: Replication vs. "Innovation"

Submitted by: Gary Beckman

Institution: The University of Texas at Austin

Course Title: "Entrepreneurship in the Arts"

Division Offered: College of Fine Arts - Fall 2006

Demographic: Undergraduates [Fine Arts, Liberal Arts & Business] & Graduates [Fine Arts]

Date: 9/1/06

Type of Activity: Classroom Discussion (45 minutes)

Learning Objectives

1) To distinguish between venture "replication" and "entrepreneurship."

2) To demonstrate that an "entrepreneur" or an "entrepreneurial activity" is based upon the perspective of both the observer and the participant.

3) To introduce the concept of "risk" as perspective; it can traverse intersecting domains.

Student Evaluation Method: 3-5 page paper.

Description: The following scenario is described to the class:

" An individual with 3 children and a spouse has a lifelong dream to open a typical convenient store near a busy state highway. After taking a second mortgage on their house ($75,000), borrowing a substantial sum from friends & family members ($125,000) and securing a bank loan ($25,000), this person embarks on the venture."

The following questions are posed to the class:

1) Is this venture replication or entrepreneurship?

1a) Can it be both?

2) Is this an entrepreneurial activity?

2a) From whose perspective? - Some economic theories maintain that a new business must be innovative to earn the moniker "entrepreneurial." Others opine that an entrepreneur is simply one who assumes risk for a venture or starts a new organization. Who's right? What other views may exist?

2b) What are the determining factors in defining an "entrepreneurial activity?" - An innovative product or service? The amount of risk assumed? The potential benefit to the public? The development of new markets? The fulfillment of a personal goal?

3) The individual is assuming a significant financial risk. What other risks are assumed? (Familial relationships, macro & micro economic factors, state highway commission policy, federal government highway appropriations, driving habits, gasoline prices, etc.).

Instructor Comments: The purpose of this exercise is to engage students in what defines an entrepreneurial activity on an individual basis. The paper required at the next class meeting is an opportunity for students to introspect about their own levels of risk assumption and how they define entrepreneurship or venture replication. This sets the research parameters for their capstone course project. (In this case, a feasibility study on starting an arts venture of their choosing).

I've used this exercise frequently with fantastic results. Students (especially undergrads) welcome the opportunity to voice their opinions and seem to embrace the challenge of "backing up" their views - though I'll admit this pedagogical tact is new to most. What is especially informative are the differing perceptions of entrepreneurship students take into the course. Since I teach "Entrepreneurship in the Arts" as an opportunity to be intellectually creative about something that intersects with Art, this discussion (it occurs on the second class day in the syllabus) helps break down the assumption that the class is about test-taking. I also like asking students to think and write about themselves in a particular context instead of replicating course content. Though the assignment is required to be 3-5 pages, I regularly receive papers that double or nearly triple that amount.