TED Conversations

Brant Scheifler

Founder & Chief Encourager, Whiteboard Entrepreneur.com

This conversation is closed.

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

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 19 2012: Without formal education, socially-appropriate reference frameworks may not exist within the mind of a born leader to enable and optimize the natural talent. For example, a gang leader who learned gang leadership on the streets, would not be able to be an effective leader in a corporation. Without formal education, people are like an empty book left outside in the street, exposed to the moodswings of the weather and the general environment - to be written in according to the seasons, and the whims of a passing vehicle or the pattern under the shoe of self-absorbed pedestrians. The human mind is a book. It reproduces from what has been written in it. To become relevant, it needs formal education.
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      Mar 20 2012: Robert, this conversation as a whole has suggested that formal education doesn't play a large role in the development of the entrepreneur. While I honestly agree for the most part, I must say I was concerned we had fallen in to a sort of group-think in this thread. That said, you make a valid point that formal education can provide an important framework for the entrepreneur. Personally, while I found that I benefited very little in terms of most of the content of my formal education, I did gain some context. At the very least, even being aware of what "I don't know" has been helpful. (I then seek out/hire experts on those areas.) To your point, perhaps I would not be aware of those blind spots had it not been for college. If that justifies the time/expense of it, I'm not sure. But for some, that may be the only option to gain that perspective or framework and thus it can be used for good. Thanks for commenting.
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        Mar 20 2012: Brant. You made a valid point. I noticed how the thread rapidly split into three discussions namely; education, leadership, and entrepreneurship. In general, little mystery remains in the relationship between education and leadership. However, thank you for placing entrepreneurship back into its proper, mysterious perspective.

        I would like to assert that Entrepreneurship could be regarded as a complex competency. First, I think that a tacit (unseen) universe exists for complex competencies, i.e., entrepreneurship. Second, an appropriate de-abstraction methodology could visualize this tacit world, and construct competency in a coherent system. By implication, entrepreneurial knowledge could thus be retro-encoded and demystified for formal learning and scientific application. However, we need to become educated in the tools required to perform this function of our human IQ and prior education. Education should provide knowhow and skills.

        I think, truly passionate individuals should choose to never allow structured learning to cease, even if such learning matures to an informal state – as a competency. At this level of self- actualization, it probably should be a constant choice yes. Learning evolves in iterative circles within knowledge lifecycles. It is a natural phenomenon, so we might as well embrace it in a structured (formal) manner. I think that entrepreneurs would be the first persons to accept such a paradigm in order to learn how to shift it for personal benefit.

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