Dr Bruce Addison, Dean of Curriculum and Scholarship
Note: This article was written earlier this year for the current edition of In Alliance, the magazine of the Alliance of Girls Schools Australasia.
We live in a world of change. The velocity of this change is both awe-inspiring and disruptive. Givens are swept away with unrelenting frequency. Uncertainty continues to fill the void while the twenty-first century’s fetish for immediacy grows unabated. The normalcy of twenty-four hour connectivity has altered our concept of what is important. The shadow of this is ‘information’s’ unrelenting banality. Information bombards us, consuming much, creating little while distorting reality often without rationale or forethought. All of this occurs in tandem with technological ingenuity’s ever-growing reach. Wondrous possibility is awesome, providing potential emancipation from yesterday’s impossibilities. The cost is that our social systems continue to be shaken to the core. As with all apparent binaries, they are nuanced, layered and far from simple. And-or thinking will not serve this era well. Binaries represent flawed thinking resulting in flawed outcomes. Our new frontier requires nothing short of and-and thinking and the ability to wrestle with paradox dynamically and comfortably (Malcolm, 2014).
All of this presents those who work with young people with a myriad of challenges. What can we do as educators to ensure that our young people are imbued with the requisite ‘possibility thinking’ (Craft, 2005) to traverse this environment? Creating and seizing opportunity must by necessity become important mindsets for those wishing to succeed in a world characterised by such unrelenting fluidity. The verities of yesteryear are no longer. Work will continue to be ‘hollowed out’ and will continue to be fragmented (CEDA, 2015). The constancy of work as a conduit for a meaningful life will no longer remain a given. Creating opportunity amidst this fluidity and uncertainty will become a crucial mindset.
Those who have a knowledge of introductory economics will be aware of the four factors of production. They are: land, labour, capital and enterprise. So often, enterprise is a presumed factor underlying the workings of modified market economies. The reality is that twenty-first century living, will, by its very nature, create a prominent role for enterprise and entrepreneurial thinking. At Brisbane Girls Grammar School, this is reflected in our new Strategic Plan. Under the pillar of Systematic Curiosity in Teaching, Learning and Research lies the strategy: nurturing and celebrating creativity, entrepreneurial thinking with a sense of possibility, wonder and awe. Its genesis lay in the belief that our students must be imbued with a way of thinking enabling them to recognise and seize opportunity with poise, confidence and determination.
Former Wallaby, John Eales, when writing about entrepreneurial thinking, notes
the lesser known verse of Advance Australia Fair, calls for Australians to toil with their ‘hearts and hands’. For true innovation of self, and if we are to reap the benefits, business and individuals alike must engage their minds, as well as their hearts and hands, for us all to innovate towards a better future (Eales, 2016).
How are we conceptualising the creation of such an entrepreneurial mindset? Organisational theorist, Peter Drucker (1985, p. 143), when thinking about entrepreneurship notes that ‘most of what you hear about entrepreneurship is all wrong. It’s not magic. It’s not mysterious; and it has nothing to do with genes. It’s a discipline and, like any discipline it can be learned’. While traditional curriculum models associated with business studies type approaches remain important, our approach has been to commence discussions aimed at distilling what we consider to be entrepreneurship’s fundamental essence. Our ultimate goal is to inculcate this thinking progressively and seamlessly across the curriculum. Such an approach is a continuation of the mindset of optimism underscoring so much of our educational practice.
Professor David Rae (2012), leader, innovator and researcher in entrepreneurial learning, has identified seven basic skills underscoring an entrepreneurial mindset. They are:
Personality and social identity; Ambition, motivation and goals; Personal confidence and resilience; Self-discipline and personal organisation; Go beyond perceived limitations to achieve results; Tolerance of uncertainty, risk and failure; Personal value: ethical, social and environmental awareness.
These skills are not mysterious. They can be pivoted and re-tooled to reinforce an entrepreneurial mindset across the curriculum. Encouraging our young people to use their hearts, minds and hands to assess a problem and design an outcome is very achievable. Our role as educators is to continue to celebrate and reinforce such an approach. Young people can become skilled in seizing and creating opportunity. They can learn the importance of taking calculated risks, exploring and-and thinking while wrestling creatively with paradox. This is how we intend to encourage our young people to engage in entrepreneurial thinking with a sense of wonder, possibility and awe.
Committee for Economic Development of Australia. (2015, June 16). Australia’s Future Workforce? (Report)
Craft, A. (2005). Creativity in schools: Tensions and dilemmas. Abington: Routledge.
Drucker, P. (1985). Innovation and entrepreneurship: Practice and principles. New York: Harper & Row.
Eales, J. (2016, February 19). Change starts with you. The Deal: Reinventing Business, p. 25.
Malcolm, M.J. (2014, November 18–20). Resilient leadership amidst complexity. Paper presented at Australia New Zealand Third Sector Research Conference, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Rae, D. (2012, November). Enterprise and entrepreneurship education: The new curriculum guidelines Ireland and the UK. ISBE Conference, Dublin, Ireland.