Entrepreneurship and innovation are increasingly popular fields in today’s evolving business scene. According to the most recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report from Babson College, entrepreneurial activity in the US rose to over 17 percent in 2019—a 10 percent increase from 2018 and the highest level recorded in 21 years.

The same report states that, while 71 percent of Americans believe it’s easy to start a business, 35 percent wouldn’t for fear of failure. Similarly, 70 percent perceive themselves as innovative, but only 46 percent say they act on opportunities.

When reading the success stories of scrappy startups that have made it big, it can be easy to assume becoming an entrepreneur isn’t particularly challenging. Yet, in reality, entrepreneurship and innovation require education and effort to master. It’s knowledge of the theories and concepts behind entrepreneurship and innovation that gives many business owners the confidence to launch a venture despite the risk of failure.

In addition to entrepreneurs, corporate employees can realize the value of innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset in the workplace. According to data from Microsoft and McKinsey, innovative organizations are more likely to retain employees and experience larger financial gains than their non-innovative counterparts.

Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or a professional in a corporate setting, understanding the basics of entrepreneurship and innovation can position you to succeed in today’s dynamic market. Here are six reasons you should study entrepreneurship and innovation.

Reasons to Study Entrepreneurship and Innovation

1. Start Your Business on the Right Foot


It’s no secret: Entrepreneurship involves inherent risk. Harvard Business School Professor William Sahlman explains this in the online course Entrepreneurship Essentials.

“Though every entrepreneur imagines success, they must act with the full knowledge that the odds are against them,” he says.

Sahlman is referring to the fact that 20 percent of businesses fail within their first year, and 50 percent don’t survive past five years.

With odds like that, beginning your entrepreneurial journey with as much knowledge as possible is imperative. By studying entrepreneurship and innovation, you can learn the underlying principles of starting a business, avoid common pitfalls, pitch ideas more effectively, validate your product, develop a solid business model, and set yourself up for success in a field where failure is common.

2. Hone Your Skills


Although stereotypes of entrepreneurs exist, there’s no specific demographic profile required to launch a successful venture. Regardless of your race, gender, age, socioeconomic status, or other identifiers, you can succeed as an entrepreneur if you possess certain business skills and traits, including:

Luckily, these competencies can be learned and honed. Taking a course in entrepreneurship or innovation can help you identify gaps in your knowledge and develop the skills needed to fill them.

Related: How to Find the Right Entrepreneurship Course for You

3. Validate Your Business Idea


When launching a venture, validating your business idea is a vital early step. Taking an entrepreneurship or innovation course can help you learn useful frameworks through which to view your product and identify ways to prove its value to customers.

For instance, in the online course Disruptive Strategy, HBS Professor Clayton Christensen explains his jobs to be done (JTBD) theory, which posits that rather than just purchasing products, people “hire” them to do “jobs.” The job to be done is the customer’s goal, and assessing your product using the framework can illuminate their motivations, needs, and desires.

Leveraging this theory and other innovation concepts to validate your business idea early in your entrepreneurial career can have far-reaching payoff as your business grows.

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4. Learn From the Experiences of Others


Studying entrepreneurship and innovation isn’t just about sharpening your skills—it’s also about building your network and support system.

Taking a course enables you to meet like-minded professionals you can rely on for advice and guidance as launch your venture.

Outside your coursework, read about and talk to entrepreneurs with more experience than you. They can share their mistakes, things they wish they’d known when they first started their businesses, and insider best practices you may not be able to glean from a textbook.

Related: How Leaders Develop and Use Their Network

5. Bring Innovative Ideas to Your Organization


At any organization, a conscious effort is required to fight off stagnation. As markets shift and customer needs change, having innovation training can help you keep your business agile.

Maintaining an entrepreneurial mindset can enable you to assess your customers’ jobs to be done and develop new ways to do them—either by creating new products or adapting your current offerings.

Beyond product-market fit, an innovative mindset can improve employee retention rates. Microsoft reports that 86 percent of people who work at innovative companies plan to stay at their current job, as opposed to just 57 percent of people who work at less innovative companies.

According to McKinsey, innovative organizations also experience greater financial returns than their less-innovative counterparts.

Innovation education touches multiple facets of an organization, and it can prove to be worth the investment.

Related: 23 Resources for Mobilizing Innovation in Your Organization

6. Create Disruption-Informed Strategies


Once you’ve studied various innovation theories, you can use them to craft informed strategies for your organization.

For instance, the theory of disruptive innovation, another concept coined by Christensen and discussed in Disruptive Strategy, is the process by which a smaller company—usually with fewer resources—moves upmarket and challenges larger, established businesses.

By studying innovation and mastering theories like this one, you can help your organization strategize to disrupt incumbent companies or prepare for any disruptive technology that could potentially drive it out of the market.

Entrepreneurship Essentials - Succeed in the startup world. Learn more.

Set Yourself up for Success

Whether you’re about to launch a venture or want to make an impact at your organization, studying entrepreneurship and innovation can help you gain the skills, confidence, and competitive edge needed to succeed in an ever-changing business landscape.

If you’re interested in honing your entrepreneurial skills and innovation toolkit, explore our four-week Entrepreneurship Essentials and six-week Disruptive Strategy courses, both fully online.

Catherine Cote

About the Author

Catherine Cote is a marketing coordinator at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to joining HBS Online, she worked at an early-stage SaaS startup where she found her passion for writing content, and at a digital consulting agency, where she specialized in SEO. Catherine holds a B.A. from Holy Cross, where she studied psychology, education, and Mandarin Chinese. When not at work, you can find her hiking, performing or watching theatre, or hunting for the best burger in Boston.