In the run-up to the 2008 financial meltdown, many top-tier business schools devoted themselves to pumping out a stream of Wall Street recruits. Babson College, ranked #1 in entrepreneurship by U.S. News & World Report, took a different path. “If you’ve been a school that’s used to producing people for Wall Street and those jobs have dried up, you’ve got lots of finance faculty members wondering, ‘What am I going to teach? What am I going to do?’” says Dennis Hanno, the newly-appointed Dean of the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College. “I believe it’s nimbleness that we need to be able to create in our students. It’s not so much about how to manage, but how to create. And those skills…have been wholly lacking in a lot of graduate education. Creativity and innovation are where our energy is.”
But it’s not just startups Hanno is concerned about. All leaders, even in Fortune 500 companies, need to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. “It’s about using entrepreneurship as a method,” he says, which anyone can use to identify and seize opportunities. (Read my interview with Babson President Len Schlesinger about his book Just Start, discussing the value of an entrepreneurial outlook.)
Hanno also believes an international focus will be crucial to future business leaders. “The goal is taking entrepreneurship to the world,” says Hanno, who, for the past 13 years, has led academic trips to Africa. “I got my first passport at 35; I never travelled,” he recalls. But when a friend invited him to Africa, he immediately recognized the possibilities entrepreneurship could offer: “If there’s a place that needs the power of entrepreneurship – if entrepreneurship really can have an impact on individuals and communities, it’s going to be in Africa.”
Hanno just returned from a trip to Ghana and Rwanda, where he and Babson students and faculty taught week-long entrepreneurship classes to high schoolers and led a business plan competition. Babson’s presence in Africa runs deep, with the creation of the Babson-Rwanda Entrepreneurship Center and plans to expand offerings to several other countries. The trips “create a real community that understands the value of what we have to offer when it comes to the power of entrepreneurship,” says Hanno, who has brought nearly 500 students and staff with him to Africa over the years. “You see it with your own eyes; it isn’t just words, or just theory. You realize, ‘I can share this with people; I can help them build something that will change their lives.’”
Ultimately, says Hanno, the future demands business leaders that recognize the importance of creating social value, not just economic value. “I’m excited,” he says, “about entrepreneurship as a driver for change.”
What skills do you think business leaders will need in the future? How are you working to get them?
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on September 12, 2012.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.