International Entrepreneurship: The Influence of Culture on Teaching and Learning Styles

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ABSTRACT

Recent developments in the competitive global business environment underscore the importance of entrepreneurship and technology in terms of capitalizing on new business opportunities. As such, business education which is focused on entrepreneurship and technological innovation is becoming increasingly significant. This education deviates from the traditional business education in terms of its focus, goals and methods of delivery. This study presents an innovative approach to teaching entrepreneurship and technological innovation. The rapid assessment approach (RAM) presented in this study capitalizes on the Baldrige and European Foundation for Quality Management frameworks in its attempt to formulate an educational framework designed to facilitate entrepreneurship and technological innovation education in different cultural settings.

INTRODUCTION

A course in International Entrepreneurship must, by its very nature, deal with prudent risks involved with converting ideas into real business opportunities in today's global arena. However, teaching approaches that are successful with one culture may not be successful with another. This is especially true when generating innovative technology-based business concepts, conducting mutually beneficial business negotiations, and developing comprehensive business plans using a consensus process in a team environment. In practice, the students' basic culture becomes a source of conflict in cross-cultural teams attempting to implement the entrepreneurial process. The lead author gained experience in a multi cultural environment during a three year period teaching a course in Innovative Entrepreneurship for the Hochschule Bremen's International Master in Business Administration Program. Using this experience, the objective of this study is to present an approach that appears to overcome many of the cross-cultural conflicts when teaching international entrepreneurship. The rapid assessment approach presented in this study capitalizes on the Baldrige and European Foundation for Quality Management frameworks. The rapid assessment approach provides an educational framework toward the systematic evaluation of new business concepts where important cultural differences exist. Utilizing this approach, students appear to easily gain confidence in the educational process which leads to enhanced learning experience. Three mini cases are presented to illustrate the advantages of the rapid assessment educational framework.

BACKGROUND

Instructors often adopted the subject-based teaching models handed down by their former professors (Wright, 1995). It is therefore not surprising to learn that engineering and business curriculum were frequently separate and distinct with very few cross-disciplinary offerings. As a result, engineering graduates had few business skills and Master of Business Administration (MBA) graduates had little or no knowledge of how to manage technology innovation. Companies requiring new technology-based product development often hired engineering graduates and implemented extensive training programs to provide these engineers the necessary business skills. In parallel, MBA graduates in high technology companies became frustrated due to their lack of understanding of the innovation process. The problem was further exacerbated because the engineering and technology curriculum gave little attention to practical managerial and teamwork skills (Coleman, 1996). However, those launching new business ventures as well as those in existing business requiring new product or service innovations are in need of both management and innovation skills. Responding to market demands, both large and small to medium sized firms sought a workforce with practical business skills, the ability to communicate well, and an aptitude to function well in teams (Haffner & Maleyeff, 1995). Challenges on an international dimension were further complicated because the Internet and Web based technologies have rapidly thrust virtually every business into a global competitive arena. …