THE CAPACITY TO CREATE: TOW-KNIGHT SUMMIT KEYNOTE SPEAKER ELIZABETH THORNTON ON TEACHING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

By Lori S. Robinson

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(Photo: Dina Rudick/Boston Globe Staff)

Elizabeth Thornton knows entrepreneurship well. She has taught it at Babson College since 2006. But her expertise comes from far beyond academia.

As an entrepreneur who once lost $1 million dollars on a venture in South Africa and ended up finding her passion in the process, Thornton offers a compelling perspective that she’ll share as the keynote speaker at the Tow-Knight Entrepreneurial Journalism Educators Summit.

Babson College won the top spot in the Princeton Review’s 2014 rankings of undergraduate entrepreneurship programs. And U.S. News & World Report has ranked Babson number one as an undergraduate entrepreneurship program 17 consecutive times. Thornton will discuss Babson’s trademarked Entrepreneurial Thought and Action (ETA) methodology, an approach to teaching entrepreneurship that can be applied to media as well as other industries.

Here’s a preview of insights from our Summit keynote speaker.

TOW-KNIGHT: For people not familiar with Babson College, explain its unique focus on entrepreneurship.

THORNTON: We embed Entrepreneurial Thought and Action into everything that we do. Freshman come in and they form teams and we give them $3,000 and they start a venture. So, their first year at Babson is all about understanding the entrepreneurial process. I think that has made us unique. At the [Summit], I’m going to take you through what the Entrepreneurial Thought and Action methodology is. That’s the focus of my talk.

We also started an entrepreneurship educators program. We invite educators from around the world to come to Babson for a week and we actually teach them how we teach entrepreneurship. We’re very open with our curriculum. It’s called the Symposia for Entrepreneurship Educators  and we’ve been doing that since 1984. We’ve trained over 3,200 academics and entrepreneurs from about 750 academic institutions in 68 countries.

TOW-KNIGHT: What is your response to the idea that entrepreneurship can’t be taught?

THORNTON: We believe it can be taught. We believe it can be learned. We believe it’s a way of thinking and it’s a way of acting. We used to think of [entrepreneurship] based on a logic that we call a prediction logic. That’s utilized more in corporations where the underlying premise is to the extent that you can predict the future, you can control it. But entrepreneurship isn’t something that you can control. It’s more of a creative process. And we believe everybody has the capacity to create. So that’s why we think it can be taught versus something that is just innate.

TOW-KNIGHT: Are there differences in teaching entrepreneurship for the media industry, to journalism students, in comparison to other industries?

THORNTON: I can’t say that I understand everything about your industry, but I do believe that Entrepreneurial Thought and Action can be applied to any industry. So it’s really about identifying a problem, a need that’s unmet in any industry. And then it’s about taking action and validating your assumptions about what the need is and then going through a process of acting, learning and building. The entrepreneurial process can be applied to any industry.

TOW-KNIGHT: What is the biggest mistake you see professors of entrepreneurship make?

THORNTON: I’m going to be really honest with you. I don’t think a professor should ever tell a student that their idea is not a good idea or that it won’t work. I think that professors should just challenge and support that student in validating their assumption. Never under any circumstances tell a student that they can’t do it because it really is an iterative process. You go out and you talk to some customers and you don’t know what they’re going to say, but that could shape your idea in ways you never even imagined.

TOW-KNIGHT: Can you explain the curriculum you’ve created?

THORNTON: Principles of Objectivity is a curriculum I designed to help deal with our human inherent subjectivity and how that plays out, not only entrepreneurial ventures, but in all aspects of life. Based on the premise that we all overreact to situations. We take things personally when we really don’t need to take it personally. We judge people unnecessarily. We only see things through our own lens. And for an entrepreneur or a business leader it causes errors. We’re not able to make sound judgements, evaluate situations clearly and make good decisions.

My class teaches people how to be more objective, how to identify and evaluate their underlying assumptions. It’s my life’s work. That’s what I’m most passionate about—helping people become more objective. Because it actually can change your life.

lifeandcode

lifeandcode:

This is a list of resources you can use to begin to write your own programs, written with journalists in mind. I focus mostly on free resources that are available to anybody online, and resources useful to people starting from scratch. I will be adding to this over time. If you’d like to know…

A handy collection of resources for entrepreneurial journalists! 

Getting Involved in the NYC Startup Scene

By Heather Martino

New York City is home to a over 1000 new tech companies that host daily events, workshops, classes and conferences. Thanks to the Bloomberg Administration’s’ Made in NY initiative, there’s never been a better time for a journalist to cover Silicon Alley and get involved in the burgeoning startup scene.

Recognizing the strong connection between journalism and startups, CUNY’s very own Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism was formed in September 2010, and a number of other schools also offer similar programs.

With so much going on, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. That’s why we’ve crafted five easy steps to getting your foot in the door and making meaningful connections in the startup community.

Step 1: Subscribe to Gary’s Guide Newsletter.

This is one of those newsletters you don’t want to miss, as it features cool companies, causes, products and services; daily events with pricing info; upcoming classes and workshops; and lots of deals and freebies. It’s also a nice way to stay up to date on tech news.

GarysGuide

Step 2: Sign up for access to the Start-Up Digest’s NYC Calendar.

While the calendar has a great curated list of events in NYC and the surrounding area, it’s important to remember that it’s still geared towards the tech community - not the journalism community. Below are some great suggestions for getting more involved in the latter through meetups.

NYC Startup Digest

Step 3: Sign up for Meet Up.

There’s a number of great Journalism, Technology and Entrepreneurial focused-groups on Meet Up, and we’ve curated a few groups you should consider joining. Remember, you’ll need to create an account on Meet Up and introduce yourself as you join new groups in order to attend their events.

Meetup

Step 4: Get Business Cards.

Handing out your business cards and getting other people’s’ cards at these events is a great way to look professional and collect the necessary information to follow up after an event.

You can get business cards with the NYCity News Service typeface by contacting Yahaira, who can send you a mock-up of the business card. From there, you’ll have to print it yourself by using an online site or visiting a printing shop.

Whether you use the news service logo or design your own cards, here are some popular printing sites to choose from:

  • Vista Print - The designs are a bit dated, but they have great bulk pricing. However, you’ll need to order in advance, as they take some time to arrive.
  • Moo- This site has beautiful designs and great card-stock quality, but it is somewhat expensive.
  • Zazzle - It has nice designs and they often have sales, but the cards aren’t as professional looking as other sites.

If you’re in a pinch and can’t wait for online order, consider visiting a print shop or a NYC FedEx print shop. You can usually drop your design file off at a FedEx printing shop and get your cards printed fast.

Step 5: Make connections and establish your online presence.

While you are at an event, you should live tweet using the established hashtag and any of the presenters’ handles. This will help the audience recognize you and contribute to building your online presence.

It’s also a great idea to blog after the event, tweet your post and include a link to your website. As a bonus, live tweeting and blogging will also help you to establish your unique voice and give you credibility.

After you attend an event, you should follow-up with the people you met via email. The ideal time to contact them is within 1-3 days after the event, so that you’ve given them enough time to recuperate, but not too much time has lapsed that you’ve vanished from their short term memory.

Have more ideas for getting involved in NYC’s Tech scene? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch with the author at heather@journalism.cuny.edu.

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