|Dr Gary C Wood|
|Enterprise Education Developer|
To overcome this challenge, we need to step back. Linguistic signs need to form a meaningful message in the mind of our audience. So, our real challenge is to ensure that our audiences get our intended meaning.
Thus far, we’ve tackled this challenge by trying to re-educate our audiences to appreciate the broader meanings of ‘enterprise’ and ‘entrepreneurship’, as they are defined by the QAA. But it’s not working. At least, it’s not working quickly enough. It’s time we recognised that these terms are occupational language, understood by us as enterprise education professionals, but not by a broader audience. It’s time we practised what we preach, and package our offer as a solution to the challenges our academics and students face. In short, it’s time we took a new approach.
You may be familiar with Simon Sinek's work, 'Start With Why', made famous by his TED talk entitled ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’. His suggestion is that successful communicators start by getting people bought into their cause or belief. Let’s think about that. Why do we want to deliver enterprise and entrepreneurship education within our institutions in the first place? The answer is that we want to create students and graduates who are able to get things done and make things happen; individuals who can apply their skills and knowledge creatively, and have the ambition to be agents for positive action and change.
We need to ask ourselves what the problem is that we’re trying to solve. Is it that academics and students don’t understand the words enterprise and entrepreneurship? Or is it that we want students and graduates with the characteristic of being enterprising? Of course, it’s the latter, but in fighting for our ‘enterprise’ name we’ve lost sight of that. If we can create ambitious, creative, can-do graduates, who cares if they list enterprise among their capabilities? Employers don’t use that term. Academics don’t like it. Students don’t understand it. It works for nobody but us.
This blog post is an edited version of an opening provocation presented by the author as part of the plenary debate: 'We need to stop using the 'E' words (enterprise and entrepreneurship) with our students' at the International Entrepreneurship Educators' Conference 2017.
With thanks to Anna Nibbs for the illustrations.