Why are business schools failing at the education of entrepreneurship?

Dear MBA friends, professors, fellow entrepreneurs:

It's time for a real discussion about why our business school programs are failing at the education of entrepreneurship.

This is not yet-another rant about how business schools students suck at startups.  That's been done, over and over again.  I would like to engage you all in an actual discussion.  I have one goal: to help our business schools get better at teaching entrepreneurship.

I judged a business school entrepreneurial pitch event in May.  Teams of hard working MBA students had spent 10 weeks preparing investor pitches for their companies. Faculty were heavily engaged.  Successful entrepreneurs were brought in to judge the teams.  And as I listened to each team present, all I could think about was how silly this all was.  Absolute silliness.  These students' presentations were so removed from what actual investment presentations look like.  One judge told me in the hall that he had seen more entrepreneurial savviness from a 12 year old's lemonade stand.  He was only half-joking.  And this was an elite top 10 program.  What is going on? Seriously, what is going on with our MBA programs??

It wasn't from lack of effort.  They had worked really hard.  I talked to many of the teams and this project was one of the most important activities they had done in business school thus far.  They were truly proud of their hard work.

It wasn't from lack of support.  The faculty were fully engaged and passionate about teaching these students.

It wasn't from lack of good ideas.  Some of these students had ideas that I know could be immediately fundable if done right.  I saw several that had the potential to become big businesses.

Seriously.  What is going on?  I talked to several faculty members.  These are scholars and teachers for whom I hold the upmost respect.  I told them that this whole eship program was a disservice to these students.  The students had not only failed to learn about entrepreneurship, they had learned many things that were just plain wrong, totally divorced from real world application.  This program was not a foundational piece of education that would help them be successful once outside of classroom. It would hurt them.  As in, they would literally have been better off without going through the experience.

 

And here's the kicker.  The faculty members agreed.

 

That's right.  They know.  They know this is awful stuff.  And they're desperate to get it right.  They know that their entrepreneurship programs are an eye-sore, and they want to make changes.  They're turning to alumni for advice.  They're creating strategic steering committees to discuss the problem.  They want solutions.

It's time for a real discussion.

 

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I've been thinking a lot about this for the last several years.  And I've got some opinions to share on the topic.   Let's be real though.  There aren't going to be easy answers.   We need to dive into some tough topics, and I need your help to do it.  For the time being, I'm focused specifically on helping actual business schools.  As a Y Combinator alum, I know that there are other ways to teach entrepreneurship outside of the classroom.  This is my attempt to focus on fixing it inside the classroom. I've listed out a few initial questions I would like to tackle:

1. What are the root causes leading to business schools failing at the education of entrepreneurship?

2. What are the current best practice for teaching entrepreneurship in a business school setting?

3. What solutions can we recommend to business school faculty to help them make real positive change in the curriculum?

I would like your help with these questions.  Please feel free to leave your comments here on the blog or on Hacker News.  Also feel free to write your own blog post and link to it in the comments.  Please email me your more substantive thoughts at humbledmba AT gmail.com.  I would like to find several people that are interested in joining me in a collaborative follow-up post.  Please send me your perspective — I won't publish anything without your permission.

Please also forward this on to your MBA and entrepreneurship friends and colleagues.  I am contacting Tuck, my alma mater, to have some candid conversations with them.  I would love to hear from people at other schools.  I'm going to do several more posts on this subject.

I'm really looking forward to this discussion.

 

Most Sincerely Yours,

 

Jason Freedman

 

 

 

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I'm Jason Freedman.  I co-founded FlightCaster.  
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