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Building a better future by developing an entrepreneurial mind set

Entrepreneurial Mindset

The mere reference to an entrepreneur brings the image of Richard Branson or Steve Jobs like figure to our mind. The perception of an entrepreneur among the general populace is a romantic one of risk taking and boundary breaking single individual while the truth can be quite a different one.

An entrepreneur is not necessarily a person who starts from the scratch and build her own business, they can also be system changers, innovators and path breakers working within an organization. Whether creating their own business or being a game changers within an organization, entrepreneurs can be a great asset to an organization and to the economy for their positive contribution towards economic and social development.

Yet employees with an entrepreneurial mind set are an important yet an extremely rare occurrence within the present day corporate sector. People who take timely and innovative decision, envision new solutions to problems and act proactively can make a huge difference in a business or in society at large.

A majority of young job seekers as well as employees are yet to recognise the true importance of entrepreneurship education and competency building. Developing entrepreneurship or social intrapreneurship is not a well-recognised positive trait among present day local employers and employees. None consider it to be realistic necessity for an effective career as much as a bundle of qualifications.

The school education system in many South Asian countries including Sri Lanka does not provide the required background to develop entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial traits among young students. Especially the exam and result driven secondary education creates a void for innovative out of the box thinking among the younger generations, who are encouraged to follow a given path to acquire maximum results.

Even during the tertiary education levels at state and private universities students are encouraged to gain as much as qualifications as possible and to follow a purely career oriented path without pursuing a journey of self-realisation, risk taking and innovation.

Many students take the standard path followed by the rest. Their main intention is to quickly get some qualification for employability. Lacking a long term vision for life, they fail to consider all the methods and means to progress their career through economic and social development as an individual, an organisation and as the society at large.

Does the country’s next generation have the potential to grow into entrepreneurs and social intrapreneurs or are they turning out to be a generation of exam doers and box tickers, following a standard path into employment because that’s just what’s expected of them?

Today an average student goes to school and learn to pass exams and earn qualifications. They are discouraged from making mistakes, taking risks and challenging the accepted social norm. After leaving school they are encouraged to follow the same path that discourages risk taking and innovative thinking, thus getting their sense of entrepreneurship nipped at the bud. Although some students who are born leaders stubbornly retain their sense of adventure and innovation despite mass indoctrination, another large group of students who could have developed into potential idea leaders gets discouraged and moulded into average Joes and Janes who comfortably follow a given routine without making a significant contribution to the growth of the civilisation.

While most of the young children are born naturally curious, innovative and motivated their journey towards entrepreneurship never takes off due to the lack of a right learning process which directs them towards a career building path.

This leads to shallow, unfulfilling, lives with little hope since the process of learning is the essence behind just about every worthwhile thing human beings do during their lifetime. The act of striping away a child’s natural passion to explore and learn through the education system is almost a criminal offence not just to that child but to the humanity at large.

As there is very little that can be done to change the direction of primary education in Sri Lanka without an overhaul of policy decisions the only hope lies in developing the children at the stage of secondary and tertiary education. A strategic mixture of knowledge based learning process with a skill based practical training and career competencies should be available to all students to develop a generation of inventors and entrepreneurs.

Giving the students an opportunity to learn skills, as well as theoretical knowledge and encouraging them to develop their interests and passions in a supportive and enabling environment will help to rescue an education system that is firmly trapped in the 18th Century.

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