Innovating university-based entrepreneurship – a lens on how we can lead on campus and for community

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In the last topic I introduced the idea of fostering next-level educational leaders, which you will see again and again is a fundamental goal of this experience. You’re going to implement an amazing project. But you’re also being invited to contemplate, discover, and design a personal leadership practice into which that work fits.

And the reality is that those of us who teach entrepreneurship can get so busy day-to-day just trying to make it all happen that we lose sight of the bigger picture, where we might be headed, or how things might best fit together for us. We’re so often pulled in so many directions that just getting through the day, week, or semester is all we can swing. Because our focus is on HOW do I get it all done?, we forget to ask WHAT should I be doing?, and WHY is it important?

But there’s a real benefit to carving out some time and space to think strategically about our roles and our work – both individually and together as a discipline.

With this in mind, I ask you to take some time to read the paper shared below. It’s written to encourage entrepreneurship educators to provide leadership on our campuses and across the academy into the 21st century. To help us think differently about the ways in which we perceive of the work we’re already doing. to make space for and decisions about the different ways in which we can be leaders on our campuses and in industry through our teaching, our educational scholarship, our research activities, and our consulting (e.g. Figures 3, 4, and 5).

Like anything I give you in this experience, this is meant as a catalyst for your thinking. It’s meant as a tool that serves you. Whether you agree with it, and what you take from it is up to you. But I ask you to engage with it and bring your thoughts into the upcoming session where you’ll be meeting the other members of your cohort.

Innovating University-Based Entrepreneurship in Order to Inform Innovation for the 21st Century

The role of the academic will not stay the same forever and mounting evidence suggests that it might be unwise to assume such a thing even in the short term. From Wired Magazine, to The New York Times, to special issues of the very the journals to which we all contribute as part of our jobs, professors around the world are being challenged daily by the experts and the headlines: e.g. Is higher education being disrupted? Is it still relevant? Can the ivory tower reinvent itself? How are its institutions differentiated? Do professors strike the right balance between research and teaching? Will the so-called Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) replace the classroom lecture, or even the university? See Friga et al. (2003), Tapscott and Williams (2010), Christensen and Eyring (2012), Adams (2012), Soares (2013) and Friedman (2013) for a few examples taken from various academic and nonacademic contexts.

These questions are perhaps even more pointed for leaders of university-based innovation and entrepreneurship programs because they work right at the boundary of academia and a rapidly changing global environment: e.g. How well does your program serve our local ecosystem? How is your work relevant to our economy, society, local organizations and individual entrepreneurs? Is your research also practical? What have you commercialized lately? Are your students prepared to step up as leaders of tomorrow’s innovation workforce? See Gibb (2003), Kirby (2004), Kuratko (2005), Morris et al. (2013) for a few perspectives on these and other questions.

In this chapter we advance a vision for changing the way entrepreneurship faculty members conceive of and assess the impact of the roles they play, both within academia and the ecosystems in which they work. This is done by building upon previous theoretical and conceptual research to advance a new conceptual framework for the way in which they think and go about their work as academics – it is proposed that there is an important and possibly more relevant perspective on that work than the perspective afforded by the traditional teaching-research-scholarship paradigm. Using the resulting framework, we then argue that change is needed if entrepreneurship academics are to stay relevant and continue adding value in the eyes of the entrepreneur. This is not to say that academics in the field of entrepreneurship are not already doing important work or that they are necessarily doing the wrong kinds of work. Rather, it is to suggest that change is needed in the way we look at, plan and position for others the work we are doing, and that this can have a significant effect on the type of work we end up doing, in balance, and on the nature of the impact we end up having. Finally the same framework is used to urge entrepreneurship academics to take a leadership role among their peers across academia who will continue educating our innovation workforce in neighboring disciplines, whether we work with them or not.

The work presented here is not meant to be critical of our colleagues or of the discipline of entrepreneurship. Nor is it meant to be controversial. Rather, it is intended to contribute to a conversation already taking place about ensuring the impact and effectiveness of our academic activities now that we are well into the 21st century.

Download the rest of the paper »

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