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Think laterally: entrepreneurship and liberal arts education

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Steve Erwin AIA, LEED API spent time a few weeks ago in Pittsburgh at SCUP 49, the national conference of the Society for College and University Planning. Many of the discussions circled around ideation and collaboration.

In one of the more thought-provoking sessions I attended, the focus was on how a small liberal arts school was using “entrepreneurial” processes to put a framework around collaborative and critical problem solving. It was striking to see an approach developed by and associated with business education used as a productive experiential framework for learning rather than the more predictable emphasis on bringing an idea to commerce.

I was surprised by how radical this felt. Where business education today openly borrows from the liberal arts toolbox in developing a creative culture, liberal arts institutions do not instinctively see the value offered by harnessing business school strategies to advance their liberal arts mission. Could business schools be more accepting of a creative framework than liberal arts schools are of a business framework?

The intrinsic value of a liberal arts education lies in its ability to develop critical thinkers. How can we encourage the application of business school strategies to develop the capacity to think entrepreneurially?

- Steve Erwin

Steve Erwin is a principal at Shepley Bulfinch, where he leads the creation of spaces that foster innovation across disciplines, including the Harvard Innovation Lab.

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