In times of change, knowledge and the ability to learn become key strengths of an organization. Entrepreneurial education and mindset are widely considered as a useful tool for arts students in connecting with the market, economy and worklife at large. However, in this thesis I explored how entrepreneurial education and the entrepreneurial mindset can facilitate knowledge conversion and help develop meaningful knowledge management approaches inside an arts university as organization. As a theoretical grounding I relied on the SECI model of knowledge management, which focusses on knowledge sharing and conversion between individual and collective, tacit and explicit levels. I supplemented the model with the reflection on experiential learning cycle in particular and learning processes and practices in general. I also enquired about the learners´ and university leadership´ s perception of entrepreneurial mindset concept.
For me the attraction as well as the challenge of this research was in its aim – to study knowledge-related practices and experiences in the context of an educational organization or the very ‘home’ of learning. On top of this, there is the multifaceted nature of arts universities, and a whole body of values, theories, paradigms, spoken and unspoken rules of conduct for research and artistic practice. Difficulties of understanding and applying entrepreneurial education and mindset to practice add to the already challenging mix.
In line with the constructionist ontology, I chose an interpretivist epistemological approach and as a strategy, the practice-led research. The research sites were Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre and University of the Arts Helsinki and the data included 16 individual and 166 survey-interviews as well as 5 focus groups.
As a result I found out that there are plentiful opportunities to partake in knowledge sharing and co-creation experiences within university yet the quality and impact of these experiences on individuals and whole organization varies a lot. It came out that students do not identify with arts university as an organization, but rather with their (immediate) communities of practice, peers and respected mentors. Hence sharing and critical reflection of knowledge and professional experiences can be problematic within arts university as a coherent organization.
Considering the entrepreneurial mindset it was seen as an idea-to-life proactive mindset, rather expansive (not reflective) in nature with the strong ‘entrepreneurship’ element assumed. It can be supportive in realizing one’s ideas and projects, asking advice and questions and making things happen. Yet, in the research I discussed that more identity-based reflected perception of the mindset can empower individuals to learn about and navigate the university structures and facilitate the recognition of the diversity of opportunities for professional practice and learning, or in other words, be more meaningful in personal knowledge management. Nonetheless, the sustainability and development of knowledge management practices and organizational learning remains the responsibility of the leaders of universities.
All in all, the entrepreneurial mindset and education should involve striving to empower rather than pressuring learners in academia. Entrepreneurial empowering is really about owning the decision, the ability and the right to act or not act upon something, hence internalising the ‘new’ knowledge or ‘making it one’s own’ opening new possibilities, new worklife experiences, new ideas and actions. Since artistic learning is the core practice in arts universities and all other processes revolve around it, entrepreneurial education should take place throughout the studies and in a manner which connects to core artistic identity of learners.