Most business school programs require students to spend a good chunk of their time in traditional courses such as economics and accounting. But a number of universities also offer classes off the beaten path, that encourage students not only to think about the theory of concepts such as failure and creativity, but also apply them in a practical sense. (Of course, some argue that these are the sort of things best learned by doing rather than studying.)

Check out the sampling below of some of the most unusual undergraduate and graduate classes in entrepreneurship:

1. "Creativity," New York University 

Since she took the helm as instructor of this MBA course in 2012, marketing professor Kim Corfman has operated under the principle that creativity is a skill that can be taught. In preparation to teach the course, Corfman spent a yearlong sabbatical reading literature on the topic of creativity and meeting with experts in the field. The hands-on course challenges students to tackle a diverse set of problems such as getting people through a subway turnstile when others are trying to pass in the opposite direction, figuring out how to avoid smudging a new manicure while turning magazine pages, and untangling headphone wires.

2. "Social Psychology of Entrepreneurship," University of Michigan

Understanding psychology is key to understanding business, says Oscar Ybarra, the psychology professor who teaches this undergraduate course. Ybarra, who also runs his own company working with people to maintain their cognitive health, incorporates his psychology research to help students understand concepts such as persistence and failure and how they play a role in business interactions. "After all, a big part of entrepreneurship is one's ability to leverage social connections and make survivable decisions under much uncertainty," Ybarra says.

3. "Fail Faster," Stanford University

To learn how to succeed, you first need to know how to fail. The description for this graduate-level course encourages students to "fail early, fail often." Students examine the different stages of failure, and work through exercises for each, says Grace Hawthorne, one of the course's instructors. One such activity is event mapping, or taking an event such as unsuccessfully applying for a job and mapping out all possible steps one could take next.

4. "Corporate Ventures & New Innovation," Northwestern University

This class in the Kellogg School of Management teaches intrapreneurship, or how to apply your entrepreneurial spirit and ideas to an established corporation. The courses draws in part on guest lectures and case studies to teach students how to incorporate new ventures into their jobs. The final project for the class is a CEO pitch, where students either can create a new venture within a real-world company to improve it, or find an existing venture within a firm to develop further.

5. "Creativity and Personal Mastery," Columbia University

In this MBA course, students improve their productivity through weekly exercises called asifs, which comes from the phrase "as if." One exercise is to act as if it's the last day on Earth with everyone you meet and observe how your behavior toward them differs from how it normally would be. The exercise is helpful for changing your perspective on a familiar situation, a skill that can be useful for entrepreneurs, says Srikumar Rao, the professor who teaches it.

Published on: Sep 2, 2015