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Soumitra Bhat
Leader of the Creative Entrepreneurship program and Innovation Manager at the Indian School of Design and Innovation, (ISDI-Parsons Mumbai). He is also the Founder of UserINNOV – a design company in Mumbai

These are really the Entrepreneurial times! There is global investment on an unprecedented level in entrepreneurship development and new venture creation spurred by macro-economic events demanding higher resilience in economies, and higher economic empowerment through employment. Entrepreneurship development has become a national issue with political muscle behind it – with new visa policies, central budgetary allocation, policy reforms, etc. There is also strong pull for business to lead sustainability and human development – two issues that have become so prominent today due to their influence on the making or breaking of socio-economic structures.

The demographic – in India especially – is also changing as we get more comfortable with being mobile, connected and accessible at almost all times. There is a lot more awareness and exposure to global socio-cultural stimuli and these are driving the aspirations of the youth. Today, prioritising our lives to ‘do what we love’, we are not dreaming about the government service job, or the management role in the multi-national company. Entrepreneurship has risen to become a career ‘option’, from its older connotation as a career ‘necessity’ for those who were ‘not good enough’ to get a good job anywhere. Today, we are dreaming of being on our own, being in control, and being useful, and contributing our best to society in our own unique way.

There is a lot going for us dreamers today. We are fast becoming the modders, makers, hackers who exploit the opportunities afforded by near-zero cost of information (and knowledge), cheap access to production technology, online channels of retail and distribution, and networks of hyper collaboration. One could argue that with so much available ‘out there’, one hardly needs school; the College Dropout would still stand as the paragon of the Entrepreneur. However, that can hardly be the norm if one looks for scale. Indeed, for majority of us, because there is so much out there and it is changing so fast, we need schools that go beyond teaching us skills, and help us structure our thoughts and make sense of the world around us in useful ways.

So, can Entrepreneurship be taught? Opinions are almost always divided on this one. However, this divide is erroneous as a consequence of the way we pose the question. If we just turn it around and ask instead ‘whether one can learn to be a better Entrepreneur?’ we can all agree that the answer is obviously, yes! So what is one really learning in order to be a better Entrepreneur? Can one distil this knowledge into a program so that it can be transferred to masses at scale and dramatically improve the quantity and quality entrepreneurs and the ventures they create? I believe that this is possible.

My confidence stems, to a large extent, from an analogous development in the field of research with the introduction of the research doctorate (PhD) in the 19th century. The research doctorate is a culmination of acquiring research training to produce original research. Since then, as research methodology has developed and matured, the number of doctorates awarded has increased. For example, in the USA alone, the number of doctorates awarded each year has gone up from 10,000 in 1958 to more than 50,000 in 2012. If one is willing to replace the terms ‘research training’ with ‘entrepreneurship training’ and ‘original research’ with ‘differentiated value propositions’, then the potential promise becomes quite compelling!

Customer Development, Lean Startup, Disruptive Innovation, etc are all methodological perspectives on the entrepreneurship phenomenon that run along this line of thought. Already, concepts from the research paradigm – such as, hypothesis, controlled testing, validation, sample-size, ethnography – have entered the entrepreneurship lexicon. Although these methodologies have strong roots in technology and product entrepreneurship, they have inspired designers to develop them further by integrating the necessary humanistic concepts of empathy, imagination, values, vision, and service that are the core of Design Thinking.

In this series, I am going to introduce 10 actionable insights that form a part of this emerging methodology of Creative Entrepreneurship with the intent of engaging you in a dialogue and debate on their relevance and integration into your own practice. The idea, in the spirit of Design, is to have you bring each insight to action right away, and bring back your learnings for discussion in the comments.

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