‘Enterprise’ seems to be a word many are aware of but find difficult to define precisely. It is closely related to the activity that ‘entrepreneurs’ do.
So what is Enterprise exactly?
According to Timmins (1989), enterprise is the ability to create and build something from practically nothing. It is the initiating of doing and building rather than watching analysing or describing. It seems that commonly cited entrepreneurs, like Richard Branson, who exercise enterprise skills have the knack of sensing an opportunity where others do not.
Fun fact: the word ‘entrepreneur’ is a French word. A literal translation being ‘a person that undertakes or does’. But if we pull the term apart using google translate, “entre” and “preneur” can be viewed as a “between-taker”. This, a more nuanced definition implies someone who undertakes their activities in a more complex way than simply getting the job done. Consequently, we like to work with the QAA’s (2018) definition of enterprise as “the generation and application of ideas, which are set within practical situations during a project or undertaking”. As a generic concept that can be applied across all areas of education and professional life, “it combines creativity, originality, initiative, idea generation, design thinking, adaptability, and reflexivity with problem identification, problem-solving, innovation, expression, communication, and practical action”.
So why would we want to ask students to think about “between taking” enterprises?
In a nutshell, it’s down to the fact that the pace of change is increasing in a VUCA world.
‘VUCA’ is the acronym devised by the US Army to describe the Volatile, Uncertain Complex, and Ambiguous world that we live in. Entrepreneurs like Branson seem to be able to navigate our VUCA world with some ease. They seem to thrive, spotting ideas and opportunities, acquiring resources, and use them to transform their ideas into action. Graduates who can be independently enterprising in this way, are therefore more in demand than those that are not.
But, how on earth do we go about teaching this most difficult to define of subjects?
According to Professor David Kirby (2003/ 2004) we must change the ‘Purpose, Process, and Focus of Learning’; moving towards ‘action’. and encouraging learners to develop as activist and pragmatist enthusiasts. Typically for entrepreneurial attitudes to develop, opportunities must be afforded to learners to engage in real-context experiential and reflexive learning: to experiment, adapt and refine practice as they continually sense-make within their environment.
Traditional business schools focus attention on subjects like accounting and finance, corporate strategy, human resource management, marketing, etc. But as this interview shows, even our poster boy Richard Branson did not learn basic accounting terms until he reached his 50s. His success seemed to correlate more with the activist and pragmatic approach. We emphasize an education experience that bridges the more traditional theoretical reflective education with the 21st-century VUCA world is requisite, one where traditional concepts and paradigms are no longer fit for purpose.
Entrepreneurship extends beyond ‘venture creation’. According to the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (2018) [the independent body that checks on standards and quality in UK higher education] ‘entrepreneurship’ is the application of enterprise behaviours, attributes and, competences into the creation of cultural, social, or economic value. Entrepreneurship applies to both individuals and groups (teams or organisations), and it refers to value creation in the private, public, and third sectors, and in any hybrid combination of the three. This can be supported in an educational context by integrating the ‘EntreComp framework’ into all levels of school programming and practice.
‘EntreComp’ is an entrepreneurship competence framework which consists of 15 interrelated and interconnected competences, ones not only exhibited by entrepreneurs but all types of value creator. One can create value for oneself, others, or within an organisation, possibly as an intrapreneur. It fully embraces all the different types of entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, green entrepreneurship, and digital entrepreneurship, and our own concept of ‘harmonious entrepreneurship’ which we will detail more later on. It is a very very flexible framework that is domain neutral: one can act upon ideas and opportunities to generate value for others in any domain and possible value chain (Bacigalupo et al., 2016).
Access more in-depth reading on ‘EntreComp’ and value creation as core to Entrepreneurial Education below:
Bacigalupo, M., Kampylis, P., Punie, Y., Van den Brande, G. (2016) ‘EntreComp: The Entrepreneurship Competence Framework‘, Publication Office of the European Union; EUR: Luxembourg.
Kirby, D.A. (2003), “Entrepreneurship“, Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill.
Kirby, D.A. (2004), ‘Entrepreneurship education: can business schools meet the challenge?’, Education + Training, 46(8/9), pp. 510-519.
Timmons, A. (1989), ‘Professor of Entrepreneurship’, Babson College.
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (2018), “Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education: Guidance for UK Higher Education Providers” (online). Available: https://www.qaa.ac.uk/docs/qaas/enhancement-and-development/enterprise-and-entrpreneurship-education-2018.pdf?sfvrsn=15f1f981_8