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Can Innovative Entrepreneurship be Taught?


A recent survey developed for the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy by research at New York University’s Stern School of Business and NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, suggests that successful entrepreneurs can be taught and aren’t merely born with a start-up gene, like Harvard dropouts Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.

The study of 5,618 respondents finishing or holding business degrees from five Northeast US schools (unnamed because of confidentiality agreements) found that there is a correlation between taking classes on entrepreneurship and forming a company with original ideas, as defined by obtaining patents, copyrights, and creating new production techniques.

For instance, 39% of respondents who studied entrepreneurship founded a company, versus only 26% who didn’t formally study the topic. Eighty-six percent of those who said their firms offered new products studied entrepreneurship, but only 18% of those who launched inventive goods said they didn’t study the subject. Among patent or copyright holders, 75% studied entrepreneurship, but only 10% learned on the job. And 62% of those who said their firms use new production techniques said they took a course in entrepreneurship, versus 28% who didn’t.

“With the unemployment rate at nearly 10%, future jobs will have to come from start-ups,” says Chad Moutray, chief economist at the SBA’s Office of Advocacy. “Education could have an impact on creating innovative new businesses.” The study will continue in 2010 with surveys of business students in additional U.S. regions, as well as China, Asia, and the Middle East.

Of course, the question arises: Do those people who are naturally inclined to be start-up owners gravitate to classes on entrepreneurship? It's hard to tell. And the survey's authors acknowledge that "those involved in entrepreneurship may have been more likely to complete the survey, as a result of their interest in the subject matter."


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