AWA: Academic Writing at Auckland
An Argument Essay argues for a position, which is usually stated in the Introduction. It may consider and refute (explain the weakness in) opposing views. The position is usually restated in the Conclusion.
Title: Can entrepreneurship be taught?
Copyright: Giovan Widjaja
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Can entrepreneurship be taught?
The question of whether it is possible for a person to learn to become an entrepreneur has vexed numerous scholars. For many decades, entrepreneurs are seen as individuals who are born with specific set of personality traits and abilities that enable them to recognise and exploit business opportunities. A person who is not born with these innate attributes simply cannot be educated to become an entrepreneur. Despite the enduring theory that entrepreneurship cannot be taught through education, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that a person does not need to have a set of specific personality traits in order to become an entrepreneur. Anyone who can learn to behave entrepreneurially can become an entrepreneur. Research also shows that it is possible for aspiring entrepreneurs to learn to acquire entrepreneurial soft-skills, such as the ability to think creatively and take calculated risk through participation in activities that are designed to simulate real entrepreneurial experience. Before debunking the prevailing myth that entrepreneurship cannot be taught through education, this essay will describe the competing theories about entrepreneurship and the most common argument used to justify the idea that entrepreneurs must have a specific set of inherent personality traits. Then this essay will explain the reasons why, contrary to the widely-accepted myth, it is possible for entrepreneurship to be taught to aspiring entrepreneurs.
There are two competing theories about the definition of entrepreneurship. Traditionally, entrepreneurship is defined in terms of the personal characteristics that distinguish entrepreneurs from non-entrepreneurs. Proponents of this theory believe that entrepreneurs are individuals who are more creative, more extroverted, more confident, and more optimistic than the average population (Fisher & Koch, 2008, p. 1). Those who were not born with these so-called entrepreneurial traits simply cannot become an entrepreneur, even if they have been trained to think and behave like an entrepreneur (Thompson, 2004, p. 246). There are, however, some scholars who reject the traditional approach of defining entrepreneurship. Instead, these scholars believe that entrepreneurship is a behaviour as opposed to a set of innate personality traits. For example, Spinelli and Adams (2012) defined entrepreneurship as “a way of thinking, reasoning, and acting that is opportunity obsessed, holistic in approach, and leadership balanced for the purposes of value creation and capture” (p. 87). Proponents of the behavioural approach of defining entrepreneurship believe that anyone can learn to become an entrepreneur, regardless of their personality traits, because it is possible to teach individual to act and think entrepreneurially (Drucker, 1985, p. 23; Spinelli & Adams, 2012, p.42). To this day, there is still no consensus on the definition of entrepreneurship. However, the theory that entrepreneurs owe their success to a set of innate personality traits still remains widely-accepted due to the belief that not all aspects of entrepreneurship can be taught through education.
Not all aspects of entrepreneurship can be easily taught and acquired easily through education. A student must have a wide array of skills in order to become a successful entrepreneur. It is important for an aspiring entrepreneur to have sound knowledge of business and management skills such as the ability to create business plan and manage a business. These skills are relatively easy to teach to students and are widely taught by educational institutions (Henry, Hill & Leitch, 2003, p. 90). However, having these skills alone would not be able to guarantee a student’s success as an entrepreneur. A nascent entrepreneur must also the necessary skills that allow them to lead an organisation, take calculated risks, and create innovative strategies (Haase & Lautenschlager, 2011, p. 146). Unlike the ability to formulate a business plan, these soft-skills cannot be communicated externally (Johannisson, 1990, p. 78). Hence, it is impossible for an instructor to formulate a step-by-step guide that students can follow in order to be able to think creatively or take risks. Due to the difficulty associated with teaching these soft-skills, some believe that these skills cannot be taught to aspiring entrepreneurs and that successful entrepreneurs are simply born with those specific skills. However, despite the prevailing belief that a person cannot become an entrepreneur without being born with the so-called entrepreneurial traits and abilities, real life observations suggest that an individual does not need to have specific set of traits in order to become an entrepreneur. Additionally, research has also shown that it is possible for students to acquire the supposedly-unteachable entrepreneurial soft-skills through participation in activities that emulate real-life entrepreneurial experience. The following paragraphs will provide more detailed explanations about the reasons why the idea that entrepreneurship cannot be taught through education may not be valid.
Real world observations seem to suggest that entrepreneurs can be successful without having the so-called entrepreneurial personality traits. There is widely-accepted belief that all entrepreneurs share a similar set of personality traits which enable them to become successful entrepreneurs. Real life entrepreneurs, however, have a wide variety of personality traits and not all successful entrepreneurs possess the so-called entrepreneurial personality traits. For instance, 52% of 250 British entrepreneurs described themselves as being risk averse, even though it is commonly believed that successful entrepreneurs are individuals who are not afraid of taking risks (Kim, 2012). As Lee (as cited in Spinelli & Adams, 2012) once said, entrepreneurs can be “gregarious or low key, analytical or intuitive, charismatic or boring, good with details or terrible, delegators of control freaks” (p. 42). There is simply not enough evidence to conclude that a person must possess specific set of characteristics in order to succeed as an entrepreneur. Contrary to the traditional theory about entrepreneurship, real life examples suggest that personality traits alone would not be enough to guarantee an individual’s success as an entrepreneur. Creativity has been cited as one of the most important characteristics of an entrepreneur. However, according to Allen (2012), many individuals who created an innovative product failed to commercialise their invention due to their lack of business skill (p. 61). This example shows that in order to be a successful entrepreneur, a person must know how to think and act like an entrepreneur. Real life observations suggest that personality traits do not determine a person’s ability to become an entrepreneur. In order to be a successful entrepreneur, students must know how to act and think entrepreneurially. Unlike personality traits, the ability to behave like an entrepreneur can be learned through education.
In addition, research shows that entrepreneurial soft-skills, such as the ability to think creatively, can be acquired through education. As discussed in previous paragraph, there are aspects of entrepreneurship that are believed to be unteachable since they cannot be easily communicated. It may be difficult for instructors to teach soft-skills such as the ability to think creatively and take calculated risk to students, however, it is not impossible for aspiring entrepreneurs to acquire and improve these skills. A study based on the personal testimonies of entrepreneurs indicates that real entrepreneurs acquire their soft-skills through combination of their personal experience and by observing the actions of more senior entrepreneurs (Rae & Carswell, 2001, p. 156-57). Aspiring entrepreneurs can also learn to acquire soft-skills that they need in order to be a successful entrepreneur through a similar way. Researchers suggest that students can acquire and improve their entrepreneurial soft-skills by participating in activities that are designed to simulate real-life entrepreneurial experience (Haase & Lautenschlager, 2011, p. 157; Rasmussen & Sorheim, 2006, p. 188). There is evidence which suggests this method of teaching entrepreneurship can truly improve an individual’s entrepreneurial soft-skills. Students participating in studies where they are required to participate in simulated entrepreneurial activities such as managing a pop-up shop and creating new products reported that their ability to think creatively, take risks, and work effectively in a team have improved over the course of the program (Robinson & Stubberud, 2014; Bell, 2015). Additionally, Swedish universities where entrepreneurship is taught using activities-based learning have high company start up rate among its graduates (Rasmussen & Sorheim, 2006, p. 193). This evidence suggests that entrepreneurial skills, such as the ability to think creatively, can be taught to students, even though it cannot be communicated easily. Hence, it is possible for an individual to learn to be an entrepreneur through education.
In conclusion, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that a person can learn to become an entrepreneur through education. Despite the enduring belief that entrepreneurs must possess a specific set of innate personality traits, real life observations suggest that a person can become an entrepreneur without being born with the ideal entrepreneurial personality traits. Additionally, even though it is difficult to teach entrepreneurial soft skills such as the ability to think creatively and take calculated risks, there is evidence to suggest that students can acquire and improve those skills by participating in activities that simulate real-life entrepreneurial experience. Therefore, it is possible for an individual to learn to become an entrepreneur through education.
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