#5 Ways Universities Can Encourage Entrepreneurial and Innovative Thinkers Besides a degree from a top-tier university, students who develop an entrepreneurial mindset will be best equipped to solve the grand challenges of the 21st century

By Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan

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In our technology-driven world, students today need a new set of skills that prepare them to stay ahead of others and drive the changes we are experiencing across the globe. Beyond a degree from a top-tier university, students who develop an entrepreneurial and innovative mindset will be the graduates that are best equipped to solve the grand challenges of the 21st century.

The question is, what can universities do to adapt in a rapidly changing world and prepare such graduates? Here are five ways universities can structure themselves to inspire entrepreneurial and innovative thinkers:

Universities Need to be Entrepreneurial, Not Simply Teach It

How can you teach students to be entrepreneurial if the university itself is not living it and breathing it? A university must be willing to experiment with offering new programs and be flexible to the needs and expectations of a wide diversity of learners.

This entrepreneurial mindset and way of thinking must be consistent across the entire university— from the business and engineering schools to the colleges of liberal arts. In the end, every student and every profession benefits from an innovative mindset.

Adopt An Interdisciplinary Model

The problems of the world are multi-faceted, so our solutions and approaches to solving them must be multi-faceted as well. We must come together as a team and be comfortable working across multiple disciplines. The world's top corporations don't just hire engineers and supply chain managers. They also hire designers, artists, anthropologists and historians to tackle challenges that draw inspiration from a diversity of perspectives.

Embrace Risk-taking As Part of the Journey

University is the perfect environment to incubate new ideas, try things out and see which ideas prove to be successful. Finding solutions and success, however, requires taking risks, and universities must inspire their students to be risk-takers. The best way to do this is to encourage students to try out their ideas while in college rather than sending the message that they must wait until after graduation to explore a venture or test an idea.

Providing a culture that encourages risk-taking as a part of learning and growth brings out the best in people and yields the greatest results. By supporting risk-taking and the process it requires, universities are supporting people becoming entrepreneurs and innovators.

Take a Partnership Approach

When universities seek alliances with other forward-thinking individuals or organizations, mutually beneficial growth occurs. Reaching out tovarious industries and government entities helps to create new opportunities and an innovative ecosystem for students.Students should understand that the university's network is their network. By encouraging students to experience and collaborate inside and outside of academia during their university experience, we help them develop the confidence to create the future.

The Journey is More Important Than the Outcome

The process of finding a solution is often more important than the solution itself. During the process of innovation, important skills are learned: the ability to take risks, the art of collaboration, and the commitment to producinga desired outcome. It's these skills and an innovative mindset that inspire entrepreneurialism, not the solution itself.

Universities should focus on the process. If students are committed to their ideas and see the process through, that,in itself issuccess. Universities have the greatest opportunity to encourage, exemplify, teach, promote and embrace entrepreneurial thinkers. After all, the world needs change. Those who have vision, take risks and think like entrepreneurs are well-poised to develop solutions to real-world problems and create innovative products and services the world needs to affect lasting, meaningful change.

Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan

Executive Vice-president, Arizona State University (Knowledge Enterprise),Chief Research and Innovation Officer

Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan leads the knowledge enterprise development at Arizona State University, which advances research, innovation, strategic partnerships, entrepreneurship, global and economic development at ASU. Panchanathan was the founding director of the School of Computing and Informatics and was instrumental in founding the Biomedical Informatics Department at ASU. He also served as the chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Department.  He founded the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing (CUbiC) at ASU. 
In 2014, Panchanathan was appointed by President Barack Obama to the U.S. National Science Board (NSB). He has also been appointed by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE).

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