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Learning Entrepreneurship by building on Innovative Learning Methods from European Industry Executive Levels

Building a stronger culture of entrepreneurial mind-sets amongst young Europeans is a key driver in tackling major European challenges such as competitiveness and youth unemployment, and is therefore becoming more and more embedded in policy across Europe.

By: EBR - Posted: Monday, September 3, 2012

by Florent Barel*

The concept of entrepreneurship education is nevertheless subject to debate and its definition varies from one region of the globe to another, from narrow perspectives such as assisting students in opening their own business, to broader definitions which consider entrepreneurship education as a process through which learners acquire a broad set of competencies which can bring greater individual, social and economic benefits in every aspect of people's lives.

Studies have proven that narrow definitions often set limitations on both learners and the teaching community. Based on these observations, in the European Commission’s perspective, entrepreneurship refers to an individual's ability to turn ideas into action. It includes creativity, innovation, showing initiative and risk-taking, as well as the ability to plan and manage projects in order to achieve objectives. This supports everyone in day-to-day life at home and in society, makes employees more aware of the context of their work and better able to seize opportunities, and provides a foundation for entrepreneurs establishing a social or commercial activity . Entrepreneurship education is thus about life-wide as well as lifelong competence development.

Building an Entrepreneurship Education Framework on Innovative Learning Methods from European Industry Executive levels

During ThinkYoung’s Entrepreneurship Summer School 2012 (ESS), participants learned that entrepreneurship is about more than just a good idea and mastering managerial tools. Indeed, building trusted networks has proven to be one of the shared characteristics amongst experienced entrepreneurs. From this perspective, the young ESS organizing team has proven its entrepreneurial capabilities and went a long way in attracting major players around the table, such as Google and Members of European Parliament. When looking for innovative learning methods for aspiring young European entrepreneurs, the European Institute for Industrial Leadership (EIIL) prove to be a strategic and fruitful partner.

The EIIL’s core aim is to “develop leaders for a competitive Europe”, in serving as a learning cooperative for European Industries throughout the past decade, the EIIL has developed recognised innovative practice-based learning methods for senior and high-potential managers to acquire a set of defined life skills for executive levels. Moreover, by building on the learning benefits of intergenerational exchange, the European Institute for Industrial Leadership has been working together with JADE, the European Confederation of Junior Enterprises, in the framework of a long-lasting partnership, and developing knowledge in training young aspiring entrepreneurs together with these industry leaders.

Based on its know-how in developing unique learning concepts based on space for initiative, less hierarchical relationships and no academic teachers, the EIIL clearly seemed like the most appropriate learning partner and its methods and teachings proved to be most effective. Beyond knowledge and skills, the EIIL’s methodology as applied in the ESS even put into question students’ average understanding of learning.

From fixed to process oriented learning and teaching methods for new-skills, entrepreneurial mindsets and life-long learning

Teaching entrepreneurial skills requires a considerable change in the approach to education in emphasising active learning, which represents a considerable shift away from traditional higher-education learning. Academic learning most often measures a person’s ability to learn amounts of accumulated immutable ideas, and focuses on outcomes in terms of fixed elements of thought. If I am able to demonstrate that I have acquired a sufficient number of hard facts, I can be considered educated.

The EIIL has conceived learning as a process where ideas are not fixed, they are formed and reformed through experience and evolving contexts. Learning is considered as an endless cycle of concrete experience, observations and reflections, formation of abstract concepts and generalizations through concrete experience, and testing implications of concepts in new situations. Concepts are therefore derived from and continuously modified by experience, thereby setting a psychological framework for practical learning, and moreover lifelong learning.

The Entrepreneurship Summer School’s Entrepreneurship Education Experience

Participants’ main task throughout the Summer School was to create an Entrepreneurship Guide based on the input they received from experienced guest speakers. By using this format, guest speakers were pleased to freely share their experience and participants enjoyed the interactivity. On this basis, the workshop output was therefore generated by teams of participants and unique to this summer school.

Focusing on inductive interview learning cycles - practice before theory - enables students to explore working in uncertainty and learning through observation. In putting participants in a situation where they are tasked with developing guides through questions to practitioners and learning for themselves before the next interviews, students learned more than just about entrepreneurship.

Participants were introduced to acquiring vital entrepreneurial life-skills: multicultural team-working in uncertainty and acquiring knowledge from others through well formulated and brought questions, thereby enabling individuals to learn for themselves from others. Beyond, learning about entrepreneurial strategies and tools, the school’s teachings proved to enhance individuals’ knowledge acquiring capabilities with seniors, their capability of leading a team to concrete results and understanding business as vector of creating synergies and win-win situations as opposed to the classic understanding of simply making money and achieving personal success.

For more information on the Entrepreneurship Summer School: www.entrepreneurshipsummerschool.eu  
For more information on the European Institute for Industrial Leadership’s learning programme: www.eiil.net  

* Florent Barel, ESS Project Management Consultant & Facilitator

Florent obtained a Master in International Management and Development Issues and a Master of Arts in European Interdisciplinary Studies at the College of Europe and speaks fluent English, French and German. He started working for an international NGO, the Council of Europe and the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Poland before initiating a European student consulting network for which was granted the prize of best International European Junior Enterprise Project. He was then elected Vice-President of the European Confederation of Junior Enterprises in charge of Public Affairs and later served as Liaison Officer between the French Presidency of G20 and the International Monetary Fund. Today he is head of European Affairs for the European Institute for Industrial Leadership and working as Public and Media Officer for ThinkYoung.

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