SETsquared Blog

Is there a new religion upon us?

Praise the word of Entrepreneurship. This is what SETsquared’s Kauffman Global Scholar, Shaun Miller, said this week. He has been converted just one month into his six month trip to the US on the Kauffman programme. What we are looking at is how do we disseminate the learning, enthusiasm and skills Shaun is gaining to make him into a true preacher of this new religion, Entrepreneurship. As Shaun says, he was already on the road to Damascus but many others have yet to see their potential in joining this new religion. How can we help those students to become ministers of their own destiny and not only preach the word but live the word?

Some say it is a question of cultural change. In the UK it has become fashionable to start your own business, in part due to popular TV programmes and celebrity status having been given to the entrepreneur stars of the shows. We are beginning to believe we can get rich and have fame through starting a business. This concept is strongest amongst the young. Many students and pupils I meet today have already notched up a few start-ups on their belt and often have the battle scars too but this is about learning not pain. These aren't the masses though. One might argue these are the risk takers who already have the entrepreneurial spirit we just need to give them skills and tools. 

But can more be encouraged to become entrepreneurs or at least be entrepreneurial in whatever company they work for? Are these skills we should be ingraining from a very young age across our schools?

I visited Qatar University this month and met with Prof Nitham Hindi, Dean College of Business and Economics. He explained that the Qatar government is focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship with a mandate to diversify market sector share away from just oil and gas by 2030. But unlike the UK, they face a different problem which other countries experience such as Finland. These countries have strong economies with graduates from good universities, like Qatar, guaranteed jobs. Why would they swap the safe, well paid and dare I say cushy job for one full of risk and challenges.  As Juha Perälampi, visiting faculty from Finland at Qatar University said, "we have to start with entrepreneurship education to help generate cultural change".  But is this true? With a short window of just 17 years to build a solid platform of new market sectors can change be created by preaching to the masses?  After all the UK has been preaching entrepreneurship for many years now having looked to the success in the US. We are only just beginning to see the germinating seeds starting to flourish and build the economic growth required in this “World” economy.

I personally am in favour of the concept we see in religions the world over. Have an evangelist. Get them to build a strong following of disciples, to use a biblical reference. Slowly, as people see and hear about what these “entrepreneurs” are achieving they will follow. It takes a few strong leaders to round up the flock. 

Really it comes back to the debate we see in psychology of nature and nurture. Are entrepreneurs born or created? Like in the case of babies imprinting, I believe it is a mix of both. Some disposition to being adventurous certainly helps to drive a person to  hitch their truck to the band wagon and ride the entrepreneurial trail. 

What do you think? Cultural vs focus to generate new economies? Born ability vs fostered ability to generate entrepreneurs? Lets start the debate today.