"This is the true joy in life - the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one." - George Bernard Shaw

Of late the print media seem to cover quite a few columns on entrepreneurship. Yesterday's ET has two big columns on this subject - one showcasing three entrepreneurs who dared to not follow the typical B-school crowd mentality, and the other attempting to explore a seemingly ridiculous question on whether one can be taught to become an entrepreneur. This debate cannot be dismissed as a purely academic one for if entrepreneurship can be learnt as a discipline, then it is bound to change the whole paradigm of business.

Today, there is enough literature that identifies typical attributes of an entrepreneur. In fact there are psychometric tests, such as Entrepreneurial Attributes Scale, that could be used to identify whether one has successful entrepreneurial attributes -  high level of drive and energy, self confidence, calculated-risk taking ability, readiness to learn from ones own mistakes and ability to visualize way-ahead. Now the question is whether these attributes can be imbibed in. Or can we categorically say that someone is born with these traits? If these attributes can be taught as a formulas, then is a B-School the right place? Is it not too late to learn these attributes, most of which are soft skills?

On one end of the spectrum, plethora of theories and evidences have been put forth that essentially says that it is absurd to expect to learn being an entrepreneur. However, in citing world's most successful entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and Indian success stories of Ambani or Dabbawalas, the argument falls into the trap of "Fallacy of biased sample" or what in psychology is termed as a "Confirmation bias".

The most repulsive argument comes when one cites numerous entrepreneurs who have emerged in the developing countries owing to the availability of capital through micro-credit. This calls for a more comprehensive review of two kinds of entrepreneurship - "Necessity based" and "Opportunity based". Are the self-employed bunch essentially entrepreneurs? If so, are the millions of Indians, unlike in the west, born entrepreneurs and hence don't need to be taught the same in a school setting?

Well, while much needs to be researched on teaching this discipline at MBA level, it might be worth noting that occasionally even best of the B-schools might falter and produce people of the George W Bush's (Harvard'75) caliber! Do we draw any conclusions from the Fortune magazine's 1999 article on "Why CEOs fail?" that states that 40% of failed CEOs were MBAs?

For now, time shall speak if like in Science, someday we have Newton's laws of entrepreneurship. Can schools impart confidence if not competence for budding entrepreneurs?

~ Santosh

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