It’s often thought that entrepreneurs are born with a thirst to create new ideas and shape them into successful businesses. Entrepreneurs are thought as heroes or born leaders who are driven by something mysterious deep inside. Although this may be true for many entrepreneurs, according to Harvard, you can learn to be an entrepreneur. And they have been doing it since 2000.

Harvard Business School professors Howard Stevenson, Richard Hamermesh, and Paul Marshall have a few things to teach budding Harvard students about the world of business. They ultimately teach that “Entrepreneurs try to deal with uncertainty explicitly by running experiments, by not taking risks,” they are teaching students that being an entrepreneur is not a personality characteristic but a learned skill.

Howard Stevenson mentioned that to start, entrepreneurship has been taught as a process, not as a person. There has been a tremendous emphasis on the nature of the networks that people form. But he thinks throughout this whole history, there has been an emphasis that you're part of an ongoing process: It's not about the "I," it's about the "We."

According to Paul Marshall, by teaching mundane tasks like employment contracts, interviewing techniques and leases then students get an understanding of the kind of things that people who start companies have to do.

One crucial element that all entrepreneurs need is a belief; belief in themselves and their ability to become an entrepreneur. Mixed with perspiration, “you actually have to run the numbers” on the potential business ideas you have. You learn to tell a bad deal from a good deal very quickly. Students learn that all people from all walks of life are capable of becoming an entrepreneur. Harvard has been attentive to their course content and creation and introduces leaders to the course who aren't larger than life, with whom students can identify. Very early, they built cases around women and entrepreneurs of all types and all ages.

The course has two fundamental sections: The first part is called "Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship," and the second part is "Beginning a New Venture, the first focuses on concepts, while the second practice and application.

Harvard have Identified four fundamentals of entrepreneurial management.

  • The first fundamental is recognizing opportunity and driving decisions off the pursuit of that opportunity as opposed to starting with resources and trying to figure out what to do with them.
  • The second is forecasting cash flow
  • The third fundamental is treating every venture as an experiment
  • The fourth is sources of financing

Stevenson mentions that “They (students) can learn either at the school of hard knocks or by coming to class and building an understanding or we can give them some tools and techniques to improve their odds of success”. Hamermesh states that most entrepreneurs are just regular men and women who happen to start their own businesses and go about their lives happily and independently. Entrepreneurship can be taught, but instead of urging all students to JUST GO FOR IT, Harvard spends a lot of time telling students to get to know an industry, get to be known in an industry, develop your skills, develop your contact base. There's an appropriate time, and you'll know it.

Read the full interview here.

Howard H. Stevenson, the Sarofim-Rock Professor of Business Administration, Paul W. Marshall, the MBA Class of 1960 Professor of Management Practice and course head for The Entrepreneurial Manager, and Richard G. Hamermesh, senior lecturer and instructor for the Entrepreneurship course.