Fostering an Entrepreneurial Mindset in Selective MBA Programs

In the late 1950s, business schools established themselves firmly in academia and established roots in economics. The prevalence of economic thought leads to many in business schools to view management more narrowly as decision making based on rational analysis. Business education continues to teach based on this style of epistemology that has been described as a “managerial mindset”—most effective in predictable states of the world, where analytical tools help managers calculate business decisions, which neglects an “entrepreneurial mindset” that operates with a broader set of tools under conditions of uncertainty (Boisot & MacMillan, 2004). This raises the question of whether a competing epistemology, like an entrepreneurial mindset, can find a home in contemporary business education? Given the limited research on MBA entrepreneurship education, this study examined three selective MBA programs to understand how faculty, administrators, and students conceive of entrepreneurship learning. What emerges from this qualitative study are distinct epistemic stances toward entrepreneurship education suggesting that some business schools have deviated from a managerial mindset. The study also presents a grounded theory of entrepreneurial ownership, which describes four challenges that student founders confront in pursuing new opportunities. The study concludes with an examination of the implications of each epistemic stance against these student challenges—finding that epistemic stances impact student learning. Finally, the existence of distinct epistemic stances provides evidence that business schools may be approaching learning from more diverse perspectives than previously assumed. In a future defined by increased uncertainty, these diverse perspectives may be helpful to the future of management education.

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