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Part One: Is entrepreneurship education an oxymoron?

Gary Schoeniger, Founder and CEO, The Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative

This is the first in a two part series in which Gary Schoeniger discusses entrepreneurship education. Below is Part One: Is entrepreneurship education an oxymoron?

Are entrepreneurs born with a unique ability?

What is it that enables them to recognize opportunities that the rest of us overlook? And how are they able to accomplish so much with so little?

Once looked upon as Mavericks who bucked the system, entrepreneurs have become mainstream players who are now driving innovation, new job creation and economic growth.

Yet, while much is known about small business management and the inner workings of large organizations; surprisingly little is known about entrepreneurs and their ability to create new ventures.

For much of the last century, entrepreneurs were largely ignored; their decision making process was once characterized as, “a scientifically unfathomable mystery.” Large organizations fostered a hierarchical culture steeped in scientific management theories and narrowly defined job descriptions that focused on repetition and efficiency rather than innovation and entrepreneurship. The promise of job security and a decent wage rendered entrepreneurship virtually irrelevant as a subject of interest or field of study.

Today, entrepreneurs have become the force multipliers of our economy, yet the term entrepreneurship education has become somewhat of an oxymoron. Many of these emerging academic and government sponsored initiatives have adopted a formulaic approach that reflects this old-economy mindset – making little or no distinction between entrepreneurship and small business management. By doing so, they often overlook what may be the most essential aspects of entrepreneurship and what it really takes to start and grow a successful new venture. Not surprisingly, the results have been limited and for many, the “secret” to entrepreneurial success remains a mystery.


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