Seems the old school debate on whether or not entrepreneurism can actually be taught is brewing again. It's an interesting question that's got some heavyweights chiming in.
In one corner, Harvard Business School Professor Noam Wasserman says that it can, that entrepreneurs can learn how to avoid common pitfalls. He argues that startup founders can be taught to trust data more than gut feelings:
Learning about these pitfalls, and what the data suggest to be better choices, helps entrepreneurs to make more informed decisions from the outset, rather than having to fail and try again.
In the other corner, Victor Hwang of T2 Venture Capital flatly says that it can't. That the entrepreneurism is messy and requires real world experience, not classroom doctrine. It takes people skills, he says, a deep understanding of people, something that can't be taught in a classroom. As he says:
Entrepreneurs have to understand people well enough to get them to surmount their barriers and deliver their best efforts. Those kinds of skills can't be taught in a formal classroom, and they can't be fully developed in the span of a semester or even a few years.
Both men make fair points. Both agree that there are some things that can't be taught. Sure, skills and common lessons can be taught, like in any of half-a-dozen other professions. We can learn the pitfalls. We can learn the tactics. We can certainly learn from one another.
But knowledge only goes so far. Hwang and Wasserman might not directly say it, but what they really are getting at is that it's not just about being able to learn entrepreneurism, but what you do with that knowledge. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but it's what you do with that knowledge that matters.