Jo Pullen is a business owner and expert in agile delivery user research who works as the Entrepreneur in Residence at Kent Business School. The role involves guiding students at the extra-curricular entrepreneurial hub, ASPIRE. Here, students can enter The Business Start Up Journey or take a self-employed Year in Industry.
To celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, Jo explains why she believes teaching young people an entrepreneurial education could bring the transformational thinking needed in the modern world.
“Entrepreneurship is a mindset – and it’s not limited to one ‘type’ of person. It’s having a vision that enables you to understand problems and be curious – wondering ‘why do people do that?’ It’s a passion to understand and to think of new, creative ways to evolve. It can be nurtured and taught and it’s incredibly valuable to society.
When it comes to being entrepreneurial, young people are naturally adept at problem solving and I think this comes from being inquisitive, something some of us lose as we grow. That passion allows these students to see a problem that hasn’t been solved. If there’s a problem, there’s a need and if there’s a need, there’s a market. That’s what entrepreneurship is – the word creates more mystique than it needs to.
When I meet with students eager to start a business or learn how to think like a businessperson, the first thing I say is: ‘Get out there and understand the problem.’
This means talking to people, observing, and even experiencing the problem. Understanding the hearts and mind of the audience and what the problem means to them. Ultimately, it’s about having empathy, thinking socially – delving into the barriers in society that shape the issue. Often, the quick fix is too simplistic, and the idea really evolves and changes.
And that’s the other part of the mindset – learning that you can pivot really quickly. I find students I work with are naturally willing to do this once encouraged and supported. It’s a valuable skill to build in a fast-paced world where quick changes have become normal.
Part of my working life involves advising businesses as well as public and private sector organisations on innovative ways to tackle and solve problems spanning areas like digital transformation, health and health inequalities, maternity to name a few. For me, working with students, it has been incredibly useful to showcase the huge societal changes that can happen when you think like an entrepreneur.
Should entrepreneurship be taught in all educational establishments? I think so. I don’t think we talk about what it means properly or how the modern world needs this way of thinking. If that mindset is developed in the way we mould other skills – like Maths– we could generate a future workforce ready to tackle challenges modern working environments often pose – now more than ever with issues like climate change, cost-of-living crisis and global pandemics.
We are living in a time where students have only known a backdrop of chaos. An entrepreneurial education isn’t the answer to society’s issues, but the confidence that comes with an ability to problem solve can only help improve wellbeing of people in uncertain times, in an unpredictable world.”
Jo Pullen works as Entrepreneur in Residence at our ASPIRE labs at Medway and Canterbury. ASPIRE offer a unique and exciting entrepreneurial education via informal drop-in sessions and our Business Start-up journey. They also support our Selfie Year students. They are designed to inspire and encourage creativity and can be used by students from any course at the University of Kent.