Not everyone wants to be Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, although looking at the rate of growth in entrepreneurship education in U.S. business schools, it may appear that way. But putting entrepreneurial skills to work in established enterprises is increasingly seen as crucial to business success. Fail to respond to the fast-changing business environment with aggressive innovation and rapid-fire, effective problem solving and failure analysis, and the competition may eat you alive.
At the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, associate professor Philip Powell admits the school, with its new online executive MS in entrepreneurship and innovation, may be “heading upstream” against the surge of startup-focused B-school entrepreneurship programs.
But the new degree, intended for working professionals, caters to would-be entrepreneurs while at the same time focusing on teaching skills for innovating within established enterprises.
Students inclined toward startups will make real-life pitches to flesh-and-blood venture capitalists and angel investors in Silicon Valley. Students interested in bringing innovations into their own companies will pitch real-life proposals to their executives.
TEACHING THE ‘ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET’
The program – which school officials believe is the only one of its kind in the world – is set to inculcate an “entrepreneurial mindset” applicable to startups and to existing firms, with experiential programs oriented around either focus.
“We’re really talking about a mindset that is one about vision, change and creation,” says Donald F. Kuratko, a professor of entrepreneurship at Kelley. “Do you have the vision to recognize opportunities where others see chaos, contradiction or confusion? It’s that open mindset . . . (seeing) change as opportunity. Once you see changes as opportunities, you start to think about how you can great something from this.
“It’s not just about a startup. It’s also about corporate innovation – it’s about, ‘What can I do inside my organization where I start to see things that need to be changed, need to be adjusted. Or there are changes in the organization that I see as opportunity.’ We’re still going to allow students to work on startup activity, if that’s where they see their vision.”
While the program is open to qualified non-Kelley students, it’s also aimed at innovation-minded Kelley MBA students who want to double up with an MS.
Rapid technological advances are not only driving startup creation. They’re making innovation essential to going concerns, Kuratko says. “Technology is driving us so fast and so far, we’re seeing this exponential change happening. We’ve got stuff at our fingertips we didn’t even think of 10 years ago. If companies don’t actually seek innovation, they may be a victim of it.”
FOUNDATIONAL GROUNDING FIRST
Students’ experiential work will follow an intensive grounding in functional disciplines: entrepreneurial finance, entrepreneurial marketing, and models of venture creation and corporate innovation, Kuratko says.
Students will learn fundamental theories, then the processes of innovation, then will be immersed in the practices of innovation through experiential learning. “Too many programs jump to the practice of it without (students) understanding the theories of the processes first,” Kuratko says.
“If you’ve got the right theoretical foundation and understand the processes, when things fail, you’ll understand why. You’ll be able to dissect the failure. I don’t think people are paying attention to what it takes to learn from failure.”
Students oriented toward startups will take a full-credit course that sends them to Silicon Valley for a week, where they’ll pitch enterprise ideas developed over six weeks to a panel of venture capitalists, angel investors, and successful entrepreneurs, including two from the biotech industry, Kuratko says. “These are people that made their bones in Silicon Valley. These students are not pitching to lightweights.
ROLLING THE DICE WITH THE BIG PLAYERS
“We’re going to let (them) push it forward. We’re going to let (them) roll the dice with the real guys, not the professors.”