Training edupreneurs

I have read many books about technology innovators. Their lives and their struggles make for great stories. A frequent theme is the challenge these innovators face being able to actually build a company and sell products. The solution is often described as “bringing in some adult supervision” implying the skills of creativity and problem-solving involved in product or service creation do not necessarily translate in sustaining a business.

The books I have in mind often tell the story based on the different values and skills of the engineers and the marketers. Wozniak and Jobs would be a good example. Their difference in talents and values eventually led to their separation. Google founders Brin and Page would be an example of an engineer driven company. With both Apple and Google there were at least some periods of adult supervision (various CEOs with Apple – Scully and Amelio and Schmidt for Google). In both cases, although this may have involved considerable acrimony, a founder eventually returned to run the business. The transitions were not necessarily understood in this fashion, but perhaps there was a period of learning and maturation required for company leadership.

Institutions of higher education have taken note of this pattern (or understood it from the beginning) and encourage some “engineers” to take some business courses. This reminds me somehow of advice sometimes given to athletes headed for what look like pro careers. Skills in one area may leave on poorly prepared individuals for applying these skills in another.

I was thinking about this model in light of recent discussions of edupreneurs. Without weighing in on the backstory for these discussions, the argument might be made that educators (whether they continue as practitioners, become thought leaders, or both) are unlikely to have the skills and perspective necessary to market themselves and their ideas. Should those of us preparing advanced students add course work on edupreneurship to our existing offerings on learning theory and applied instructional tactics. This would probably be a requirement necessitating the hiring of a different type of higher ed faculty member. We tend to be more like the engineers. However, without some interventions are those now gaining visibility really the individuals we would prefer pushing practice forward or in different directions?


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