When we talk about forward-thinking entrepreneurs, most people will probably think of a few names right off the bat: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk. While it seems like many of these success stories are born with a flair for genius, you might find yourself wondering “Can innovation and entrepreneurship be taught?”. A number of well-known entrepreneurs dropped out of school because they found that formal education couldn’t teach them what they wanted, with some people even expressing the opinion that education is becoming increasingly irrelevant to becoming a successful entrepreneur. While there’s no doubt that innovation and entrepreneurship can be taught like all other skills, the relationship between learning and succeeding is more complex, and it’s important that we develop a better understanding to create more forward-thinking societies.
“Education is a powerful tool and a guarantee for sustainable growth.”
Education has been acknowledged as an important tool to prepare people for the future. To ensure that people are ready for what is yet to come, education must provide them with the skills and knowledge which are needed in the future. Many countries have introduced the 21st-century skills framework into their education strategy. The 21st-century skills framework contains various skills that are necessary for adapting to the changing world. The aim of education has switched to emphasize the need for students to develop competencies such as creativity, initiative, inventiveness, and other personal qualities.
Some countries have introduced innovation and entrepreneurship into their national curricula. From my research into Sweden and Finland, I found that entrepreneurship has been integrated into the education systems and has been emphasized in both countries beginning from preschool to upper secondary level. The right education can bring an amalgamation of creativity, experiential learning, and skills building; which in turn can stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation.
Sweden also has schools like Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship (SSES), which maximizes the role of education for innovation and entrepreneurship. SSES is a global platform for interdisciplinary education. Throughout their twenty-year history, they have been elevating minds, generating ventures, forging connections, and inspiring new ways of thinking. From the cutting-edge of higher education, they provide courses free of charge, experiences, and incubation for students and alumni of Stockholm’s top six universities. More than 40% of SSES alumni create their own companies, and today this network of entrepreneurs runs more than 1,500 self-founded organizations around the globe, employing more than 10,000 people.
So how can we teach innovation and entrepreneurship?
The education system plays a critical role in shaping mindsets. This means education has the opportunity to plant the seed of innovation and entrepreneurship from early childhood, making them accessible for all. Today, innovation and entrepreneurship have become essential in all spheres of life. So it has become imperative that education systems around the world encourage these skills rather than maintaining obstacles to them. Most importantly, education itself should be innovative and entrepreneurial.
Learning should be encouraged as something that is practiced for life and not for simply for obtaining certificates or passing examinations. The point of education should be to enlighten minds of all ages to work towards becoming more developed and progressive human beings. Schools have the potential to become places for experimentation, places to develop and participate in project-based learning environments, places where entrepreneurship and innovation are part of the organizational and educational culture and where the teacher, the director, or the students are entrepreneurs themselves. Education should be the supportive foundation of making an impact from multiple perspectives.
Young Innovation Hub is a Swedish organization that shows a positive combination of education and entrepreneurship. The network aims to identify and educate young leaders and role models to build hubs for young entrepreneurship and change-making. Through social innovation programs and startup methods, young role models and change agents grow through Young Innovation Hub’s meetings and networks. The founders established the organization to develop and empower youth through social entrepreneurship and to give them the tools to create their future, no matter where they are from. Their solution is built upon a “train the trainer” model, where municipalities (after onboarding/training from YIH) hire youth to run the different hubs around Sweden. According to their data, since being founded in 2015, thousands of ideas have been created. Local commitments have been put on the map and together with their young leaders, and they have inspired over 10,000 young people and those in power.
The developments in Sweden and Finland show that entrepreneurship and innovation can be taught but it takes effort, experience, and experimentation to become good at it. In a changing world, we need to approach education differently and align our education systems with innovation and entrepreneurship.