There’s been a lot of discussion about whether the MBA curriculum has led business leaders astray. To the point that this year’s crop of Harvard Grads decided they needed to take an oath to look beyond stock price and financials in making business decisions. Hmmm.
This got me thinking about my own grad-school days. My favorite prof taught entrepreneurship at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Of all my classes at IU, this one clearly informed me of how little I would know when I escaped academia for the workforce.
Aside: The photo above is all about ‘dirty fingernails’ entrepreneurship. My dad also taught me a lot about business that textbooks have yet to cover. His first business was started while in the Pacific during WWII where he built this darkroom from castoff odds and ends to develop photos he would take of friends wanting to send back mementos. He also sold packets of his photos when back in the states. Supplies, time, permission all were constant challenges to be worked through.
As business schools are re-thinking their curriculum I was wondering if a more radical approach might be called for when it comes to entrepreneurship.
Of course Seth Godin decided to take a real whack at the value of an MBA by offering his alternative MBA – 6 months including one hour a day of class/dialog, four hours a day of working on his projects, three hours a day working on a personal project, and five hours a day living, noticing, doing and connecting. For an entrepreneur I can see a lot more potential value in the contacts and advice from that program for some folks than from 2 years of academic advice in the college environment.
Of course, there are a limited amount of people and companies that can offer a program like Godin, and I have not yet heard how it worked out. But it’s a great experiment and it raises the question. What could Universities do to up the ante on their entrepreneurship efforts? There are plenty of contests with relatively significant amounts of money being awarded. But contests sometimes award the beautiful over the down and dirty and so have limited appeal. We need new companies, built by energetic visionary people.
So, how about this. Go for your MBA or even better, an Entrepreneurship minor attached to an engineering, biology or English degree. As you are awarded your degree, you are handed a check equal to the past few years tuition as seed money to get your great idea further off the ground.
This would build on the networks of angel investors and VC’s that currently circle the best schools. It’s not a lot of money to get a business going, so it would force real cardboard creativity on the participants. That provides bang for the buck. The Universities get a piece of the action through stock and it forces degrees and teachers to get dirty fingernails as they see in real time if their theories work to build value in this old economy of ours.
Update 07/10/09: Corrected MBA link.