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Should we focus management education on the world’s ‘gazelles’?

Posted By Nora Brown, Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Recently I spent a morning listening to presentations at the Small & Medium Enterprise Initiative's 1st Annual Conference on Entrepreneurship and SME Development, co-hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund. Having sat through plenty of entrepreneurship discussions, panels, roundtables, and conferences, I thought I knew what I was in for. So, I grabbed a cup of coffee, found a seat, and prepared myself for the same presentations I've heard so many times before.

Prof Antoinette Schoar of MIT Sloan opened the discussion with a presentation on SMEs and Development, focusing on the differences between subsistence entrepreneurs and transformative entrepreneurs. Now, we've all heard this before, and we all know that some entrepreneurs are in business out of necessity and others start up businesses because they see an opening in the market. But this presentation put a different spin on the topic.

Prof Schoar made the point that entrepreneurs are not all on the same continuum starting with a nascent idea leading all the way to the next Microsoft. There are those entrepreneurs that have no intention of growing into a large multinational corporation, in fact the majority of entrepreneurs don't even want to hire additional staff! So no matter how many resources are poured into those businesses, they simply won't grow for lack of vision and desire. Not very optimistic for a room full of development people focused on supporting SMEs. However, she went on to say that if you take those same resources and target the small percent of entrepreneurs who want to become the next Google, the "gazelles," your bang for the buck will skyrocket. The question is, how do we find the gazelles and support them?

With this question in the back of my mind, I listened to the next few presentations, which focused on the impact of management on firm growth and productivity. The predominant intervention used in the research was management consulting. Many of studies showed positive results (although not all of them) and it got me thinking about the question we ask ourselves all the time here at GBSN; How can we better strengthen management education to have an impact on development? If improved management leads to improved business outcomes, what can we do to ensure that schools are providing the skills and knowledge that managers need?

GBSN was founded on the belief that improved management would lead to improved development. We've always done our best to evaluate our own work and measure our impact. With our results so far, we think we're on to something. But GBSN’s work alone won’t answer this question. We need many more minds thinking about this, and more importantly, many more hands collecting data from around the world in order to answer the question: How can management education really impact development?

Nora Brown is GBSN's Chief Operating Officer.

Tags:  Entrepreneurship  Gazelle  Management Education  SME 

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