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What is Entrepreneurship?

Gedeon (2010) “What is Entrepreneurship?” extensively analyzes the academic literature to identify the major theories and domains covered by over 30 definitions of entrepreneurship and create a lexicon or taxonomy of different kinds of entrepreneurship. It includes the following definition:

“Entrepreneurship is a multi-dimensional concept that includes owning a small business (Risk Theory), being innovative (Dynamic Theory), acting as a leader (Traits School) or starting up a new company (Behavioural School). It includes spotting opportunities to drive the market toward equilibrium (Austrian School) or causing disequilibrium through “creative destruction” (Schumpeter).  It includes doing this on your own, in a team or inside a company. It involves starting without any resources and creating new values in the realm of business, social values, government or academia. By adding the right set of adjectives to the noun “entrepreneur” the proposed lexicon allows us to embrace and discuss all these facets of what it means to be an entrepreneur.” (Gedeon, 2010 p. 25)

Dr. Steven Gedeon in a classroom teaching

Gedeon (2014) “Best Practices in Entrepreneurship Education” identifies the critical need to have an ontology or definition of entrepreneurship in order to create a degree program and harmonize the efforts of those teaching it. The problem is described as follows:

“Each conflicting definition leads to a conflicting opinion on what should be taught. If the author is an economist, then entrepreneurs are seen as market actors that drive markets away from equilibrium (Schumpeter, 1934) or back toward equilibrium (Kirzner, 1997). As such entrepreneurs should learn how to be innovative (Drucker, 1985) or should learn how to be alert to new opportunities (Shane and Venkataraman, 2000). If the author’s context is the resource view of the firm (Penrose, 1956), then entrepreneurship is defined as pursuing opportunities without regard to resources they currently control (Stevenson and Jarillo, 1990) and students need to learn guerilla skills like bootstrapping. Other definitions lead to the belief that entrepreneurship education should focus on starting a company, taking risks or thinking like an entrepreneur.” (Gedeon, 2014)

In order to resolve these conflicting definitions, Gedeon (2014) provides the following definition for entrepreneurship educators:

“Entrepreneurship education encompasses holistic personal growth and transformation that provides students with knowledge, skills and attitudinal learning outcomes. This empowers students with a philosophy of entrepreneurial thinking, passion and action-orientation that they can apply to their lives, their jobs, their communities and/or their own new ventures.” (Gedeon, 2014, p. 238).

Gedeon (2010, 2014, 2020) identify Four Primary Domains of Entrepreneurship embedded in this definition, lexicon or ontological framework:

  • Starting a New Business or Venture – This is the traditional form of entrepreneurship normally taught in most universities. These new business entities stimulate the economy and account for virtually 100% of all new job growth in modern economies. This is the form of entrepreneurship mostly assumed by the media and popular press.
  • Intrapreneurship – Being entrepreneurial within an existing venture or organization. Also termed Innovation or Corporate Entrepreneurship. Although a new corporate entity is not necessarily created and risk to the entrepreneur may be lower with no ownership, the entrepreneurial processes, skills, and attitudes are virtually identical.
  • Social Entrepreneurship – Being entrepreneurial by creating primarily social or other forms of non-economic values or organizations. Also termed social innovation or change making. This can involve starting a new entity (for-profit or non-profit) or creating change within a community or institution.
  • Personal Empowerment – Being entrepreneurial toward your life and character through personal growth and transformation. The application of entrepreneurial principles toward your own life and career design. Often this form of entrepreneurship must take place prior to the other forms – to change the world you first have to change yourself.

Turgut-Dao, Gedeon, Huber, Sailer, & Franck, (2015) “Embedding Experiential Learning in Cross-Faculty Entrepreneurship Education” shows that this more holistic definition of entrepreneurship encourages others to embrace teaching it. Defining it only in terms of starting a new venture makes it relevant primarily to business students. In contrast, a broader perspective makes the entrepreneurial mindset relevant to all individuals and all disciplines.

“We have found that these more inclusive, holistic, four domains of entrepreneurship allowed us to form collaborative partnerships across campus including with engineering, social sciences, humanities, art and design. In particular, broadening the preconceived notions of entrepreneurship beyond strictly a business discipline into a more holistic philosophy of personal growth, creativity, leadership, problem solving and teamwork has encouraged the collaboration of diverse perspectives.” (Turgut-Dao, et al., 2015)

Gedeon (2020) “Theory-Based Design of an Entrepreneurship Micro-Credentialing and Modularisation System within a Large University Eco-System” documents how this definition of entrepreneurship impacted our mission statement at Toronto Metropolitan University.

 Toronto Metropolitan University Entrepreneurship & Strategy Department Mission

“Our goal is to provide students with a deeply experiential and transformative learning experience in a vibrant urban environment. We empower students with a philosophy of entrepreneurial thinking, passion, and action-orientation that they can apply to their lives, their jobs, their communities, and/or their own new ventures.

We ignite students’ passions and empower them to achieve extraordinary goals. Canada’s pre-eminent and largest entrepreneurship program, we deliver innovative educational programs and support multi-disciplinary experiences across campus with local, national and global impact. We provide access to world-class support and funding for our students’ new ventures and are embedded within our community.”

Gedeon and Valliere (2018) “Closing the Loop: Measuring Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy to Assess Student Learning Outcomes” applies this holistic definition of entrepreneurship to measure personal empowerment through attitudinal learning outcomes like entrepreneurial self-efficacy, self-esteem, core self-evaluation, internal locus of control, proactivity, grit, resilience and tenacity.

These definitions of entrepreneurship education have been deeply influential on university programs throughout North America and Europe. ConeeectU – has been Educating Entrepreneurship Educators using this holistic philosophy ( (external link) ) which has now also been embraced by the eBridge Alliance and the EntreTime Train-the-Trainer Programme. To date, over 300 entrepreneurship professors have been exposed to these ideas through Train-the-Trainer courses from ConeeectU.

These cold definitions, however, do not adequately convey the revolutionary nature of making entrepreneurship meaningful in the lives of our students. Please watch a few of these videos for a deeper understanding of what we mean by entrepreneurship and personal empowerment.

What is Entrepreneurship?

Personal Empowerment results from the application of entrepreneurial principles to your own life – being curious about yourself and what makes you tick, spotting opportunities for adding value to your life and proactively creating the best possible career and life. This approach to your own life uses entrepreneurial tools and attitudes to achieve personal happiness and growth in your human capital, social capital and financial capital.

Empowered individuals are in charge of their own future! They may not be able to predict the future, but they can proactively create it through actions that are within their control. They have their hands on the steering wheel of their lives. They know their strengths, weaknesses, beliefs and values. They have a purpose and take positive action toward achieving values in harmony with their beliefs. They actively track their own happiness and spot opportunities where they can improve their lives. They use entrepreneurial methods to set and achieve goals to live the kind of empowered lives they desire. They climb Maslow’s Hierarchy of Values as they achieve financial security, love, meaning, fulfillment, self-actualization, wellness and happiness.

Empowered individuals have Agency over their careers and lives. They take proactive conscious control over their own character, skills, beliefs and attitudes. They are aware of why they are doing things, what values they are trying to achieve and what is causing their emotional reactions. They are not forced to take just any job that fate, destiny or the system happens to offer. They have conscious career goals, proactively build their human and social capital, and use entrepreneurial thinking to build value in their career and achieve personal happiness.

Entrepreneurship is the most empowering, creative, freedom-loving power in the world!