Learning entrepreneurship by being an entrepreneur

Tina Seelig just gave a wonderful talk at the iSchool titled: ‘Entrepreneurship is an extreme sport’. She talked about how important it is to teach entrepreneurship by doing. The video above was made by a team of her students at Stanford where she teaches a class on entrepreneurship. The students were given a pack of post-its and told to create as much value as possible out of the resource in a limited period of time.

The success of the course led to the Global Entrepreneurship Week. According to the website, Global Entrepreneurship Week ‘connected young people everywhere through local, national and global activities designed to help them explore their potential as self-starters and innovators’. I’m interested to see what happened in South Africa. I had a look at the site, but can’t see similar activities to Seelig’s entrepreneurship-by-doing philosophy. Looks like there was a lot of talking and networking – all great and valuable but I think that the real value of Seelig’s approach is what’s missing in SA.

By actively practicing entrepreneurship, said Seelig, students learn about: identifying opportunities, challenging assumptions, leveraging resources, creating value, learning about teamwork, taking risks, and learning from failure.

Failure is an important part of learning to be an entrepreneur, said Seelig. A colleague of hers has a philosophy of punishing inaction but never failure.

Her advice to people in places that look down on failure? ‘Try to create a hub where you actively promote a culture that doesn’t punish failure,’ she said.

Seelig noticed that students do much better in the course when it is linked to extra-curricula activities rather than linking it to a grade.

‘At the start of the class, I tell my students to: never miss an opportunity to be fabulous,’ she said.

SA could take a leaf out of Seelig’s book: ‘What I wish I knew when I was 20: A crash course in making your place in the world‘. In a way, I guess we’re the national equivalent of 20 🙂

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