‘In order to become a successful entrepreneur, it is essential to go through extensive further education, culminating in an MBA from a prestigious university,’ - said no actual entrepreneur, ever.
In fact, many of the most famously successful entrepreneurs we know of abandoned higher education to pursue their ventures: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg. They all dropped out of school, and this does not seem to have hindered their success in any way.
And when the Nobel prize-winning Professor Mohamed Yunus, who pioneered the concept of microfinance, launched the new CIU brand and School of Business and Applied Technology, he made a point of saying that entrepreneurs need not go to university to become successful. This may seem like a strange statement to make at the launch of a new business school, but Professor Yunus has a Nobel Prize for his work in social entrepreneurism; he is a hard man to argue with. And I for one agree. It is not necessary, and some education systems can actually be detrimental to the entrepreneurial mindset.
An entrepreneur needs to be imaginative, innovative, creative, to think outside of the box, to look at a problem and turn it into an opportunity. In actuality, education often does the opposite. It tells us what the ‘right’ way to approach a problem is and trains us to regurgitate this response to that particular problem. But when a new problem arises, our abilities to solve it have been squashed.
So what is the point of education? Is it pointless for an aspiring entrepreneur to go to school? Of course not. While it is not hard to find entrepreneurs who have dropped out of higher education, it is hard to find examples that have had no education. Clearly a basic grasp of fundamental skills is needed in reading, writing, and arithmetic. But what about beyond this? Well, that depends on the approach of the educator. Most entrepreneurs have acquired their opportunities during their higher education and found quickly that once tackling that opportunity they outgrew their university or college. That being the case, I would consider the university or college to have done its job well. One way or another they have introduced an opportunity to that entrepreneur.
However, if your business school presents a singular and formulaic approach to entrepreneurial success, I would suggest you drop out immediately and that you are better off on your own. There is no one solution to a business problem.
But what if there was another way for higher education?
What if your program gave real-life case studies from real-life entrepreneurs that you could meet and interrogate for yourself?
What if it gave you actual practical skills that are applicable in your chosen business field?
What if it gave you opportunities to practice those skills in a real-life context?
What if it challenged you to be more innovative?
And what if the core values of that University and School of business were the same as those necessary for a successful entrepreneur: to lead, to innovate, and ultimately to transform.
You can probably see where I am going with this. Let me summarize by reiterating what Professor Yunnus said at the launch of our School of Business and Technology: you don’t have to go to University to be a successful entrepreneur. But if you want the best possible chance of success, CIU and SoBAT will be a partner to give you the practical skills you need, to equip you with experience - not academic notions - and to create opportunities for entrepreneurship. We value the very core fundamentals of entrepreneurship.
Sean Clarke, CEO of Clarke Group Education.
Lead, Innovate, Transform.