Can an MBA enhance your entrepreneurial skills?

By | April 19, 2011

The Association of Business Schools’ latest ‘Tomorrow’s MBA’ research into what prospective MBA students are looking for has found that there is an increased demand for entrepreneurial skills.

Entrepreneurship is not new to the MBA, but for many years the focus for many MBA students has been banking, finance and consulting. The report argues that the era of entrepreneurship as a dominant feature of MBA education has arrived.

1. Why is there a growing interest in entrepreneurship education amongst MBA students?

The report suggests that this may be explained in part by the impact of the economic downturn on the job market, and the declining number of jobs in banking and finance. I believe that this is complemented by the growing importance employers are giving to the entrepreneurial potential of appointees in their recruitment processes – even in public sector organisations.

2. Can you teach someone to be an entrepreneur?

Can we ensure that a new Alan Sugar will emerge among MBA graduates of Bradford University School of Management? Many believe that entrepreneurship is an inherent personality type and not a teachable skill. Interestingly however, I have never heard the question: ‘can you teach someone to be artistic?’ ie. can Oxford University ensure that another Salvador Dali will emerge among graduates of its Fine Arts programme?

Entrepreneurship requires certain innate skills but they are skills that most people already have which just need to be nurtured.

3. What can Business Schools do to support entrepreneurial behaviour through MBAs and other programmes?

I always felt that the question of whether you can teach entrepreneurship is wrong.  And I am increasingly convinced, as entrepreneurship education grows of age, that there are many things we can and are doing to support entrepreneurial behaviour

  • provide students with an understanding of creative thinking processes as well as the ability to use contemporary creative thinking techniques
  • enhance the ability of students to identify and map out opportunities, that will enable them to act entrepreneurially not only through business start-up but also within existing organisations
  • develop skills in functional areas of business (such as finance, marketing, operations and technology management) that are essential for the realisation of entrepreneurial ideas
  • advance the leadership attributes of individuals, so that they can articulate their vision and secure the buy-in needed for the realisation of their entrepreneurial ventures

So, to go back to one of the earlier questions: can we ensure that a new Alan Sugar will emerge among MBA graduates of Bradford University School of Management? No we can’t. But can we guarantee that MBA graduates from our School are creative, enterprising, trying to identify opportunities, and possess the skills needed to exploit these opportunities.

MBA students and alumni – how have you used taught entrepreneurial skills to further your career as a business owner or employee?

About Christos Kalantaridis

Professor Christos Kalantaridis, a leading academic in entrepreneurship and innovation, joined the School in 2011. Prof Kalantaridis leads the Innovation Club which helps businesses to break down barriers and share ideas on innovation. He is keen to hear from businesses, entrepreneurs and organisations about their issues and barriers to innovation and carry out research to identify how to ensure good ideas are sustainable.

Christos got his PhD in Economics at The University of Salford where he alsoworked for three years as Professor of Entrepreneurship & Regional Development & Director of the Centre for Enterprise & Innovation Research.

He is a much published academic and recently worked collaboratively with Aalto University in Finland – a world leading centre for helping businesses to innovate, particularly in technologies – and with partners in four European countries to develop best practice in transferring knowledge from universities to organisations.

Specialties: Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Problem solving for businesses, Knowledge transfer, Business engagement