Enterprise is the golden bullet to solve our education and economical problems, right? Those organisations that have been delivering ‘enterprise’ for years have re-branded to ride the enterprise wave, with new ones appearing by the domain-load, all promising the answers to the question of how to get young people switched on to enterprise. The problem is it is the wrong question. Here’s why:
Firstly the word enterprise has been hijacked and replaced with the word ‘business.’ The vast majority of enterprise education interventions use business activities as the vehicle for students to display enterprising behaviours. For most students however, business is a turn off. A small % of 18-64 year olds expect to start a business in the next three years (5.1% UK, 7.7% US, 26.9% China: Source GEM, 2010). So does this mean enterprise has nothing to offer the vast majority of us?
The definition of enterprise includes boldness and adventurous spirit. It doesn’t include marketing mix or cash flow forecast. Our approach to enterprise education should be more about creativity, solving problems and collaboration not selling things and working out the profit margins. More importantly we need to be able to articulate ‘what’s in it for me?’ i.e. empower youngsters to understand how to be more enterprising to make the things they want to happen, happen.
Here are three ways we can build the enterprising spirit of young people:
1. Self efficacy: confidence, authenticity, boldness, leadership, ability to solve problems;
Confident people are more likely to seize opportunities, persuade others – nothing ventured nothing gained. We can build people’s ability to make things happen by building their ability to work with others.
2. Self awareness: who they are, what makes them tick, what they are good at and what they love to do, the world around them and their place in it;
Understanding of personal motivation means that people are more likely to choose paths they have passion for, ‘succeed’ in, and spot opportunities within those paths.
3. Skill; creativity, communication, technology.
Developing strengths and compensating weaknesses by harnessing the strengths of others will increase our ability to get things done.
Lets develop efficacy, awareness and skill without the baggage of rules, outcomes, qualifications and start-ups. Lets do these things without judgement; the world that our young people are growing into is vastly different from even five years ago. So many of our work values are outdated).
For example if someone wants to spend all of their available time free-running, how could we help them to be more enterprising to make this a reality? That isn’t the same as saying ‘how can we turn that into a business?’
Individual-focused learning, collaborative learning to build efficacy, awareness and skill will unlock potential, not producing entrepreneurial clones. We could develop young people who are more confident, more likely to make good choices, have a higher skill level, more creative, able to work together to solve problems and with an understanding of the world around them. Not only are they more employable, but they are more likely to have the wherewithall to start a sustainable and resilient business. We could create an eco-system of more enterprising young people, from which entrepreneurs are more likely to emerge.
Whilst many of the existing ‘enterprise’ vehicles have many of these characteristics we are failing to articulate the benefits of enterprise (boldness, adventurous spirit) to a wider audience by burying it in the vogue of entrepreneurship. We are failing to create the best environments for young people to discover themselves, the world and their place in it. This is about building the resilient capability of folk to make progress in a world that is changing faster than many of us could have imagined.
Therefore the question is not how can we switch young people onto enterprise, but how can we switch young people on to themselves and the world around them?