Call for abstracts: Corporate Startup Collaborations

The University of Strathclyde Glasgow is hosting the R&D Management Conference 2021 on the theme “Innovation in an Era of Disruption”. R&D Management Conference is organized by the RADMA. Due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s conference is planned to be held online (virtually). This makes it even more exciting, as this has resulted in lower barriers to attend an international conference: a lower registration fee; no additional expenses (travel, hotel, etc); and no hassles about visas. Additionally, you can attend the conference from the comfort of your homes/offices. While all of this makes attending the R&D Management conference exciting, it also makes this year’s theme even more critical. The Covid-19 pandemic is now keeping us to our locations for a second year. Many sectors such as Tourism, Education and Healthcare are disrupted forever. All of this makes it an exciting time to be an innovator/entrepreneur. For us, scholars, this leads to several new and interesting research questions.

While there are over 20 tracks covering many aspects resulting from such disruptions, Ferran, Cristobal, Andreas and I will co-chair the track on “Corporate and Start-up Collaborations“. All of us are excited to see the developments in this growing stream of interorganizational relationships. While we provide an indicative list of topics about the track, we are happy to receive papers on any topic which explores any form of corporate startup linkages including but not limited to: corporate accelerators; corporate incubators; corporate hackathons; corporate venture capital; ideathons; makerspaces; etc. Come, join us, and let us together seek and make sense of the future as it unfolds today.

Conference Link:

Conference Dates: July 6-8, 2021

Conference Venue: University of Strathclyde Glasgow

Conference Theme: Innovation in an Era of Disruption

Track Link:

Paper Submission Portal:

Paper Submission Deadline: 17-March-2021

You can submit both abstracts and/or posters to the conference. The other details regarding submission (length, style, etc) can be seen on the submission link provided above. The abstracts have to be submitted through the submission portal (link above). After peer review, if an abstract is selected, we hope to enable the authors receive adequate feedback so as to develop the paper for potential publication. We are sure that many scholars attending the conference will be happy to discuss and provide feedback on your paper.

If you have an idea or paper related to corporate startup engagements and wish to receive quality feedback on it, consider submitting your work to R&D Management 2021. If you plan to attend the conference, I look forward to virtually seeing you there.

When more is not better

The words ‘more’ and ‘efficient’ should ring a bell in our heads and hearts. The word ‘enough’ never occurs. There always seems to be something missing in our lives, requiring that next purchase or experience. And, even after the additional purchase or experience, we are left wanting more. More has become an obsession and efficiently procuring it, the next illusion. Because, more does not make our lives better, it simply increases the quantum of what we have. Unfortunately, even educated individuals have trouble understanding this.

Why is more not automatically better? This is an interesting topic for all of us to think about. With increasing technological prowess, economic efficiency makes things cheaper. It also makes performance better. The question to ponder is – what does ‘more’ make better and what does ‘more’ make worse? Roger Martin’s recent book titled ‘When more is not better’ raises this question with regards to America’s Democratic Capitalism.

I am a fan of Roger Martin. I have included many of his Harvard

When More is Not Better- Overcoming America-s Obsession with Economic  Efficiency

Business Review articles in my course reading lists on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I particularly loved his book ‘Playing to Win’, which i have referred to many of my students and entrepreneur friends. I also enjoyed reading his book ‘Creating Great Choices’. So, i was surprised and happy to see a book on this topic from Prof Martin, the strategy professor. The book attempts to ask how democracy and capitalism can coexist?

The first part of the book focusses on the problem. It highlights the challenges America faces today, in sustaining and making the efficient model, continue to deliver on the ‘American Dream’. Unfortunately this dream is under threat, and Roger deftly handles how this can be overcome. While he does balance between theory and practice, the book is interesting because he uses his strategic approach to problem definition. While he uses secondary data to showcase the macro trends, he uses interesting data from projects done at the Martin Prosperity Institute to supplement what aggregate data misses to capture. The responses by citizens and how they seem disconnected with both the democratic and the capitalist systems, is worrisome to all who believe in them. Additionally, this section highlights the challenges of relying on proxies to measure performance and progress. Two big problems with proxies are: choice of proxies and their atomistic nature. The section is filled with many interesting cases, but the one that caught my attention was the way a pediatric hospital attempted to include performance metrics into the incentives of the CEO. WOW! The response from the CEO (will let you, the reader, savor it yourself), and the lesson it provides is alone worth the price of the book.

The second half of the book presents solutions. It presents an agenda at four levels – business executives, political leaders, educators and citizens. I particularly enjoyed the chapter ‘An Agenda for Educators’ where he talks about the experiences of teachers, especially K-12. It gives a glimpse into why the world still thrives – there are still selfless people who strive to make the lives of others better. All the solutions presented are drawn from existing practices, although practiced in pockets. When i read through the second part of the book, I was reminded of another interesting book by Professors Sutton and Rao titled ‘Scaling up Excellence’ where they discuss why excellence exists in pockets and how it needs to be spread around. This scaling up of excellence, is in effect what Prof Martin proposes. But as he warns, this is both challenging and necessary.

The book is an interesting read. Apart from the cases, stories and data-driven logical conclusions, the voices of individuals (ordinary citizens) is a great reminder that we are a society of individuals with diverse emotions and reasons. In today’s world of aggregate numbers and reductionism, let us not forget that every one of us has feelings, and thoughts which needs to be heard, acknowledged, and taken into account, before any major decision. This is equally important to the CEO of a small and medium enterprise, the leader of a large organization, and leaders of nations. Individual voices matter. Not listening to them will be disastrous to the peace and well-being of our world.

Reference: Martin, R. L. (2020). When More is Not Better. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Flourishing as Sustainability

Since January 2020, I increased my study of sustainability. Though previously I restricted myself to the academic literature on sustainable entrepreneurship, I soon realized that sustainability was too important an issue to be viewed through a narrow disciplinary lens. Therefore, I began reading widely on the topic. This helped me, not only improve the delivery of my Masters’ course on “Social and Sustainable Entrepreneurship”, but also delve deeper into fundamental research questions that are driving my academic research today.

Sustainability can mean many things to many people. Most people refer back to the popular report by the Brundtland Commission which defines sustainable development as “development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). From being commercially sustainable, to exploring environmental sustainability, there are as many schools of thought as there are people thinking about sustainability. This is good, because a complex and wicked problem like “sustainability” cannot be solved by any one person, institution, perspective or school. It requires transdisciplinary thinking, which is becoming challenging in today’s increasingly hyperspecialized world.

In reading the thoughts of many philosophers, scholars, changemakers, and responsible individuals, my ideas and research questions about the shift to a sustainable world is expanding. While some are more conservative in their identification of the challenge and possible solutions, others have radical views. I believe it is important for individuals to read through the literature, see the implications of unsustainability in the real world, reflect over the topic, and personalize the sustainability challenge through their own worldviews.

Among the many books and periodicals I have read recently, one book particularly

Flourishing: A Frank Conversation About Sustainability | John R. Ehrenfeld  and Andrew J. Hoffman

impressed on me the importance of seeing things as they are. This is a slim volume titled “Flourishing – A Frank Conversation About Sustainability” by John R. Ehrenfeld and Andrew J. Hoffman. The book is an elaboration of the ideas of the first author, John R Ehrenheld, who has been pioneering the efforts towards sustainability, even when the term did not enjoy today’s fancy. The second author who engages John in a conversation, is Andrew Hoffman, a professor of sustainable enterprise, and at an earlier time John’s student.

While i do not want to spoil the fun for those of you who will eventually read the conversation, here are some thoughts and ideas that struck me hard:

  1. Hybrid cars, LED lamps, electric building, etc.,. give a feeling that we are turning sustainable when in fact we are making things worse.
  2. Greening everything will soon result in a sustainability fatigue.
  3. Reducing unsustainability is not the same as creating sustainability.
  4. John’s idea that instead of sustainability, we should call it ‘sustainability-as-flourishing’
  5. John’s definition of sustainability: “the possibility that humans and other life will flourish on the Earth forever” (p.7). To know more about the loaded meanings of these terms, read this book.

To whet your appetite further, here are some inspiring quotes:

“In making ourselves materially rich, we are making ourselves existentially and psychologically poor.” (p.31)

“The encroachment of the market into areas that used to be personal and relational is becoming grotesque. I recently read that you could hire a potty trainer for your child.” (p.44)

“It is exceedingly difficult to detect authenticity in someone else’s actions.” (p.82)

“Skilled, rational arguers often are not after the truth but after ‘winning’ with arguments supporting their views.” (p. 101)

I have so many markings all over the book and have been re-looking at it so many times, I believe this is a book, I will re-read many times over. The book moves across the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual realms and addresses all aspects of the reader’s personality. If you care about sustainability, this book can trigger change in you.

Overall, if i have to summarize the book’s central message, it is this: John urges us to take the first step towards sustainable living ourselves, and challenges us to live an authentic life, ourselves. I use the word ‘ourselves’ with care and responsibility, to remind us that if we do not change, nothing else will.

Reference: Ehrenfeld, J. R. & Hoffman, A. J. (2013). FLOURISHING: A Frank Conversation About Sustainability. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Seeing Around Corners

Spotting inflection points is critical to staying in business, and spotting them early could give the much needed advantage to stay ahead in the game. But spotting them is easier said than done. Inflection points – a word popularized by the legendary CEO of Intel, Andy Grove – represents a point in time when the very fundamentals (assumptions, knowledge) of a business change forever. They appear slowly, grow steadily and seem to happen instantaneously. It is therefore no surprise that when not identified in time, inflection points result in disruptions, and quickly turn established organizations into obsolescence. The more successful the organization today, the more its leaders should worry about inflection points. Today’s advantages blind and slow the search for tomorrow’s advantages. Therefore, revitalizing today’s advantages and creating new advantages for the future are two big challenges facing large corporations. Some of the other concepts that deal with similar ideas include organizational ambidexterity and strategic entrepreneurship.

Change is certain. Sensing them is not. Leaders struggle with sensing changes. For leaders of organizations, sensing emerging trends or changes provide opportunities for replacing old strengths with new capabilities and/or an opportunity to renew old capabilities. Both are urgent and necessary. The urgency for venturing and renewal has only accelerated with emerging trends such as digitalization, sustainability, and pandemics. Surviving and thriving in uncertainty is today becoming the norm. But embracing uncertainty and thriving in it requires new tools and capabilities. One such tool was introduced to us by Rita McGrath several years ago. In a new book, she builds on those ideas and provides several new tools to engage in spotting inflection points in a more disciplined manner. Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in  Business Before They Happen (9780358022336): McGrath, Rita, Christensen,  Clayton: Books

All entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial leaders need to see around corners and Rita McGrath’s book shows how this can be done in a disciplined and repeatable manner. The book provides tools to sense inflection points. It also talks about what qualifies as a disruptive change, explore how leaders can decide whether a change is to be acted upon now or requires continued sensing, who are best placed to sense such changes, and how leaders can humbly make use of such sources for the greater good of organizational success. Her ideas build on her prior work, Discovery Driven Growth, and I particularly liked the idea of placing ‘little bets’. My work on corporate accelerators fits with this books’ ideas, particularly the approach of placing ‘little bets’ to validate signals, before making large investments. The two pathway model of corporate accelerators allows corporations to sense different types of changes – incremental and radical – and place ‘little bets’ before diving deep into developing new capabilities. Therefore, corporate accelerators seem to be one possible innovation space where large organizations can encourage experimentation and exploratory activities. Moving interesting and useful findings from such centres to the main business, calls for handling several challenges, but that would be a nice problem to have and solve. While the book provides several models, tools, and frameworks, it is also filled with innumerable cases of organizations that have been both successful and unsuccessful in sensing and adapting to change. Rita McGrath’s style of interspersing theory and cases makes the book a highly useful read for any practitioner. I have written notes to myself all over the book and looking at these I sense scholars of innovation, strategy and entrepreneurship may also find the book useful. Though not a difficult read, the book is best suited for slow consumption by thoughtful practitioners.

As a scholar of corporate innovation and entrepreneurship, I have always enjoyed Rita’s work and recommended her books and articles to my students. Thanks Rita for another thought provoking addition to this already fantastic list.

Reference: McGrath, R. G. (2019). Seeing Around Corners: How to spot inflection points in business before they happen. New York, USA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Leading Yourself First

Very few topics elicit the kind of attention that “Leadership” does. Yet, it remains plausibly the most difficult concepts to grasp. This is one reason why so many books on leadership get written every year, again and again. In spite of the vast literature available, few books make an impact. One such exception is “Lead Yourself First”.

Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude: Kethledge,  Raymond M., Erwin, Michael S., Collins, Jim: 9781632866318:  Books

Leadership is one of society’s fundamental challenges. Too many people have written about the lack of leaders at every level and the urgent need to develop them. While most advocate a call for turning others into leaders, very few indicate that good leaders create themselves, principally by leading themselves. And, how they do this, is beautifully rendered in this book by Ray and Mike. They show how leading oneself is the foundation to leading others. But what is leading oneself?

One widely used definition of self-leadership provides a hint: “leading oneself toward performance of naturally motivating tasks as well as managing oneself to do work that must be done but is not naturally motivating” (Manz, 1986, p. 589). It appears that, “to do what one ought to do”, especially in the face of adversity, is the essence of leading oneself. When one has not mastered self-leadership, leading others is more dangerous than not leading at all. How does one lead oneself ?

Based on five years of research, on both contemporary and historical leaders, Raymond Kethledge (a judge) and Michael Erwin (a combat veteran) find that the central foundation to good self-leadership is solitude. They define solitude as  “a subjective state of mind, in which the mind, isolated from input from other minds, works through a problem on its own.” They believe that finding this space where one can focus on their own thoughts without distraction, helps bring the mind and the soul together, and build clear-eyed conviction. The world needs more leaders with principled convictions. Developing this requires embracing silence. While it is easy to understand the difficulty of finding quiet time for reflection in today’s hyperconnected world, the authors showcase why doing this may be the only solution we have to solve complex challenges.

Using interviews with several contemporary leaders (a few you may have heard about, many not), and historical cases (Eisenhover, Goodall, Lawrence, Lincoln, Grant, Suu Kyi, Churchill, King, and Pope John Paul II), they wonderfully present how embracing solitude enhances: clarity (both analytical and intuitive); creativity; emotional balance (through acceptance, catharsis and magnanimity); and moral courage. Finding solitude, and spending time in reflection, helps leaders develop their own first principles without losing one’s dignity by conformance. The choice of cases, the writing style, and the conceptual abstractions are all equally engaging.

Entrepreneurs are leaders. They have to lead others, and before that they have to learn to lead themselves. While entrepreneurship education teaches entrepreneurs to embrace opportunity, uncertainty and manage teams, it leaves a gnawing gap when it comes to self-leadership. In fact, they need self-leadership most desperately. In my opinion, this book is fills this great need for entrepreneurs.

Thanks Ray and Mike for a great contribution. All those who wish to make change happen need self-leadership and every one of them will find this book a soulful and thought provoking read. I am sure it will also spur action.

Reference: Kethledge, R., & Erwin, M. (2017). Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude. New York, USA: Bloomsbury Publishing.

FREE ACCESS: Paper on Accelerators

Happy to share that my recently published Technovation article “Scale quickly or fail fast: An inductive study of acceleration” (with Tommy Clausen) will be available FREE with FULL ACCESS for a limited period. Courtesy: Elsevier, ScienceDirect.

CLICK HERE TO READ FOR FREE (available until 31-October-2020):

Scholars and practitioners may find these highlights useful to trigger interest in reading the full article:

  • Accelerator is a nascent yet fast growing global phenomenon; its role within the entrepreneurship ecosystem remains debated.
  • Our grounded inductive study uses data from accelerator executives (supply) & accelerated ventures (demand).
  • Our study calls for a shift in analysis from form (accelerator) to mechanism (acceleration).
  • Acceleration focuses on: product-market fit ventures; time compressed scaling; aggressive scalability testing.
  • Accelerators focus on scaling of new ventures vis-à-vis birthing and hence complement other support forms

If you are an incubator manager, an accelerator executive, entrepreneurship policymaker, entrepreneurial ecosystem participant, or anyone interested in entrepreneurship support forms and mechanisms, you will find the article of interest.

Happy Reading!

Searching for entrepreneurial opportunities in India

India is a land of a billion people. Since people dream, I always say, “India is a land of a billion dreamers”. Since dreams take a lot of effort to turn into realities, it is not surprising that many of these dreams go unrealized. While lack of persistence is a cause for non-realization, a large portion of this is also due to the lack of sensing the right opportunities. Now, this is true in other parts of the world too, albeit at different proportions.

Sensing opportunities or creating them, depending on whichever school you believe in, require some skills. One of the common antecedents to sensing opportunities, as validated by several researchers, is access to information. Several decades back, information asymmetry was used by individuals to gain advantages. But, in recent times, with the democratization of information, more individuals have access to most information. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in people complaining about information overload, reduced attention, etc. In spite of all the struggles, access to information and the ability to make sense of information, remain critical factors in individuals’ seeing opportunities. I agree there are other factors involved too, but “access to information” seems to be fundamental. So, if you are in India and you are looking for some information that can trigger your ability to see opportunities, here is a book that contains a wealth of useful insights, some information, and pointers to various sources of further information: The book “Bridgital Nation – Solving Technology’s People Problem” by N Chandrasekaran and Roopa Purushothaman. While much of the challenges identified are widely known, the authors approach to potential solutioning is creative. bridgital book

I enjoyed the book and have already recommended it to many of my students, especially in India. It takes a very different view to seeing some of the challenges facing India. I particularly liked two. First, the challenge of delivering quality healthcare to a billion Indians. Second, the challenge of turning our demography into an dividend rather than a liability.

Healthcare: India is a paradox when it comes healthcare. While India is becoming a global destination for medical tourism, she struggles with delivering basic domestic healthcare services. Most will agree that the domestic healthcare system, though well designed, is broken. People still need to be treated when they are sick, and taught how to be healthy. Big challenge: access.

Education: India churns out more degree holders than many other countries. Yet, unemployment is rampant. Everyone seems to agree that graduates (bachelor to doctoral levels) are unable to deliver on the job. Corporate recruiters almost run a full fledged university within their enterprises, to train recruited graduates on skills required for hands-on work. People need to be skilled and need jobs. Big challenge: jobs.

How can we bridge these gaps in the economy? The authors argue for greater use of technology and digitization to solve these challenges. Instead of the conventional solution to fixing the knowledge-doing gap, their approach to digitally enable semi-skilled workers is novel. While they highlight many of India’s challenges using largescale datasets, they also showcase specific case studies to illustrate how digitally enabled skilled individuals can bring out effective change. These stories are great examples, even if they are exceptions, of what the possibilities are for a digitally enabled and skilled India. If the macro-level data does not inspire you, the many stories in the book should.

Entrepreneurs interested in India as a market, must read this book. They must mark out the many “gaps” that exist in our education and healthcare sectors (or any other sector that interests them). They should pick specific a “gap” that inspires them. They should experiment solving it. Digitalization has made experimentation inexpensive and rapid. Entrepreneurs have a growing support infrastructure (incubators, corporate accelerators, labs, makerspaces, etc) to pursue such experimentation. India’s entrepreneurship ecosystem is growing. Individuals must tap into their entrepreneurial talents, make use of the support available, and bring about change. Venturing is a great way to make productive change happen.

Reference: Chandrasekaran, N., & Purushothaman, R. (2019). Bridgital Nation: Solving Technology’s People Problem. New Delhi, India: Penguin Random House India Private Limited.

Experiences from a Virtual AOM 2020

It was a bold decision to hold the Academy of Management Annual Conference – an event that usually brings together more than 10,000 people from all over the world to a single location, virtually. But the leadership (all volunteers) along with several volunteers from across the world made it happen. A big thank you to each one of them. In about a week, thousands of individuals exchanged useful, insightful, encouraging, inspiring, instructive, and usable knowledge. As one who was at the receiving end of such wisdom, I am in gratitude to all those who enabled this knowledge transmission.

I enjoyed attending the sessions from the comfort of my office and home. I could attend sessions that I would have otherwise skipped (imagine dashing from one hotel to another in the middle of summer). And I don’t have to explain how ‘dashing’ would look for people (academics) who normally don’t dash from place to place (exceptions exist). While not meeting old friends, and not making new friends, is something I truly missed, there was a different value created in this virtual edition. I believe this virtual conference has opened up the possibilities for blended conference modes in the future. Imagination can only be the upside for such possibilities.

I attended several PDWs and took away many applicable tips. Particularly, I enjoyed the PDWs on ‘New ways of seeing theory’ by the editors and authors of Organization Theory (a new journal from EGOS) – it provided several new approaches to theorizing without data; the workshop on ‘Writing Theoretical Papers’ from the editors of Academy of Management Review (AMR) – provided and reinforced many good practices on writing a good conceptual article; ‘Publishing Inductive Qualitative Research in Prominent Management Journals’ by Melissa Graebner, Davide Ravasi and Quy Huy (authors whose work I admire) – an amazing two-hour Q&A session, most nicely summarized as the attempts to decipher the mystery of writing a qualitative article (borrowing Quy Huy’s analogy to detectives); and the plenary session of the ENT Division which focused on ‘The Future of Entrepreneurship’ (organized and presented by mentors and friends) – fascinating to hear the uncertainty associated with the discipline that studies it.

I also attended the PDW on ‘Scaling up Accelerator Research’ where i listened to inspirational seniors, met with old friends, and engaged in small breakout discussions on topics close to what I have studied earlier. It was nice to see Shaker Zahra talk about the importance of exploring the phenomenon of Corporate Accelerators further. This was encouraging given my interests in the phenomenon.

Driven by my new and growing interest in sustainable entrepreneurship, I dropped into the session ‘Applying Degrowth for Organizing Business in the Anthropocene’ (which helped me learn about a new topic and landed me a few new friends). The world has always faced several grand challenges, but ensuring that we have a habitable planet is even grander today. Exploring the antithesis to what most of management scholars study (growth), the discussions around degrowth were both illuminating and insightful. I left the session with more questions than answers.

Personally, this virtual edition of the 80th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, has been special in two additional ways:

a) BEST PAPER: one of my papers (co-authored with Einar Rasmussen and Hooman Best Paper AOM2020Abootorabi) was one of the Entrepreneurship Division’s Best Papers

Best Reviewer AOM 2020




b) BEST REVIEWER: I was recognized as one of Entrepreneurship Division’s best reviewers


Thank you Entrepreneurship Division and the entire Academy of Management family for the encouragement and support. Additionally, I also wish to thank my colleagues at Nord University who constantly support me in pursuing my scholarly interests. Overall it has been an exciting virtual AOM and I very much look forward to the next AOM, hopefully at a physical location.

Do you have a ‘Trillion Dollar’ Coach?

Every entrepreneur needs to ask herself or himself this question?

It is extremely important for entrepreneurs and founding team members to have coaches. Good coaches watch you closely, point your errors, provide tips to improve your performance, fine-tune your practices, and above all remain interested in your success.

If you ask ‘why do i need this?’ or ‘why do i need a coach?’ – stop reading this blog right now! Come back when you feel the need.

For those who agree that having a coach matters, or even better yearn for a good coach, read on.

The world is filled with more coaches than practitioners. The truth is highly visible in the arena of entrepreneurship. You come across many who claim to be entrepreneurship coaches. Unfortunately, many of them do not have any influence on entrepreneurs, and most toot their own horns. But, as Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle beautifully capture in this wonderful book — effective coaches are probably the team’s best kept secret.
Trillion Dollar Coach

The story of Bill Campbell and why he was called “Silicon Valley’s Best Kept Secret” details in many ways who makes a good coach. The first and most critical aspect being Campbell’s willingness to be kept a secret. Despite being the coach to most of Silicon Valley’s greats, he virtually remained a non-celebrity. His relationship with Steve Jobs is not widely spoken about. Many wonder if a personality like Steve Jobs would care to have a coach. You will be surprised when you read this book. The list of who Bill Campbell coached has the who’s who of the entrepreneurship world, especially in Silicon Valley. Yet, the man remained virtually unknown.

There are many wonderful lessons that coaches and entrepreneurial leaders can take away — focus on people, treat them lovingly and compassionately, build teams, choose the best ideas, protect aberrant geniuses, listen carefully, give generously, etc. One aspect that stood out well, especially for coaches is — coach only the coachable. Who are these coachables — individuals who are honest and humble; willing to persevere and work hard; and remain open to learning.

But, in this story, also lies a subtle lesson for most people who claim to be or wish to be good coaches. The focus of coaching should be on the performance of the player, not the coach. For this, you have to develop the ability to avoid attention, avoid constant display of abilities, choose to remain quiet, develop compassion, be loving, and focus on developing oneself to help the other. These qualities border on what one claims to be philosophical, probably explaining why most so-called coaches don’t get far. Bill’s story explains how Earthly coaches work. His influence can be seen in the foundations and phenomenal success of trillion dollar organizations such as Apple, Google, and Intuit.

For entrepreneurs, the central message is – choose your coaches and mentors wisely. Be careful to choose someone who truly: values player performance; commits to your journey; remains available especially in difficult times; someone who shuns attention.  Apart from this central message, there are several interesting tidbits of wisdom all over the book. Many stories about how entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and hundreds of others. Soak it up and use it, until you find your own coach.

For scholars of entrepreneurship, similar lessons apply. While you may strive to find a good coach or mentor like Bill Campbell from the scholarly world, you may also explore research questions such as: what kind of entrepreneurs search for coaches; how does the coach-player connection come about; who makes a good coach; can coaches be trained/educated; should educators develop coaching skills, behaviors and attitudes; are these skills, behaviors and attitudes, values dependent? And so many more…

For those of you who may be interested in reading this book, here is the reference information: Schmidt, E., Rosenberg, R., and Eagle, A. (2019). Trillion dollar coach: The leadership handbook of silicon valley’s Bill Campbell. John Murray.

Why more entrepreneurship education is not necessarily better?

A couple of months back I had the pleasure of attending a provocative seminar by Prof Ulla Hytti from Turku School of Economics. She is also a visiting professor at the Division of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Nord University Business School.

The topic of her talk is the title of this blog post! Isn’t that provocative enough?

Entrepreneurship is now being taught in more Universities, colleges and schools than ever before. Entrepreneurship education has clearly transcended the boundaries of the business school. Some universities have now labelled themselves as ‘entrepreneurial universities’. Entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education are truly becoming ubiquitous. This is both encouraging and worrying!

Prof Hytti cautioned us that it was probably the right time to pause and reflect – on the  question – ‘Why more entrepreneurship education is not necessarily better?’. Having been an entrepreneurship educator for over a decade, I could not agree more to her reasons for why we should pause and reflect:

  • entrepreneurship is positioned as a panacea to all social and economic challenges
  • every course wants to be ‘entrepreneurial’ in some way
  • most entrepreneurship courses look similar (content and pedagogy)
  • everyone wants to be ‘entrepreneurial’ (from Universities to corporations)
  • everyone wants to be an entrepreneurship educator

Without complaining, Prof Hytti gave us enough reasons as to why it was good to reflect when things are apparently good for the field. She also highlighted the benefits of such critical reflections. The discussions post her presentation went on for a long time and ranged from issues of how much contextualization is right for entrepreneurship courses, how to balance reflection and action in entrepreneurship education and approaches required for bringing reflection in entrepreneurship education, especially after action-oriented modules.

I have often heard people say, there is little to research in entrepreneurship education. I used to doubt it, but after yesterday’s reflection, I completely disagree. There are a number of things about entrepreneurship education that we don’t understand well enough. Following an ‘ideal’ curriculum and an ‘ideal’ pedagogy is only aggravating the challenges looming under the surface of entrepreneurship education.

I left the seminar wondering if it was time to start some new research projects on entrepreneurship education. Do you have questions on entrepreneurship education that have perplexed you?  Here is my first one: How can we teach entrepreneurial failure? How can we enable students experience and learn from failure?

Do share your top questions in the comments section below. We can probably create a list of unanswered research questions in entrepreneurship education.