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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 11 College Classes Aspiring Entrepreneurs Should Take

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 11 College Classes Aspiring Entrepreneurs Should Take

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

What’s one non-business college class you recommend all aspiring entrepreneurs take and why?

1. Yoga

Darrah Brustein

    I went to Emory, and in addition to our academic courses, we had PE requirements. It didn’t occur to me until years later how grateful I was to have taken up yoga in college because it became a big way for me to get in a workout and destress later on in business. Namaste.

    Darrah Brustein, Finance Whiz Kids | Equitable Payments

    2. Neuroscience or Psychology

    brian-silverman

      Learning the underpinnings of how people think is truly what business is all about. To make any type of sale, you need to know what people want. It is a great way to learn about business in a non-business sense and think about things in a different manner.

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      Bryan Silverman, Star Toilet Paper

      3. Journalism

      Danny Wong

        Basic journalism teaches you to ask two important questions that are crucial in an entrepreneurial setting. “How?” and “Why?” All the other questions come easy, but when you can quantify and qualify different aspects of your business, you develop incredible insights that will help you grow smarter.

        Danny Wong, Blank Label

        4. Applied Psychology

        Patrick Conley

          Having a solid understanding of the fundamentals of human psychology will help you so much in developing your sales process. Psychology is all about understanding why people do what they do, and this directly affects your ability to sell your product. If you’ve already graduated college, a great crash course on the topic is “Influence” by Robert B. Cialdini.

          Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

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          5. Photoshop

          Matt ehrlichman

            It’s an amazing tool to be able to quickly mock up ideas and share them with your team, investors, etc. The only problem is that it’s so feature-rich and complex that it can be daunting to learn on your own. An intro college course in Photoshop is the perfect way to get comfortable with it so you can add this tool to your arsenal down the road.

            Matt Ehrlichman, Porch

            6. Anything

            Joe Barton

              Anything that interests you! As entrepreneurs, we can get wrapped up in work — especially during the launch phase of a company. It’s important to have some outlets, interests, hobbies and other areas of growth outside of business.

              Joe Barton, Barton Publishing

              7. Science Fiction

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              Derek Flanzraich

                Entrepreneurship is all about dreaming up things that don’t exist yet and couldn’t possibly be done — and that’s exactly what science fiction is about. The best writers (Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, etc.) don’t just write about monsters and aliens, but about humanity placed in a new, previously untold reality.

                Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

                8. Creative Writing

                Kim Kaupe

                  Nothing helps an entrepreneur more than being able to speak and write elegantly and properly. It is one thing to have great ideas, but it’s another to put them down effectively on paper and have the idea come across with all of its excitement, energy and inspiration. Well-written emails, engaging pitches and thoughtful thank-you notes can give any entrepreneur a competitive edge.

                  Kim Kaupe, ‘ZinePak

                  9. Art and Design

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                  doreen-bloch

                    Taking an art or design class in college is an off-beat, yet fantastic course for aspiring entrepreneurs. With the technology industry becoming so visually dominated these days, entrepreneurs need to be able to tap into the creative side of their brains to effectively market themselves. If your school offers Web design or UXUI classes in particular, jump on the opportunity to sign up.

                    Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

                    10. Theater

                    Reid Carr

                      It can teach you how to adapt to environments, read people, speak clearly, project to an audience, vividly illustrate a point, provide confidence and deliver a show. Which, after all, is how most new business is won.

                      Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

                       

                      11. World Cultures

                      Natalie McNeil

                        Business is global today no matter what field you’re working in, and we are all so interconnected. Entrepreneurs should have an understanding of other cultures’ customs and ways of doing things. Traveling and learning about other cultures, business customs and religions have really deepened my appreciation for the tapestry we’re all a part of, and it has made me a much better entrepreneur!

                        Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

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                        The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                        The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                        It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

                        Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

                        “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

                        In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

                        New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

                        There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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                        So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

                        What is the productivity paradox?

                        There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

                        In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

                        He wrote in his conclusion:

                        “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

                        Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

                        How do we measure productivity anyway?

                        And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

                        In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

                        But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

                        In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

                        But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

                        Possible causes of the productivity paradox

                        Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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                        • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
                        • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
                        • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
                        • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

                        There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

                        According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

                        Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

                        The paradox and the recession

                        The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

                        “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

                        This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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                        According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

                        Looking forward

                        A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

                        “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

                        Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

                        “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

                        On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

                        Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

                        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                        Reference

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