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The Role of Environment in Fostering Conductive Entrepreneurial Learning: Teaching the ‘Art’ of Entrepreneurship in Boot Camps

Kwong, Caleb CY and Thompson, Piers and Cheung, Cherry W-M and Manzoor, Humera (2012) 'The Role of Environment in Fostering Conductive Entrepreneurial Learning: Teaching the ‘Art’ of Entrepreneurship in Boot Camps.' Journal of General Management, 38 (1). 45 - 71. ISSN 0306-3070

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<jats:p> The modern globalised economy is prone to periods of change and uncertainty as experienced in the economic downturn following 2007. Others have noted that this has led to the shortening of product life cycles (Tassey, 2000), and the greater importance of innovation in order to retain competitiveness (Smith, 2002; Huggins and Izushi, 2007). These are the environments where entrepreneurs are traditionally felt to thrive, be this in starting their own firms, working within larger corporations, or in their lives in general (Gibb, 2002b; Rae, 2010). This ensures that the need for entrepreneurial skills is greater than ever (Taatila, 2010), with higher education seen as having a key role in providing the necessary entrepreneurial and employability skills (Crayford et al., 2012; Thompson et al., 2010; 2012). There is, however, no consensus on the best way to develop these skills, if it is possible at all (Jack and Anderson, 1999). Although the traditional classroom environment may be effective in providing students with basic business skills that constitute the ‘science’ component of entrepreneurship it is often felt to be unsuitable for teaching the ‘art’ component associated with innovation and creativity (Jack and Anderson, 1999; Pretorius et al., 2005). Rae (2006) notes the personal and social emergence of an individual forming their own identity and mindset as an entrepreneur as part of this learning experience. With traits such as self-confidence and willingness to tolerate uncertainty found by studies such as Baron (2000) and van Praag and Cramer (2001) to be positively associated with successful entrepreneurs, authors such as johannisson (1991) and Jones and English (2004) see the creation of these traits as being the primary purpose of entrepreneurship education. Gibb's (2002a) notion of conductive entrepreneurial environment points to the importance of providing an all-round student entrepreneurship learning experience that meets the rigours of academia, while keeping an experientially-based approach that enhances creativity and innovation (Gibb, 2002a; Porter and McKibbin, 1988). Pretorius et al. (2005) and Löbler (2006), however, suggest that the everyday pressures associated with the classroom environment and behaviourist forms of teaching make it difficult for students to shift into a more creative, less constrained way of thinking. This exploratory study examines the potential benefits of an entrepreneurship boot camp at the end of an academic year aimed at allowing students the opportunity to participate in multidimensional entrepreneurship activities and discussions in a less formal environment. Although all of the students will have been exposed to similar activities as part of their courses and extra curricular activities, without the appropriate environment, it is possible that fewer benefits will be received (Taatila, 2010). Taatila and Vyakarnam (2008) note the important role the mentor plays in creating this environment, but others (e.g. Heap, 1996; West, 2004; Pretorius et al., 2005) note the role played by the physical environment The students' perceptions of the environment created and the evidence of changes in how students think about entrepreneurship as an activity and of themselves within these roles are examined. In thinking about the boot camp experience, the students also reveal some of the limitations of the traditional classroom environment. In order to achieve this, the study takes an in-depth longitudinal approach with interviews held with the participating students at a number of points before, during, and after the boot camp. This enables the study to examine how students' attitudes evolve throughout the learning experience. </jats:p><jats:p> The results suggest that an informal environment away from campus aids creative thinking, as students expressed an appreciation of the opportunity to discuss their ideas in a more open manner to obtain greater feedback from mentors and peers. The students' responses suggested that the displacement from the campus environment was of great benefit here. Students explicitly noted the way they could consider their business ideas as new ventures rather than being concerned with making comparisons with previous studies for purposes of assessment. In relation to the need to aid students' development of social and psychological skills highlighted by Taatila (2010), being away from the pressures of the educational environment meant students were better able to develop their own identities as entrepreneurs. It appears therefore that the boot camp's multidimensional nature produces different outcomes to those of other experiential-learning approaches, thus providing another piece of the jigsaw to the conductive entrepreneurial environment puzzle. The camps therefore potentially improve the creative entrepreneurial attributes of graduates. Studies such as Taatila (2010) suggest that these skills are expected to increase graduates' value as business owners or employees in other firms. Implications for entrepreneurial learning both within the university and corporate environments may be that whilst entrepreneurial learning may rely on contextual experience (Rae, 2006; Politis, 2008), it appears that there can be considerable benefits where reflection can be undertaken, and development negotiated, away from the front line of assessed academic work or in the case of firms, production. Interviews after completion of the study suggest that although actual activities undertaken after such camps may be coloured by the return of day-to-day pressures, an entrepreneurial mind-set remains. </jats:p>

Item Type: Article
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School
Depositing User: Clare Chatfield
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2013 09:39
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2021 16:15

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