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A MBA Degree Does NOT Teach Entrepreneurship

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Well, to talk about education being a pre-requisite for entrepreneurship we have enough real world examples that shout out loud that it aren’t. The likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and the list can go and on.

entrepreneur-success-journey[1] But, lets face it – Entrepreneurship has become the buzz word ever since the Dot Com boom happened and every Tom, Dick and Harry website attracting truck loads of funding (especially during earlier dot com boom). So much so that the mere mention of entrepreneurship now attracts major attention.

The obvious effects of the hype around entrepreneurship has glorified it so much that now most of the MBA programs run courses in entrepreneurship and some even have specializations in it. So, now of all other things MBA degree is considered a ticket for becoming an entrepreneur. So much so that some colleges openly flaunt their MBA programs as a ticket to achieve entrepreneurial ambitions.

There is a certain amount of connect here when it comes to the concept of a MBA degree and entrepreneurship. But from what I have been noticing in the recent times is that the whole connection has been blown out of the proportions both by prospective MBA students and the colleges.

Even I am guilty as charged but then being active in the start-up community, I think it is not the education part of any MBA course which helps one become an entrepreneur, it is something very fundamental which is often overlooked. It is the Diverse Network that a global MBA degree exposes an individual to. I am a little biased here with the International MBA’s here in terms of the exposure and the diversity of the student body. Moreover, International programs focus on Work-Experience which brings a lot of real time business learning to the whole experience.

A MBA degree does not teach entrepreneurship , it provides the platform to foster entrepreneurship.

I had a chance to visit an education fair recently which saw a lot of international B-schools participate. For every stall that I went in , the most commonly asked questions ranged from "How much of an entrepreneurial focus does the college have?","Is there a list of successful entrepreneurs from the college?" and some variants of the same question.

It was this one answer from one school professor that made a lot of sense to me. When being asked about the question on Entrepreneurship, his reply was a very straight-forward but bang on point none the less.

"We don’t create entrepreneurs and neither teach entrepreneurship, we teach general management and create business leaders. "

This is by far the best take on the connect with an MBA and entrepreneurship that I have heard. It looks obvious and straight forward but then the hype around MBA for Entrepreneurship has overpowered it.

MBA degree does not make one entrepreneur, it only facilitates it.

  • It provides the kind of environment that might encourage some creative thinkers to become entrepreneurs.
  • It puts together like minded thinkers to ponder over a common problem and leverage their cumulative skills to innovate
  • It teaches the fundamentals of the business and then throws it upon the students to challenge the existing practices to better them.
  • It can to a certain extent facilitate interactions with existing entrepreneurs.

There might be numerous other benefits that a MBA degree can offer in terms of entrepreneurship skills but it for sure cannot teach entrepreneurship. For that matter, I think no one can because the basic premise of entrepreneurship is the extended version of Learning By Doing which transpires as Learning By Doing Things that have not been done before or Doing Things Differently.

It is the anatomy of an entrepreneur that makes all the difference and without that, no amount of education can make one an entrepreneur.

What are your thoughts on the overrated linkage between Entrepreneurship and a MBA degree or do you think that MBA degree is indeed a ticket to Entrepreneurship?

  1. Vikrant says

    Nandan Nilekeni once said in an interview – Whatever skills I needed to manage Infosys were learnt as a mess secretary in the IIT hostel. Entrepreneurship is a bug, either you have it or not. MBA do teach you to look at a problem in 10 different ways and that helps but that alone is not enough.

    1. rabi gupta says

      very true.. the thing is- when we hv a continuous thought in mind fr a particular problem, everything else helps! if one wants to execute a new idea, even when he/she is not doing an mba they will continuously think about the idea!

  2. Vishal Sanjay says

    Exactly I learnt everything on blogging, not because of any professional course but from my own experience.

  3. rabi gupta says

    That’s a nice article. You are correct when you say that during MBA people make a good network of influential ppl, who help in building the vision and provide the necessary guidance. But this is an in-between step. Before this stage there is the first step- “igniting the spark”, and to get that spark ignited one need not to go to an MBA school. That one idea can hit you anytime, for that you just need to enhance your analytical skills and develop the ability to think differently (that’s my take)! The second stage can be tackled either ways- join an MBA college or “participate in various entrepreneurial events and b-plan competitions”. If the idea is genuine enough people will notice and you’ll definitely be able to connect to some good people.
    Third stage is executing the idea. See you’re able to think of an idea and connect to people without actually getting into an MBA college. Now execution comes into picture, and I bet you’re in a much better position to execute your ideas outside college. Why?
    See my point is simple, to execute your own stuff you need to have courage to take risks. If you’re going for an MBA that means investing a minimum of around 10-15 lacs over a span of 2 years, and not getting any time to think about your own stuff!
    My suggestion is to save that 10 lacs and start execution. Things which you’ll learn this way can’t be learned any other way.

    1. Arun Prabhudesai says

      Ditto… Especially if you want to start something on your own…

      sound advice

      My suggestion is to save that 10 lacs and start execution. Things which you’ll learn this way can’t be learned any other way.

      1. Vivek says

        The professor was indeed bang on to the point. Most B schools are trying to sell entrepreneurship as a course where what they teach is exactly what they teach in general management. I went through the same execution phase and just shutdown my venture. I can confidently say that in 1 year, professionally I grew to a point where it would have taken me 5 years to reach.

        Having said that, just like branding creates a perception of quality on a product, An MBA degree (or rather just the stamp) creates the perception of quality in the individual. Nothing can beat the power of execution. But when it comes to choosing between two individuals with the same execution capabilities, the startup ecosystem and the society overall tends to favor the one with the MBA. Goes true even for the investors, who may fund a plan on excel from IIMA but will wait till a Non MBA guy reaches positive cashflow.

        Just my take. Good Post. Keep it coming.

        1. Guest says

          As they “experience is the best teacher”.I am sure you would have learned a lot of things during your venture.Moreover, a failure only strengthens the resolve.

          But, you hit the nail with the last sentences,
          Goes true even for the investors, who may fund a plan on excel from IIMA but will wait till a Non MBA guy reaches positive cashflow.

          This is one serious problem.MBA degree creates a false impression of credibility which is again one serious problem with the start-up ecosystem in India.

        2. rabi gupta says

          Yes, you’re right! An IIM stamp can get you instant credibility and that’s only coz of mindset. 80% of the investors are those who passed frm such branded colleges and earned huge money outside India! But in between they forgot that total number of branded colleges still remain same in number in India and no of passed out graduates have increased manifolds. They need to show trust outside brand too, otherwise Indian investment system will jst remain a mockery and will help those who actually don’t need it in first place.

    2. Guest says

      Great insights Rabi!! More so when i know tht it is coming from some1 who has made the plunge:-)
      The post came about for the very same reason.I have been getting an overdose of this myth surrounding MBA and entrepreneurship and hence thought , it might make it worthwhile to pen it together.

      That being said, not everyone has the Eureka moment.So, a MBA can come in handy by providing a melting point of creative minds which can later lead to a business partnership.Moreover, an entrepreneur is not someone who can think of a new idea, he/she can be a great executioner alone.
      In cases like these, the network that a MBA degree brings can help an individual align with an entreprenerial mind.
      The idea was to highlight the fact that MBA like its promoted cannot make entrepreneurs, it can only act as a catalyst

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