Yesterday I attended a marketing lunch called LA2M, an Ann Arbor weekly gathering at Conor O’Neill’s pub on Main Street featuring a speaker, networking and some great ideas. Really nice people. A cool event.
The guy who spoke, Wesley Huffstutter, works in tech startups for the University of Michigan. He spoke about all the programs the university offers entrepreneurs, including degrees and certificates in entrepreneurship.
Very cool, in a way. Michigan has long suffered economically as a one-horse town (or should I say, one-industry (auto) state?). We need a healthy dose of innovation.
Except I began to wonder if it’s something you can really teach. I posed that question on Facebook, where a friend astutely commented that, like art, she believes entrepreneurship has some innate characteristics but can be deepened and enhanced through education. Fair enough.
As a not-yet-millionaire myself, and an entrepreneur for the past 15 years, I have to agree. I have no certificates or degrees in this; my graduate degree was in poetry (fun, not marketable). My entrepreneurial zeal comes from somewhere deep inside, plus an encouraging entrepreneurial family.
And yet perhaps I’d already be at the millionaire level and beyond if I had training? Maybe. Maybe not.
Taking risks, trying new things, jumping in without really assessing the logic and likelihood of an endeavor, those are entrepreneurial characteristics. I don’t think you can teach them. Cautious people don’t suddenly become risk-worthy.
Or do they?
Is it that such programs teach a method to the madness, an approach that puts you on a path more toward success than if you just try your dumb luck and instincts?
My only fear is that, once institutionalized, once structured into curricula and degrees, once supervised and assessed, entrepreneurship is stripped off its very core – the daring to be different, the living outside the box, the I’ll do anything just to make something happen.
If a program can combine the best of both, I am all for it. If not, aren’t we just recreating the assembly line? (Which, by the way, celebrates its centennial this month!)