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Entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial learning

Published: 5 October 2016

Being a business owner is just one of many expressions for being an entrepreneurial person. Mats Westerberg explains “entrepreneurial” as an approach for a person who takes initiative, is creative, dares to try new things and to take risks.

Historically, there was an equal sign between the entrepreneur and the small business owner. That image has changed. Today, research shows that the entrepreneur is an individual who can identify and create opportunities, and act upon them.

“It’s about creating social, cultural and economic value. Initially, entrepreneurial learning focused on ‘how entrepreneurs learn?’ with the thesis that it was a constant process of ‘learning by doing’. That the entrepreneur is a learning individual. But it can also be a way of being as an individual, whether you are a business owner or simply entrepreneurial in other contexts.”

From the late 1980s there was a need for a more entrepreneurial type of thinking, in contrast to everything in society being predetermined.

“Society is far from complete, and it’s there that the entrepreneurial mindset comes into play. Entrepreneurs do not hesitate to take the initiative; they have a willingness to take risks and dare to develop and evolve. New research in entrepreneurship shows that successful entrepreneurs do not look at ‘what can I gain?’ but ‘what am I willing to lose?’. They have the courage to do things to achieve what they want to accomplish. At the same time, insane risk taking has nothing to do with entrepreneurship.

Today, knowledge transfer between entrepreneurs has increased by successful entrepreneurs daring to talk about their failures.

“Being able to take advantage of one’s failures and learn something from them creates success. With early small mistakes, one learns and avoids the big mistakes that can lead to not getting the chance to try again.”

Researchers work from MOSAIK, an acronym which in Swedish stands for courage, uncertainty management, cooperation, responsibility, initiative and creativity.

“With these six competencies you have what it takes to be entrepreneurial. This is something that we have highlighted in educational programs here at the university. Policy documents from 2010-2011 point out that one should be entrepreneurial in one’s own learning. Entrepreneurial learning is a life-long learning process; when you detect possibilities, you may need to learn something to realize them.”

Through the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (CEL) competences from pedagogy and entrepreneurship have been gathered.

“When we started talking in terms of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial learning the university did not look upon the subject kindly, and especially negative was the attitude towards teacher education. At that time the subject of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship was not felt to belong in academia. Today the situation is completely different, the cooperation regarding teacher training is strong, and entrepreneurial learning is something that is given a clear place in the education of future teachers.”

Entrepreneurial learning is not only an educational subject for primary and secondary education, but it has just as much relevance in adult education, at universities and in workplaces.

“The idea that one should first go to school for 17 years, and then go out and do things in reality is actually completely wrong. Looking at it from an entrepreneurial mindset, learning happens in all processes and stages of development. The old structures of society, which are largely static, disappear more and more, and more focus is put on developing both individuals and companies. As I see it, the university can be a natural place for lifelong competence development,” concludes Mats Westerberg.

The Center for Entrepreneurial Learning has received high marks from organizations including the National Agency for Education, and along with other research environments, it will be developed into a research center focused on teaching and learning environments.


Mats Westerberg

Mats Westerberg, Professor

Phone: +46 (0)920 491808
Organisation: Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Business Administration and Industrial Engineering, Department of Social Sciences, Technology and Arts