Of late I have become increasingly convinced that most of the business schools in America should be burned to the ground and the Plains of Carthage should be planted with salt where once they stood, especially those institutions (most) which claim to teach entrepreneurship.
That said, admittedly, it is easier to cast a caterwauling calumny on our current business pedagogy than to come up with a positive replacement. Mea culpa, to be sure.
So how do you truly teach leadership and visionary process in a world of business change moving at the speed of light-a business world unmoored to any real communal and universal verities? How do you teach originality and personal vision? How do you teach passion for freedom? How do you teach the personal courage to fiercely fail (and even fail multiple times?) How do you learn to slay the dragon of self-doubt each day and maintain faith that you can create something out of nothing? How do you teach all that and the many other non-quantitative intuitions that constitute the foundation of creative business? How does one learn how to bring love and meaning, as well as profit to entrepreneurship?
Well, I was in Austin, Texas last week and came across a remarkable new school of entrepreneurship called the Khabele Strong Incubator, founded by Michael Strong and Khotso Khabele, both men well-known, passionate educators out of Harvard. (Strong-Philosophy, Khabele-MBA) The school is bankrolled by John Mackey (Whole Foods), Douglas Drane (HPT Development), and other prominent businessmen with the intent to create a new kind of prep school devoted to creating conscious business leaders. The school incorporates a Socratic liberal arts educational program with a daily opportunity to work directly with the most cutting-edge entrepreneurs, business leaders, design firms, and technologists in Austin. And when ready, with angel investors. Just starting its second year, the school has more than doubled its enrollees, who come from all over the world. It covers grades 6 through 12.
Michael Strong is a warm acquaintance of mine and a longtime fellow-traveler concerning the current non-efficacy of business education for entrepreneurship. His Socratic Practice work has been endorsed by a former National Teacher of the Year (Elaine Griffins) and by a recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" Award Grant (Deborah Meier). He is the author of The Habit of Thought: From Socratic Seminars to Socratic Practice, which has been widely praised by the leading experts in brain-based learning and learnable intelligence. Strong also co-founded FLOW (with John Mackey) out of which several important nonprofits were generated. To wit, Conscious Capitalism, Peace Through Commerce, and Radical Social Entrepreneurs.
Michael's mission is to unleash waves of conscious entrepreneurs through creating a unique environment of love, inspiration, and reverence for the world. The goal is to create human beings who are lifelong learners eager to understand all aspects of the world-students quick to identify business opportunity in a world of coruscating disruption.
Lest you think Strong is merely an impractical, hippy-dippy granola-eating dreamer, it is to be noted that, already in their first year, Khabele Strong students' SAT scores have increased to more than three times the prep course average. Their incubator ensures that young people are well positioned for college admissions and academia with a potent orientation toward autodidactism. Furthermore, they expressly are seeking to train up men and women with inner integrity and optimal self-knowledge, as well as scholars with the academic tools of the liberal arts. They expressly seek to mold entrepreneurs who can remain spiritually and physically healthy and confident as they navigate uncertain times, creating imaginative human beings who can transcend the fear-based reactivity that often leads to unconscious, damaging decisions.
The Khabele Strong Incubator School intends to build thinkers and doers who are individual bastions of imagination and the new. Their teaching emphasizes three strands of personal growth for their students: Authentic Leadership, Personal Development, and Autodidacticism. (I personally find disciplined skills in the latter particularly crucial to business health.)
I agree with the school's ideals and it gives me some hope for a truly new template in teaching entrepreneurship. Michael Strong and Khotso Khabele are embarked on a noble educational experiment that is producing some interesting early results. They clearly posit a promising approach to both education and business development. Like all starting ventures it seems an impossible dream initially-almost an act of madness. Much like an entrepreneurial company, it can only achieve a miracle one day at a time- like those of us who try to create a creative business where nothing existed before.
Jim Rohn, famed entrepreneur and author of 7 Strategies for Wealth & Happiness, once said, "Formal education will make you a living: Self education will make you a fortune." I think Strong and Khabele would agree.