Getting the Most From Your Undergraduate Business Education
Updated: Jun 30
In February of 2012, the NYTimes wrote a story that gained popularity claiming that Target can tell when someone is Pregnant. The headline was “Hey! You’re Having A Baby!”. It was a fantastic way to intrigue readers and for the most part the article delivered. It explained how data scientists examine your past purchase history to make judgements about when you might be suspected of being pregnant. The idea was that if Target could capture customers on the verge of a major life event, they had a good chance of changing their consumption patterns toward them while their lives are a critical point of change.
I share this story as it certainly a great example of the power of technology and entrepreneurial efforts within it. It also alludes to the power and potential misuses of entrepreneurial technology. But the most important reason for sharing, is that You are also on the verge of a new life event. You are leaving high school and starting your university education. At a minimum this will be a major change to the group of people you interact with, your course of study, and your autonomy over your time. Therefore, it’s a critical opportunity for you to be mindful of some of the key patterns and areas of focus you create during this major life event.
As part of your journey in student life, NYU offers many workshops to consider these unique life changes and ways you think constructively about time and stress management (For example, some time is devoted for these important conversations in the Cohort Leadership Program). In addition to being mindful of these rapid life changes, it’s also a critical time to consider mindfully the role of your university education and what you want to get out of it.
The Future is Unknown
You are entering college at an unprecedented time. The entire world is still reeling from a global pandemic occurring when the world’s more than 7 billion people are connected with systems of communication and transportation that has us interacting in more ways than ever before. Outside of the pandemic, business and society is undergoing a rapid transformation as digital technology companies replace age-old business titans resulting in changes to the way we live and work. At the same time as we grow interconnected, society is struggling with a collision of our diversity of ideas, values, and beliefs. Finally, the United Nations just released a definitive report acknowledging the negative impact humankind has already had on our planet—renewing a call for an accelerated effort to achieve the world’s sustainable development goals. The World Economic Forum refers to our era as the fourth industrial revolution and asserts that in order to meet the needs of business and society today, we need to encourage the development of a new set of 21st century skills. I agree.
Preparing for the Unknown
My goal in the BTE program is to help you develop yourselves as business and society leaders capable of thriving in this uncertain and rapidly changing world. Business education has traditionally taught students to adopt a mindset of a Manager, which is most effective in predictable states of the world. These are situations where we have past data or experiences to draw from and that allow for analytical tools to help managers calculate decisions. It is imperative that you learn this type of thinking that underpins a managerial mindset. In high school you began to craft these skills, and now in college, you will get to fine-tune them in almost all of your business classes.
While a managerial mindset is a necessary skill, it is not sufficient. The world you are entering is uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. In this world, you must also learn to leverage an Entrepreneurial Mindset. An Entrepreneur leverages non-linear thinking that looks at the world not based on what is probable but what is possible. An entrepreneurial leader draws on non-linear thinking styles that include imagination, creativity, intuition, collaboration, pragmatism, and qualitative judgment. These non-linear approaches are essential to navigating the unknowable waters ahead. In order become an entrepreneurial leader practice these modes of reasoning and action throughout your coursework so that when you are faced with complexity and uncertainty, you'll respond by inventing the future.
Alongside of this academic journey, I also encourage you to take advantage of the resources provided by the entire NYU community to develop yourselves and seek personal growth in three key dimensions: First, develop yourself as a person, becoming more self-aware about who you are and where you are from while at the same time exploring, experimenting and evolving to become someone even better. Second, develop your awareness and appreciation of other people with different perspectives, cultivating a respect for our shared humanity while reflecting critically on the historical and cultural roots of injustice. Third, develop a sense of purpose that you can share with others, overcoming differences and engaging collectively in actions that create economic, social and environmental value.
D.School Crash Course from Day 1 of BTE
Your university education begins here at NYU Stern, but your life will extend far beyond the next four years. For this reason, I encourage you to embark on a process of lifelong learning that includes cycles of action and reflection on your own experiences. In this way, you can continue to improve yourself, deepen your appreciation of others, and become an entrepreneurial leader capable of achieving good for society and the world.
Note: The last section of this piece is very similar to the message my colleague Prof. Matt Statler and I crafted for the class of 2020 and still holds true for our inaugural BTE class.
Bhatia, A. K., & Levina, N. (2020). Diverse rationalities of entrepreneurship education: An epistemic stance perspective. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 19(3), 323-344.
Boisot, M., & MacMillan, I. C. (2004). Crossing Epistemological Boundaries: Managerial and Entrepreneurial Approaches to Knowledge Management. Long Range Planning, 37(6), 505-524.
Groves, K. S., & Vance, C. M. (2015). Linear and nonlinear thinking: A multidimensional model and measure. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 49(2), 111-136.