HOW CAN UNIVERSITIES ENCOURAGE ENTREPRENEURIAL AND INNOVATIVE THINKERS?

Nowadays, global business is changing at such a stunning pace, entry-level professionals barely have time to acclimate themselves to a new company, a new competitive environment, or new operational requirements. The challenges faced by young workers include lack of experience, a complex corporate world, and business education that is too theoretical and out of sync with companies’ day-to-day needs.

But business school doesn’t have to be a part of the problem; higher-learning institutions can make their degrees more engaging and hands-on by blending the traditional economic and business dogmas with real-world, practical experiences and operational challenges, which will help to prepare students for the working world.

In the preceding decades, stories of enormously successful entrepreneurs have become sufficiently well known that their stories serve as sources of inspiration and excitement to many aspiring entrepreneurs, excitement that adds to the overall mythos and energy of the entrepreneurial world. With so many possibilities, enthusiasms and passions wrapped up in the entrepreneurial sphere, it is no small wonder why every campus is not already awash in cultures of entrepreneurship and innovation.

The entrepreneurial skill set is an invaluable one that allows individuals inside and outside an organization to act as catalysts for progress. It is a skill set based on teamwork, creativity and the creation of financial stability. It is a skill set, however, that cannot be learned in one go, which is why I suspect it has yet to fully permeate our campuses.

I am aware that a desire to solve the crises of the world isn’t at the core of every student on every campus, and that’s OK. I do believe, however, that on every campus there are students for whom such a desire is an inseparable aspect of their personality. And there are students whose desires would be stoked if only they had the resources on hand to further develop these passions.

Here are the easy-to-implement ways universities can put their degrees on the competitive map and empower students effectively, readying them for productive careers.

1. Focus More on Case Studies

Case studies are an effective method to spur students’ curiosity, putting them face-to-face with real-life business situations. By studying past or present corporate success stories and operational hiccups, students can dig deeper into processes and procedures that executives follow to make decisions.

And this is what a business degree should teach—the thinking pattern a manager formulates to analyze a situation, evaluate alternatives, choose a solution, and track progress over time.

Business case studies are now part of curricula at the graduate level, but it would be beneficial for both students and universities to also make it an essential component of undergraduate programs.

2. Link Curricula to Real-World Business Challenges

Universities can jumpstart their business degrees by linking their curricula to real-life business challenges. For example, when teaching social media marketing, a lecturer can point to how companies like Facebook and Twitter have become the promotional fulcrum for many businesses around the world. Similarly, a finance professor can use mortgage crisis to instil in students notions as diverse as quantitative easing, inflation and monetary policy.

3. Invite Business Executives to Deliver Lectures

Some institutions have found new ways to make entrepreneurship teaching more engaging, vibrant, and effective. They occasionally invite business executives and ask them to teach a full course, make a presentation, or share their experiences with students.

Such initiatives have produced excellent results so far, because students can quickly learn and grasp real-world insight that tomes and tomes of business literature might not deliver so pointedly.

4. Provide Consulting Services to Small Businesses and Nonprofits

Universities can make money—and make business courses engaging—by providing consulting services to small businesses and nonprofit agencies. Conceptually, a professor would lead the consulting team of students, formulating operational priorities and guiding students throughout the consulting engagement.

This scenario is a win-win for all parties involved. Students learn practical stuff and how to cope with business tedium and nonprofit leaders; universities and faculty members make extra cash; and small businesses and nonprofits pay affordable rates for high-quality consulting services.

5. Help Students Launch Their Own Businesses

In a global economy plagued by high levels of unemployment, nothing would be better than helping students launch their own businesses. Universities can work in partnership with student-entrepreneurs—and institutions such as the Small Business Administration—to conduct market research, obtain financing, and create viable businesses.

The student-entrepreneur learns in the process, and his or her classmates also expand their practical knowledge.

To encourage entrepreneurship in students, whether it is social or for-profit, universities must offer more practical coursework, blending the theory in the traditional economic literature with the tangible needs of everyday business management. The education should be experiential, hands-on, and action-driven to give students a real-world experience. Let’s give entrepreneurship students the sink-or-swim test in the Shark Tank.

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