Futurelearn: Innovation & Enterprise

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I encouraged our second year Innovation & Entrepreneurship students to sign up for the FutureLearn MOOC on Innovation and Enterprise which has been produced by Loughborough University, the English Midland’s premier university. I promised I would produce notes to enable them to contextualise the content, or focus on the bits that will help with their rapidly approaching exam.

The course combines short texts with illustrative videos with audio commentaries; so at least it isn’t blighted with the academic plus Billy bookcase double-acts that are the defining Coursera aesthetic. Although titled Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the course is obviously tilted towards entrepreneurship. (A video explains that the roots of the term “entrepreneur” are in the French words “entre” meaning “under” and “preneur” meaning “taker”, which suggests the materials have not been closely reviewed). The focus of the first module is on the characteristics of the innovator/entrepreneur, contrasting the “economic” (Schumpeter and Kirzner, with a very oblique reference to Frank Knight), “psychological” (mostly Azjen’s Theory of Planned Behaviour as applied to entrepreneurship by Liñán) and finally “sociological”. Without citing any particular sociologists the text claims that sociologists “look at the situation and how it affects the person. In other words, they question how environments affect entrepreneurship”. Well, sort of, but this doesn’t really capture much of the sociology of innovation and entrepreneurship. This section of the MOOC is self-admittedly idiosyncratic, but it is a useful short summary for students.

To expand on these concepts in relation to actual cases, the next section uses video clips and short texts to introduce three well-known specimens of the entrepreneur: Stelios Haji-Ioannou, Richard Branson and James Dyson. As three cases to capture the breadth of entrepreneurial experience, you would need not need a very large net to throw over them all: three non-dead, white males, with knighthoods; all British; all middle-aged; all founders of large commercial companies; all up to their knees in PR-spun self-mythology; two thirds of them founders of airlines. Were no videos of Lord Sugar available? With the importance of entrepreneurial motivation touched on, an example of a social entrepreneur would have been good. With the course targeting a global audience, an entrepreneur from an emerging economy would have been nice. Similarly, someone less old, less dripping in testosterone…

The main issue in teaching entrepreneurship is that it is always a balance between teaching the skills to be an entrepreneur and teaching enterprise as an academic discipline. Is the goal to teach students to how to do it or is it to prepare students for doctoral research in how others are doing it? In this Masters and Johnson are a helpful template: entrepreneurship educators should combine a willingness to engage practically, an inner voice reflecting on what they are doing, and a commitment to collect evidence.

Apologies to my students, I am not sure this is helping your revision,

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