“He that is too secure
is not safe”.

Thomas Fuller

Entrepreneurship and Education: An Academic Vision

Entrepreneurship is getting more and more important. It is perceived as a powerful engine to economic development at all levels: local, regional and national (Reynolds et al., 2004). In order to get a more productive and innovative economy, policy makers are investing more and more resources to foster entrepreneurship. One of the key areas of investment is the development of entrepreneurship courses at all levels of the educational system. This phenomenon has been supported from an academic point of view. As we’re going to see education has an important role to play in the development of entrepreneurial behavior. Every year thousands of international students across the five continents attend entrepreneurship programs and we don’t really know, to date, the impact of these programs on students.

Entrepreneurship has always existed in different forms (Bridge, et al, 1998). It played a relevant role in the industrial revolution and impacted changes in the socio-economic conditions of nations (Mantly, 2005). It is recognized as beneficial to economy, communities or individuals and good for creating jobs, wealth and facilitating social adjustments (Jack and Anderson, 1999).

Throughout the world, shifts in population demographics, technological change, fluctuating economies and other dynamic forces have transformed societies as never before, bringing new challenges and opportunities to the forefront. Among the responses to these shifting forces is an increased emphasis on entrepreneurship by governments, organizations and the public. While entrepreneurship may not be a panacea, it can surely be part of the solution (GEM, 2012). New businesses provide a link to innovation and productivity (Schumpeter, 1934; Drucker, 1985) and it increases competition (Plaschka and Welsch, 1990). Entrepreneurship translates across barriers of class, race and gender (Walinger, 1990; Hyrsky and Ali, 1996) and it can increase the satisfaction and fulfillment of individuals (Scott and Anderson, 1990). Entrepreneurship is not seen as marginal to an economy (Goffe and Scase, 1995) and it has evolved from being primarily a western phenomenon to one changing the economies of eastern European countries (Twaalfhoven and Muzkya, 1997; Cassar and Friedman, 2009).

Entrepreneurship has been defined in various ways. Low and McMillan (1988) argue that entrepreneurship is “the creation of new enterprise”. While a branch of research has focused on trying to identify the personal characteristics that distinguish entrepreneurs from those that are not, another branch has followed a more process oriented perspective.

Some personal traits of entrepreneurs have been identified: tolerance to ambiguity (Schere, 1982), risk-taking propensity (Brockhaus, 1980) or need for achievement (McClelland, 1961). This line of research adopts the assumption that there are unique characteristics of entrepreneurs that can be identified and isolated (Romanelli, 1989). On the contrary, further research has shown that most of these traits are not unique to entrepreneurs, they have been found common to other successful individuals, among which there are managers (Garner, 1985; Brockhaus and Horwitz, 1986). There have been attempts to define a personality profile of a typical entrepreneur but they have been mainly unsuccessful (Low and MacMillan, 1988). On the other hand, personality characteristics have not been found to be a reliable predictor of future behavior (Azjen, 1988; Gartner, 1989) although some authors have found relevant, for instance, the ability to manage ethics and diversity issues (Nelson, Poms and Wolf, 2012).

Another line of research focuses its efforts on trying to identify cultural, political, social or economic contextual factors that encourage (or not) the development of new ventures. Some of them are: previous work experience (Mokry, 1988); ethnic group membership (Greenfield and Strickon, 1981); quality or urban life (Pennings, 1982) or job displacement (Shapero and Sokol, 1982).

A more process oriented line of research looks at entrepreneurship as “a process of becoming rather that a state of being” (Bygrave, 1989). Following this line of thought we find authors that focus their attention on the conscious and intended act of new venture creation (Bird, 1988). So, entrepreneurial intention has been defined as the state of mind that directs and guides the action of the entrepreneur towards the development and implementation of a business concept (Boyd and Vozikis, 1994). This perspective is process-oriented, dynamic and directs attention towards the very complex relationships among entrepreneurial ideas and the resulting outcomes of those ideas.

It is in this framework that the assumption that education can have an impact on the entrepreneurial behavior has its place. The premise that underpins education in general and the design of entrepreneurship courses in particular, is the belief that students can be motivated to start new projects by enhancing their levels of self-confidence in entrepreneurial skills (Cooper and Lucas, 2006). For instance, course content contributes to the development of student efficacy beliefs for ethics and diversity management in such a way that students develop confidence in their ability to manage ethics and diversity issues, and thus, taking action accordingly (Nelson et al, 2012). Therefore, it is in this theoretical context that we can study entrepreneurial intentionality taking into account the concept of self-efficacy defined as “a person’s belief in his or her capability to perform a task” (Gist, 1987). Self-efficacy can have a profound influence on the complex process of new venture creation. Bandura (1977, 1982) suggested that self-efficacy influences the development of entrepreneurial intentions and actions.

Enrique Cortés Alonso, Ph.D.

Top Management Strategic Advisor

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