6 things B-Schools don’t teach you about entrepreneurship

Source | linkedIn : By Rajiv Jayaraman

I had the good fortune of speaking at the graduation ceremony at a reputed B-school in Bangalore recently. The theme of the ceremony revolved around entrepreneurship. As I sat down to make some notes for the speech, I did some time-travel to my own graduation ceremony at INSEAD few years ago. I had made up my mind about starting up KNOLSKAPE at that time. I felt ready, thanks to the awesome program at INSEAD and the great circle of supportive batch mates and faculty members. Today, KNOLSKAPE is a global Top 20 gamification company with 150+ clients across 15 countries. It has been a fantastic ride with an amazingly passionate team that is doing all it takes to shape the future of learning. I promptly started sifting through all those defining moments that I experienced during the journey. After considerable pruning, I came up with six lessons that I wish I had learned during my MBA program before I started my journey.

1. Leadership is sacrifice
Whenever it comes to leadership, somehow we tend to focus so much on the traits of the person that it seems like leadership is all about the leader. It is not. Leadership is all about others. During an MBA program, we learn to ask this question before we get into anything: “What’s in it for me? (WIIFM)”. As one starts treading on the leadership path, this question slowly gives way to “What’s in it for others?”. After a while, a true leader lives and breathes the mission, setting aside personal considerations. Such leaders, in my experience, tend to inspire legions of followers.

2.  Failure is Ok; Not trying is not
As humans, we are wired for tightly coupled cause and effect loops. But in the startup world, there’s typically a large gap between actions and outcomes. Rovio had 51 duds before they launched Angry Birds. I am sure the team must have had thoughts of quitting after a few not-so-successful games. Their inspiring success story is a great lesson for entrepreneurs. Overnight success takes a long time.  What helps entrepreneurs stay sane in the process is enlightened trial and error and oodles of perseverance to see things through.

3. Staying humble
An MBA program is designed to make us feel confident as individuals and sometimes even make us feel invincible. Consequently, we start believing that we are supposed to know all the answers. Most of us promptly put on the facade of a “know it all”. It took me some time to realize that true leaders do not know all the right answers and they are quite comfortable with it. They start with the humility of saying “I don’t know” and then they come up with the right questions that lead them to the right answers. In this ever-changing business world, staying humble can do a whole lot of good for all of us, not just entrepreneurs.

4. Finding your true calling
This is a topic where a typical MBA program does very little to help entrepreneurs. Without a driving force behind an idea, most entrepreneurs will end up giving up in the face of even the smallest obstacle that comes their way.

Every graduation speech I’ve heard so far has this advice for the graduating class : “Find your true calling”. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very crucial foundation block for success but then most speakers don’t talk about how does one actually go about doing it. Here is one approach that has worked for me. Keeping financial considerations aside (going beyond the WIIFM question), volunteer for a cause that you are passionate about. When you do this, you will most likely get into a state of flow and start creating incredible impact without much effort. Simply put, allow your true calling to find you.

5. Finding your balance
B-schools wax eloquent when it comes to maximizing ‘Return on Invested Capital’. Some B-schools that focus on sustainable growth teach you the usefulness of a balanced score card for business. There is serious void, however, when it comes to creating a balanced score card for the self.

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