Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Copernican Revolutions in Entrepreneurship

The Copernican Revolutions in Entrepreneurship

February celebrated Copernicus's 540th birthday and it got me to thinking. 

I have always wanted to write about the Copernican Revolution in entrepreneurship. Copernicus is famed for showing us that the universe as heliocentric not geocentric, but his vision grew from multiple new assumptions about the nature of things.

The result is more than "the earth goes around the sun"; it was a whole new way of looking at the world. I would argue that the last couple of years we have seen nothing less than a Copernican revolution in our understanding of entrepreneurship.

And like Copernicus, this is already upsetting the apple cart in ways both obvious and subtle. 

Disruption is always messy but consider this. Even the usual entrepreneurship education is disruptive, now imagine how the best entrepreneurship training would be off-the-chart disruptive. (Do you want to be the one to tell the vast majority that they are letting down their community and their students?)

Consider the disruption already sweeping over higher ed and how oblivous/defensive most institutions are. Online education is wreaking havoc and it's the rare school that knows how to respond. (How can they, when they can't... won't... see the disruption? Clay Christensen 101, eh?) 

Copernican Entrepreneurship
In entrepreneurship: we see revolutions on multiple fronts. Let's start with this

The Revolution in Entrepreneurial Education:
the New Copernican Assumptions

1) teaching <<<< learning
Earth-centric: Teaching (and teachers) is central
Sun-centric: Learning (and learners) is central***

2) Not knowledge, not skills... Mindset!
Entrepreneurship is about action AND the mindset that facilitates action.  (Knowledge and skills are tools but it's that deeper mindset that truly matters)

3) Think novice ---> expert
Therefore, growing a more expert mindset is critical (again, not knowing "stuff" but seeing the world differently)

4) Experiential NOT "hands-on"
Changing mindsets requires deeply experiential learning [note: Learning NOT Teaching]

4) The entrepreneurial ecosystem matters
The best way to know if you have a healthy "entrepreneurial ecosystem" [the new Copernican cosmology!] is: Are we encouraging people to see more/better opportunities to create value for others? Are we providing multiple pathways for people to learn to think like expert entrepreneurs?

What does the expert entrepreneurial mindset look like? Here's a hint: 
If the heart of entrepreneurship is acting on opportunities and
the head of entrepreneurship is seeing actionable opportunities, then
the soul of entrepreneurship is understanding that "opportunity" is about creating value... for others!

Bonus for reading this far: Fun analogy from my friend Helge Lobler on piano players
       "Think about how a traditional MBA program would educate piano players: they would give lectures, they would hand out syllabuses, the would have written exams and progressive programs would have group work on presentations on how to play a piano – wow. But can anyone really play a piano after enjoying (?) the program?"

He's being a bit unfair... but not by much. You have to go all in with true experiential learning. All. in. Think of how you become a chess master. Yes, you will play a lot (and study a lot) but how do you ensure that learners take away the right lessons from their experiences? You need the help of other chess masters, especially grandmasters. So if we are to going to grow :"chess masters" in entrepreneurship... how do we do that? Stay tuned!

My next posts will address:

1) "Entrepreneurial Ecosystems 101" - what we have learned recently that is game-changing. (If  you read Brad Feld's book Startup Communities, you'll know what is coming. if you haven't read it, do so. Now. :) And this is critical for growing the entrepreneurial mindset!

2) "Entrepreneurial Chess Masters" - I've written on this before but it's time to step up and get serious about entrepreneurial learning. NOW!

*** of course, kindergarten teachers have only known this for, what, 100 years? :)



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