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Why the World’s Future Depends on High School Entrepreneurs

By Laurie stach

December 02, 2012

This article first appeared in BostInno on December 2, 2012 here.

The world is changing fast. Really fast. (Just ask Ray Kurzweil, who predicts we will have human-level intelligence in a machine by 2029).

As the world changes exponentially, we all need to have a fundamentally different set of skills from the ones taught today. We will need to go from memorizing facts to thinking critically about the implications of those facts. We will need to transition from learning one prescribed process to developing new and better processes. We will need to filter the abundance of available information and decide which facts are important. We will need to learn skills that we can’t even imagine today. The minimum standard for learning new skill sets and adapting quickly will be higher. Much higher. (We love how Thomas and Brown make this argument in “A New Culture of Learning”—a worthwhile read).

But our education system is not keeping up. Most American curriculums still teach a standard set of subjects with teachers standing in front of a classroom using a prescribed method to teach students who learn in fundamentally different ways. The subjects and methods do not match the changing demands required in the world. What the education system should be doing is equipping students with the knowledge and skills to be effective in the world, but classrooms are not evolving as fast as they need to be.

So what do we do? How do we prepare a pipeline of citizens that really know how to learn? How to adapt to change? How to solve a new problem? How to innovate?

Our experience in management consulting tells us that teaching high school students how to start and run a business covers many of the skills necessary to adapt and succeed in the changing world. Business experience teaches students how to decide which facts are relevant, solve complex and innovative problems and make decisions under uncertain conditions. Beyond giving students this nebulous, but critically important skill set, we believe teaching entrepreneurship will simply create more innovators, which will contribute to economic growth.

As we think about potential talent pipelines for the next generation of innovators, we realize that high school students represent one of the biggest untapped talent pools in the world. There’s no reason they can’t start innovating now. Given their high propensity towards adaptability and creativity, we think high school students just need the right coaching and guidance to become successful entrepreneurs.

We believe that disruptive solutions can help develop these kinds of students. For example, we are running Launch, a summer program held at MIT, that will help high school students start companies. Launch could be one part of the solution. We are also huge fans of NFTETiE, and the Entrepreneurial Youth Society (started here in Massachusetts by high school student Ingrid Li), among others—and we are eager to see other solutions emerge and succeed.

Fundamentally, we believe our future depends on our students’ ability to learn, adapt to change and create. Together, it is our duty to help produce the next generation of entrepreneurs. Let’s get started.

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