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How to learn to innovate

June 28, 2006 15:41 IST
Tina Seelig, executive director, Stanford's Technology Ventures programme, reasons that subjects like entrepreneurship and innovation can be taught. In a chat with Kalpana pathak, she explains why. Excerpts:

You have been running the entrepreneurship programme for 13 years. What made you tie up with NEN?

We are very much interested in sharing what we do. We are interested in the global community. We have been holding conferences across world and have raised the entrepreneurship education bar for everyone.

We want to learn about the entrepreneurial environment in Asia and this is how we have formed a partnership with the national entrepreneurship network.

Entrepreneurship education is a fairly new phenomenon. What kind of a response you get when you talk about this subject?

When we started the entrepreneurship venture programme at Stanford 13 years ago, people asked us if we should be teaching leadership. Today we are asked how we go about teaching leadership and creating leaders.

People are enthusiastic about entrepreneurship education. Especially the students who come to us with great passion but do not have the skills and tools to be entrepreneurs. At present, we have 1,500 students at our centre studying entrepreneurship.

What do you emphasise in entrepreneurship education?

We teach students to be entrepreneurial
not just entrepreneurs. Contrary to the belief that entrepreneurship education is all about telling people how to start their own ventures, we also tell people that they should be working with entrepreneurial organisations.

We teach them management skills like strategy, marketing , finance, team building, innovation, negotiation and tactical skills. Also, we teach students in a low-risk environment and allow them to experiment so that when they pass out they will be successful.

Can innovation be taught?

Yes. Innovation is like any other subject. Just as science, music, art and other subjects can be taught, so can innovation be.

While teaching we also pay attention to imparting a set of soft skills and tools, which increases the probability of success. The entrepreneurial spirit exists in everyone and with the right education,
opportunities will increase a hundred-fold.

Is entrepreneurship education  restricted only to B-schools?

No. It exists across the education sector. I don't think it is good enough for students to pass out purely with technical knowledge and training.

They need entrepreneurial training too. India has a lot of entrepreneurial people and a training will only benefit them. I hope every student takes a course in entrepreneurship sees opportunities and uses available resources to create value.
Kalpana Pathak in Mumbai
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