A new nationwide competition for young entrepreneurs may be in the planning stages thanks to a recent meeting between AOL co-founder Steve Case, former Hewlett-Packard Chairman Carly Fiorina, and academics from the University of Virginia.

The competition would encourage students to innovate in a playful, competitive environment and tackle important entrepreneurial questions that go beyond drafting a business plan.

Business professionals and educators see a harmful gap in how American students are prepared (or not) to start their own business. Beyond knowing how to plan for a business, students need to understand how to adapt to market changes and address customer needs by building new products.

"The traditional American education has emphasized preparing kids to execute shift work, and it doesn’t tend to give students enough opportunity 'to tinker and compete in a fun, competitive landscape.'"

Steve Blank, a veteran technology entrepreneur and lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley; New York University and Stanford sees entrepreneurial skills being taught as though starting a business were a job like accounting. But running a successful business, he says, is more about understanding how to plan for a future that you know will change before it arrives.

Despite the American startup culture, young entrepreneurship is at its lowest level in twenty four years. In 1989, more than ten percent of American head-of-households under the age of thirty owned stakes in private companies. Today, that number is below four percent.

In his Big Think interview, Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes, explains how his own adaptive strategies carried him through a spectrum of different business ideas before his shoe company became the stuff of business lore:

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

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