Business school coursework predominantly focuses on business plan writing, scalability, working capital allocation, with some of the more avant-garde schools (think tier 1 West Coast institutions) being taught by some of Silicon Valley's best. Learning the fundamentals of business is an essential starting point, just as gleaning insight from others best practices and failures is a useful practice. However, what business school does not do and never will do, is substitute real life experience.
Moving from Teaching to Doing
There’s no denying that reading every book in the football lexicon will make you knowledgeable about the game, and possibly a strategic player. Yet, no book can prepare you for the physical demands of the sport. You have to go out there and practice. You have to train hard. Fail first. Win later.
The same goes for entrepreneurs.
In the current academic spectrum, schools and professors are too preoccupied with teaching students theory, rather than having them put that theory into practice. The focus needs to shift to a more hands on approach. The question is, how?
Entrepreneurs will tell you they are underfunded, time-strapped, and understaffed. The last of these is where the academic and "real" entrepreneurial worlds need to bridge. Here we don’t mean summer MBA internships at startups, we mean active participation throughout the course year for credit.
Managing Expectations for Startup Internships
Students interested in entrepreneurship need that hands on experience, and truth be told, three months is simply not enough time. This bridge also needs to act as a tool to manage expectations of MBA’s and startup jobs.
You’ll find that a majority of top 10 MBA students will have egos. however, the startup process is decisively different than working for even an established SME. While the student may have expectations that he or she will work on strategy formulation, the reality may be that for two weeks the team may spend long hours doing nothing more than making cold calls, or even data entry. Being bootstrapped means that every penny counts and hiring three people at €8/hr to do data entry for three days is sometimes just not an option.
This is something that unfortunately the academic approach lacks, instead of a reality that oftentimes sees longer work hours than investment banking or consulting. The picture is painted that the start upper is an engine of innovation, and that securing financing is something relative to being in California in 1998 and starting a dotcom, whereas the real picture is more attune to a Mad Max style post apocalyptic grind. Which truth be told makes it fun.
Implementing change is never an easy task, especially within institutions that have over time developed bureaucracies. One avenue that does prove effective in stimulating change among learning institutions is reaching out to alumni and current students.
As schools rely on alumni donations for expanding, their voice should hold mettle among the administration. On the other side of the spectrum, business school students need to actively inform administration of their desire to participate in more hands-on initiatives instead of solely focusing on academic learning, whether it be case, or technical, as neither is a satisfactory substitute for “just doing it”.