The role of education in forging a culture of innovation PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 11 August 2011 15:57

Despite stiff business competition in Zamboanga City, there is a new player in the same industry where it seems that the market is already full of existing establishments. That’s why we can see new restaurants, schools, bakeshops, appliance stores, hardware, salons, boutiques, hotels, and even malls from Manila or China coming in our city. They can see that there is good (very good) business in Asia’s Latin City.

Question is how can the local business “survive” or compete with those offering new products and services at lower prices? What is more alarming those who are offering higher prices eat the market share of local products and services. These are some of major concerns that will be addresses during the marketing seminar hosted by Zamboanga City Chamber of Commerce and Industry on August 15 and 16 at the Grand Astoria Hotel entitled Entrepreneur Strategy and Innovation Bootcamp with Josiah Go.

Here is an article by the president and chief strategist of Mansmith and Fielders why learning in business is an essential factor in meeting the new challenges in today’s business world (Mansmith and Fielders is our country’s leading business consultancy company):

I had the privilege of attending the Economist’s Ideas Economy Conference in Haas School of the University of California, Berkeley last March where the theme revolved around Innovation : Entrepreneurship for a Disruptive World. It featured some of the top entrepreneurs in America such as Scott Cook (Intuit), Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter), Elon Musk and Peter Thiel (co-founders of Paypal), among others, as well as presidents of universities that lead in innovation programs such as Susan Hockfield of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Richard Lyons of UC, Berkeley. There must have been over 500 participants in the auditorium, many of who were tweeting real time and whose tweets were flashed on screen for what I call active audience participation.

There were many quotable quotes (plus an equal amount of thought-provoking questions) and many exciting learnings from the conference but I would like to particularly discuss the statements that touched on the role of education in entrepreneurship and innovation.

If one were to explore this discussion, it would be best perhaps to begin by asking “Can entrepreneurs be nurtured or must they be born that way?” And maybe even more challenging to ask is, “Can the ability to innovate be taught?” Other questions to ask would be “What is the role of government in enabling entrepreneurship? Or “Can schools or universities already provide the kind of entrepreneurial and innovation mindset among students that will shorten the learning curve of innovation to remain globally competitive?” (The last question might have reference to China, which is perceived to be a threat.)

Entrepreneurship - Nature vs. Nurture?

Scott Painter of TrueCar, Inc. mentioned that there are two kinds of entrepreneurs -- one with a vision, the other who does things for a living. He belongs to the school of thought that disruptive entrepreneurs are genetically programmed with a dose of either “existential angst or fatal optimism” which drives these people toward breakthrough innovation.

This might have been validated by UC, Berkeley president Richard Lyons who asked “Do we teach entrepreneurship to everybody or to anybody?” Lyons prefers to focus on traits of what makes one a start-up entrepreneur and the other, an entrepreneurial manager.

K.R. Sridhar of Bloom Energy, Inc. on the other hand, believes that as long as a person is naturally positive or optimistic, he can be taught to be an entrepreneur.

The role of education

I asked Mansmith Chairman Josiah Go the same question and Josiah believes that people can be taught to be entrepreneurs and innovators, given the frameworks and the right training and opportunities for collaboration and learning.

(At the risk of sounding self-serving,) MIT president Susan Hockfield defines what schools can offer to “teach” entrepreneurship and innovation. It is providing the environment that enables brilliant people to come together and whose “big ideas are amplified through conversations.” There is a learning process that includes learning from failures and starting with a niche of phenomenal students who will make use of the latest technology available to get things going.

It is interesting to further state here what Robert Reich, professor at UC Berkeley shared about the implied curriculum of today’s schools : 1) the custodian, where students are kept safe; 2) the mass producer, where students are taught to obey rules and take orders and 3) the pressure cooker , where students are trained to take a huge amount of stress. These kinds of teaching lead to lack of collaboration and critical thinking, both important in creating an ecosystem of innovation.

The role of government

Aneesh Chopra, US Chief Technology Officer spoke on how the Obama government intends to help develop the innovation ecosystem, primarily by cleaning up policy barriers, identifying gaps in policy and helping test, validate and scale best practices. He further stated the three key pillars of entrepreneurship of the government, which emphasize the role of government, infrastructure and people.

Clearly, there are many aspects to consider in creating an environment that allows innovation and change to happen. I will start with the premise that for this nation (Zamboanga City) to move forward, we need to prepare and develop competitive students/graduates (businessmen) who know how to work together and think critically.

(For more details about Josiah Go’s marketing event in Zamboanga City, email zamboanga_chamber@yahoo.com.ph or call 991-0190 or text 0917-7037714)