I recently attended my fourth USASBE conference in the last seven years. (USASBE = United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.) Despite the fact that USASBE awarded the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship with its Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education Specialty Program Award last year, I always feel a bit like a fish out of water at this conference. About 80% of the attendees are entrepreneurship faculty from business schools. Nevertheless, there is a very active Arts Entrepreneurship special interest group (SIG).
A high point of the conference was a tour of some of San Diego’s infrastructure for arts and culture entrepreneurial activity organized by the SIG. Led by San Diego State’s Donna Conaty, we toured the recently refurbished Naval Training Center Arts District, which includes, among other facilities, dance spaces shared by three of the city’s dance companies and a museum of comic book art. It’s pretty wonderful that these decommissioned military facilities have been made into arts and culture spaces. We also visited the developing “IDEA District” in downtown San Diego, anchored by the New College of Architecture and inclusive of a Fab Lab, among other spaces, both rehabbed and new construction.
A low point of the conference was the unfortunate keynote address by noted entrepreneurship scholar and educator Donald Kuratko. In an aggressive and at times belligerent tone, “Dr. K” indicted people (like me) who teach entrepreneurship within disciplines like engineering or the arts rather than in business schools. He accused such practices of diluting the study of entrepreneurship and went so far as to say that when entrepreneurship classes are taught in engineering (or, by inference, arts) schools, the student credit hour generation — and therefore the very revenue model of business schools — is threatened. He sounded defensive and angry; I don’t know that I have ever been made to feel so unwelcome. Ironic, given that the conference theme was “Entrepreneurship Everywhere.”
My positive feelings toward the organization were restored by the Bill Aulet’s plenary speech a few hours later in which he asserted that “entrepreneurship should not be taught in business schools if it is to be driven by innovation.” Aulet is from MIT’s Entrepreneurship Education Forum, which mission is “to promote entrepreneurship education by building a community that shares information and best practices, then integrates them and improves on them through open discussion…” While welcoming – even requiring – cross-campus entrepreneurship education, he also asserted that there is a lack of serious, rigorous scholarship in the field that creates or draws from good data sets. I have been saying similar about arts entrepreneurship.
Three years ago, when I first presented incubator research at USASBE’s San Francisco conference, the observed theme, or the methodology du jour, was Steven Blank’s lean launch and customer development process (he gave the keynote that year). My observation of the 2016 event is that there is a lot of interest in “design thinking” methodology as developed at IDEO and the Stanford d.school. Ultimately, these two “methods” have a lot in common – including empathic listening to the “customer,” or as I prefer to call people, “audience.” Fitting, then, that design thinking is the philosophic and pedagogic approach underlying a new degree being launched by ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts: the Master of Arts in Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership.