It's hardly news to anyone that many successful entrepreneurs “dropped out” of formal education. Their stories keep the clicks coming, and high-profile figures from Henry Ford to Mark Zuckerberg consistently personify the famous Mark Twain quote “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”.
It must be said that for every Richard Branson, there are 10,000 whose business never made it out of the basement, and 100,000 who never learned to believe in themselves at all. Why have schools let down so many of us? Why do we allow this idea of “success” in such narrow terms to obscure what value creation actually is? Why is the term entrepreneurial too often tied explicitly with pure commercialism, and left out of learning environments until the Business Schools step in?
Entrepreneurship can teach mainstream education a whole lot
Mainstream education has been very much missing the point. Entrepreneurial thinking is within projects, companies, in communities, in charities and public bodies. It may be called intrapreneurship or social entrepreneurship or whatever the next thing might be, but the core skills set and mindset remain essentially the same. If entrepreneurial thinking was to be explored and embedded well before university level, how might things change?
Readers may very well be nodding heads at the idea that the skills which got them where they are today, were not developed at school, or at least, not in the classroom. The “F” on that assignment did not mean fail forward or find another way. Learning in lockstep with others, regardless of the rich diversity in every learning environment, was not the way to find your pace, passion and purpose.
The risks were externally motivated, as were the successes; pass or fail determining your next spin of the wheel. Contact with the “real world” was simulated, feedback was about effort and never direction, and always handed down to you, rather than elicited from you. You learned to write 1000 words minimum in the world of the elevator pitch and the 1900 character InMail.
Embracing uncertainty, iteration, collaboration, cognitive flexibility, creativity, self-reflection, and failing forward- these are all things that the changemakers in education are now starting to promote as essential skills and abilities. Entrepreneurship in its broadest sense has been associated with these things for well over 30 years.
We need more than a Minimum Viable Product
So here’s our pitch. Any learning environment that does not foster and support those things is not preparing us for a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous future. To the entrepreneurs and innovators out there, perhaps education didn’t listen to you when it should have, but it is finally learning the lesson. We need to build momentum.
You see, times are changing; when the lines between educator and entrepreneur are blurring, and new learning paradigms are beginning to emerge. Spiralling outward from their points of inception, the lights of progress are flickering into existence across the map. Education is not a gadget or a linear process, so it does not scale; It spreads, ignites, evolves.
Whether working 9 to 5 or building a startup, the shockwaves of 2020 showed us that our environment can change very quickly, and the ground beneath is anything but stable. In a world of gig economies, liquid working, climate change, horizontal structures, global fluidity and fast-evolving technology, who do we want our children to be?
Asking the right question
The question, perhaps should be: who do our children want to be? At Learnlife, our learning paradigm seeks to help learners answer that fundamental question, and to support them in building the skills they will need to show up in their world on their terms. No subjects, no abstract test, no standardisation. Iteration, exploration, passion, collaboration, 360-degree feedback and learner-directed pathways that empower the next generation.
We do not need the OECD to tell us that connecting education and entrepreneurial thinking is “extremely promising”, because that has been clear to some of us for a generation; especially those of us the system failed to embrace. So many of us only began to learn when we left our schooling behind.
The walls of our learning environment are permeable, with the free flow of learning shared among our programmes and the living, breathing ecosystem of the city and community around us. Real life does not begin after “school”. Learning is no longer siloed, and the door is open.
To the entrepreneurs, creatives, idealists, leaders and believers, we need you. For your children, who deserve to play, discover and value themselves for who they are, there is a place for them at Learnlife. For your passion, your support, your ideas and your insight, there is an open welcome for you in our movement.
We cannot do this alone. To positively change the model of education, and transform it from one designed for the industrial revolution into one that values the individual, we need to be bold and we need our brightest lights on board. Future generations should not have to take that uncertain road to find their way, or to slip between the headlines in telling themselves that they failed. We cannot change our own experiences of education, but we can change theirs. Will you join us?