TED Conversations

Brant Scheifler

Founder & Chief Encourager, Whiteboard Entrepreneur.com

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Does formal education play a significant role in the success of entrepreneurs and the outcomes of their business activities?

The foreground of such debate is perhaps seen in this debate: Are leaders born or made? With multiple TED (and Tedx) talks discussing entrepreneurship, I was curious what the community thought about the role that education plays in the success of the entrepreneur. (*please don't just say, it depends.)

Topics: Entrepreneurs
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Closing Statement from Brant Scheifler

Thanks all for your thoughts and comments. It's clear that most commentators don't view education as being vital to the success of the entrepreneur. In fact, many feel it can be a hindrance. With that said, many pointed out that education is what you make of it and that it can be utilized as a tool, even if that tool is context/perspective. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

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      Mar 11 2012: Thanks for your response, but I'm not following your point. What are your thoughts on the question at hand?
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        Mar 11 2012: Education tends to stifle young minds. Maybe one reason has to do with the fact that most children, many teenagers and adults retain learning best from hands on experience. Possibly related to why many entrepreneurs leave school "unfinished".
        Mentorship has been a proven method of teaching. We even used to have apprenticeships.

        I think that expertise in any field is often more a result of self-study than formal education which too often dogmatize studies, producing "experts" in extremely narrow fields who more often than not, submit to peer-pressure. Because of the limiting environment in many fields, many truly creative people/entrepreneurs may simply be bored; And/or know that "rocking the boat" will most likely harm their careers. They may also not be learning what they think or know they need to know and learn
        We are not often rewarded for creative thinking and boredom is a powerful destroyer of loving to learn.
        After all how much of the theories we studied in college do we still remember? And how much of what was "facts" then have changed. New theories, new "facts". Are people then not better off testing their skills and pushing their abilities on their own or hopefully with a mentor.?
        Bryann, above, says it quite succinctly :)
        In short my answer is Yes :)
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          Mar 12 2012: Per your comment above:

          @Lisi, While I admire the list you put forth and don't for a minute argue that these people didn't succeed in spite of opposition I would also suggest that perhaps they succeeded *because* of opposition. Sometimes in life obstacles are what make us great, wouldn't you agree?

          Can you imagine Abe Lincoln having the degree of empathy he had for the common man had he not been born a poor child of uneducated farmers? There is no doubt that genetics play a part in any persons path in life. Had Lincoln been born developmentally "challenged" there is no way he rises to the levels he did. But to suggest that he was "born" to be a leader is to suggest that Lincoln didn't take great pains to study (of his own accord) philosophy, history etc. What gave Lincoln, MLK, Newton the impetus to study and learn to the degree they did? I'd wager it wasn't genetics but other people. Undoubtedly, there were people in there lives that instilled in them a thirst for knowledge and awareness. This thirst is planted by other (previously) thirsty people. Are some "born" more thirsty than others? To a degree, perhaps but I really think it's the environment that makes the man.

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