: social workers, farmers, and even musicians. The field is thriving, but have we figured out yet the best way to teach this stuff? If not, are we at least getting better at it? And can you even teach someone to be an entrepreneur?
Although Fairbrothers teaches entrepreneurship it seems as though he shares similar sentiments that I do, acknowledging that entrepreneurship is likely a combination of born attributes and learned skill. I have posted a few of his most enlightening comments below.
Fairbrothers has heard what critics say. To a point, he shares their doubts. He's not sure anybody has figured out yet how to define entrepreneurship, much less measure it.
According to a Kauffman Foundation study published early this year, the surge in entrepreneurial education during the past three decades has had "no appreciable impact on entrepreneurial activity in the United States." Even at Tuck, less than 2% of graduates immediately start their own businesses.
But maybe that's not the right way to look at it. Entrepreneurs are not defined by what they do, Fairbrothers argues, but by how they do it. He views entrepreneurship as a set of traits, identifiable and measurable, and dispersed along a classic bell curve. Here he sides with Howard Stevenson and David Gumpert, co-authors of a seminal study published 25 years ago in Harvard Business Review. Entrepreneurship is not "an all-or-none trait that some people or organizations possess and others don't," the authors wrote, but rather "a range of behavior."
"So the question is," says Fairbrothers, "can you take a point on that curve and move it? If 'entrepreneurial' is to the right, can you move it that way? I know I can move it that way. I've done it."