What’s my biggest wish for higher education? I want educators to think and act like social entrepreneurs, and not only because I’ve been teaching entrepreneurship since 1999.
It’s no secret that the higher education system is in desperate need of an overhaul. Like any other “industry” we have our share of superstar performers, dead weight employees, and a wide spectrum of customers with varied needs. Previous attempts to revamp education have fallen short. However, higher education is unique in so many ways that traditional business solutions often seem inadequate.
Our work in providing education and training can mean the difference between career success and a life of poverty for our students. We can’t afford to get it wrong, so we can’t afford to stay stuck in the academic bubble any longer. Educators need to apply entrepreneurial strategies to academic problems.
The world of business moves quickly as does the world of science and technology. Taking weeks, a semester, or months to make a decision simply isn’t practical. Entrepreneurs are fast; educators need to be fast too. As an industry we need to learn to make decisions without dozens of committee meetings or a chain of policy related emails. Our schools need to be responsive and flexible like the best of small businesses. Ask any entrepreneur and they will tell you, “customers won’t wait—they just move on to your competitor”.
Our course offerings need to be stacked with classes that match the real world needs of students in not only content but format. Pre-course advising needs to be robust and honest, more like executive coaching and less like a sales pitch.
What else can we do? Academics, and I mean all of us, need to get over our egos. It’s not enough to be smart and to fall in love with your own credentials. We need to walk the talk of life-long-learning and be open and receptive to new ideas, techniques, and suggestions—even when they come from students.
One big complaint I hear from my business colleagues, about my academic colleagues, is “scholars are out of touch” and only know what’s in the textbook. Our courses need to reflect the realities of the post graduation world. Things like collaboration, writing skills and interpersonal communication need to be worked into all subjects and disciplines. Faculty and administrators who refuse to learn, grow and change should be shown the door. Entrepreneurial educators will be looking for new solutions and not ways to recycle old syllabi and procedures. Higher education for the future needs to be fast, flexible and forward thinking.
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