Sunday, January 17, 2016

#17 / The College Of The Entrepreneur

Pictured is the Georgia Southern University Center for Entrepreneurial Learning & Leadership

The GSU website makes clear that GSU believes there is a tight connection between entrepreneurship and the military:

Although the military provides much structure many veterans, particularly combat veterans, make decisions in the face of significant ambiguity and uncertainty. Dealing with a chaotic situation, knowing that the first plan might not work and being willing to adapt are essential characteristics. Entrepreneurship is very similar. You must make the right judgement, at the right time, quickly, with inadequate information and adapt if things are not working. Likewise military personnel face significant risks and must have some tolerance for risk. If you are faced with decisions that may lead to yours or somebody else’s death or injury then placing your entire livelihood on the line in a venture may not seem that risky. Even the military tempo of long periods of boredom followed by sudden periods of frantic effort mimic the tempo of entrepreneurial life, where the next business crisis is just around the corner. Being in a crisis drives adrenaline and can be exciting. Following this type of experience with a mundane job may simply lack the adrenaline rush someone is used to. Military personnel must also make do with the resources available while getting the job done. Again entrepreneurship is similar. The entrepreneur must bootstrap; barter, beg and borrow whatever resources she or he can in order to fulfill new orders. In the military it is not unusual to work and lead small teams; a very similar challenge to leading and managing the typical small business. So it seems that veterans may be well placed to make good entrepreneurs but before you embark on this road make sure entrepreneurship is right for you because there are also plenty of unsuccessful veteran entrepreneurs. 

This analogy, touting military experience (and particularly combat experience) as laying a great foundation for entrepreneurial success, seems a bit forced to me, and I think it is being advanced mainly as a way for GSU to encourage veterans to spend some tuition money at the school. I'd take the quoted rhetoric with just a grain or two of salt.

Still, it is concerning.

There is no doubt that the GSU effort to recruit students into "entrepreneurship" programs is not unusual. All sorts of universities are now out searching for students of all backgrounds, and are pitching those students to tie their future to the entrepreneurial dream. These organs of what used to be called "higher education" are now seeking to "embolden entrepreneurs" as their major mission in life. 

You can get some of the flavor of what's going on from an article in the December 29, 2015 edition of The New York Times, by Natasha Singer. As Singer's article notes, this race to turn academic institutions into entrepreneurial training institutes is not without its critics. The first paragraph of The Times' article talks about Rice University, as follows:

The original charter of Rice University, drafted in 1891, established a school here dedicated to the advancement of literature, science and art. These days, Rice seems equally dedicated to the advancement of the next Mark Zuckerberg.

To the degree that our major universities are now turning their back on their historic role of providing an education dedicated to the "advancement of literature, science and art," and are seeking to turn "education" into a training program for those seeking great personal wealth, I have to announce that I'm with the critics. 

Great schools (Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and M.I.T., as well as Rice, are mentioned in Singer's article) used to offer students a "liberal education." Increasingly, these schools are becoming "entrepreneurial" themselves (witness the creative GSU pitch to combat veterans), which makes me wonder whether contemporary college graduates, trained to care about achieving great personal wealth as their main aim in life, will have even the slightest understanding that their individual fate is directly linked to our common fate, and that there is a great question whether or not human civilization itself will be able to continue, as we undermine the World of Nature that supports all our human activities.

Color me concerned!

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1 comment:

  1. I wonder if these programs teach how successful entrepreneurs start our already rich?


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