Entrepreneurship Is a Craft and Here’s Why That’s Important

To inspire today’s generation of company builders, entrepreneurship education needs a common language and apprenticeship opportunities.

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In my 20-plus years as an entrepreneur and seven years as an entrepreneurship educator, I have explored whether starting successful companies should be thought of as a science or an art. If entrepreneurship is a science, then I could easily teach my students that if they perform actions X and Y, they will get a result of Z. If it is an art, then it can be described no more precisely than as an ambiguous creative process that only a chosen few can pursue as a profitable career.

While I find many elements of entrepreneurship that draw from empirical processes, I also find many others that require creativity. In looking for a mental model that encompasses both requirements in a cohesive model for how to most successfully approach the startup process, I started thinking about potters. These skilled individuals imbue artistry into each pot they throw, but if they don’t have knowledge of the fundamentals of how to mold clay into finished objects, they won’t succeed in their goal. Pottery is neither science nor art. Instead, it’s a craft — a process that draws from both.

There are a few key characteristics of pottery that firmly plants it into the realm of craft, rather than being either an art or science:

It’s accessible. Almost anyone can make a pot from clay. It is not something available only to an elite few who are gifted with extraordinary talent.

It’s learnable. Pottery consists of a number of fundamental skills that aren’t obvious without being taught the particulars of the discipline, but these skills can be taught and learned. Luck alone does not make a potter.

It values unique products. When pottery is done well, it is beautiful and unique. The goal of many pottery craftspeople is not to mass-produce the same item that they or others have created before, but to make something new and valued.

It’s built on fundamental concepts. When a potter is learning how to throw clay on a pottery wheel, there are basic principles such as how to use your fingers and thumbs to mold differently sized grooves and how to perfectly calibrate your foot pedals.

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Comments (2)
John Klug
EXCELLENT JOB (article), Bill - you're a true knowledge worker!
(I say that... versus all the myriad non-useable claptrap in this arena).
IF DRUCKER WAS STILL HERE, YOU'D BE ON STAGE, TOGETHER (I used to eat a lot of shrimp at his events!)
You're dead on - on topic - and bring a smile to my face :)

John Klug
THE GLOBAL EMPOWERMENT ENGINE LLC
https://ocw.mit.edu/give/our-supporters/john-klug/
Galit Zamler
I definitely agree with the points mentioned here on entrepreneurship education. In Israel, we start education for entrepreneurship in elementary schools (public schools) and do so in accordance with the key characteristics mentioned here.

The education is accessible to all students in the school and in any field that the students and the teachers feel connected to. 
These can be social, technological, environmental, business, innovative, traditional initiatives, and more.

It is clear to us that entrepreneurship can be learned, so the students experience planning and execution of various projects from an early age, so that they will acquire experience and knowledge in developing ventures and increase their success rates as adult entrepreneurs.

At an early age, students learn to differentiate themselves from the rest. They learn that they need to know how to present their uniqueness so others will notice them.

When students experience the entrepreneurial process over and over again, meet entrepreneurs from different fields and go on a visit to start-ups, they acquire basic concepts in initiatives that will help them in the future.
I think that the highlight in entrepreneurial education, as I make it, is that the students learn entrepreneurship through apprenticeship, and their mentors are teachers from the school staff, who have been trained in entrepreneurship, so we also develop and empower our teachers and the students acquire skills for life.

My response stems from the experience I have accumulated so far as developing the Entrepreneurship for Kids Program, which is most successful in Israeli schools. Http://www.tomorrowsuccess.com/