The Path of Entrepreneurship to Prominence in Business Schools

Early in my career, 30 to 35 years ago, entrepreneurship was not considered a legitimate academic subject.  I was told, for example, not to conduct research in the field because I would not get much credit for it when I applied for tenure. 

Then entrepreneurship began to blossom as a field of business study.  It was helped along by generous donations many wealthy entrepreneurs made to business schools, on the condition that their money be used to promote entrepreneurship.  Technology and the growth of professional positions also contributed. 

As the size of computers shrunk, enabling greater mobility, hierarchical companies lost their advantage because they could not respond as quickly as smaller competitors.  As hierarchies flattened, it became much easier for independent professionals to organize into efficient networks for service delivery that did not carry the overhead of large companies.

Undoubtedly, changing attitudes toward entrepreneurship in the workforce played the biggest part.  When large companies engaged in massive layoffs in the late 1980s, employees who previously had thought loyalty to their company was a two-way street felt betrayed and looked to take greater control over their careers.  To compete, companies became ever more demanding in extracting long work hours in high stress conditions from fewer people. 

Many employees decided that if they were going to work punishing hours under intense pressure to satisfy exacting standards, they would rather do so for themselves, starting their own companies where they could better see the results of their labors.  Entrepreneurship beckoned.  Business schools needed to respond.