ATD Blog

The Learning Entrepreneur

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. —Alvin Toffler

In knowledge-based economies, “knowledge” is the key to wealth. So, when playing to win, professionals need to continuously learn and self-develop. But what happens if you marry the ideas of “learning” with “entrepreneurs”? You get a special kind of learner: the Learning Entrepreneur.

Before focusing on this emerging idea, however, let’s first zoom in on the very meanings of the terms learning and entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs are typically people who organize and operate a business or multiple businesses (serial entrepreneurs), taking on greater than normal risks in order to do so.

Some well-known entrepreneurs include Jeff Bezos (, Michael Dell (Dell), Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), Pierre Omidyar (eBay), Peter Thiel (PayPal), Niklas Zennstrom (Skype), and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), to name a few. 


When we think of learning, we typically refer to a self-directed, formal, informal, or on-the-job process designed to produce enhanced adaptive potential. Learning may occur through traditional classroom experiences, but also via coaching, mentoring, e-learning, blended learning, experiential learning, and job rotation or shadowing.

Now, let’s consider the idea of the learning entrepreneur? This notion carries several core assumptions. Yet, most importantly, becoming a learning entrepreneur has nothing to do with becoming an entrepreneur, but everything to do with becoming a positive, resourceful and enterprising learning and development (L&D) crafter.


That being the case, new research from The Learning Entrepreneurs Project reveals that learning entrepreneurs are professionals who:

  • have a passion for learning
  • demonstrate curiosity
  • are motivated to design, organize, and operate their own learning
  • make maximum use of both planning the direction of their learning and executing this and learning from opportunistic learning experiences
  • deliberately invest resources in their learning and development to boost potential where gains may be uncertain
  • are open and adaptive learners
  • learn from experience and by doing
  • are able to learn, relearn, and unlearn
  • thrive on peer relationships, fun, change, play, and dialogue
  • are positive “energizers” who take risks and experiment with alternative learning methods, such as design thinking
  • exhibit tech “smarts” and experiment with new technologies
  • flourish in knowledge-creative workplaces.

Are you a Learning Entrepreneur? If yes, what makes you tick?
Further reading:

About the Author

Bart Tkaczyk, a Fulbright Scholar at the University of California at Berkeley, is the chief executive officer of Energizers, LLC, a strategic advisory firm. Working across industries worldwide, his executive coaching and management consulting assignments have included projects with AstraZeneca, Cisco Systems, The Estée Lauder Companies, Fluor, HP, Moody’s Analytics, and Oracle. He has published his award-winning research and thought leadership in leading business and strategic management journals in Canada, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States, including Arab Investor, Design Management Review, Development and Learning in Organizations, European Business Review, European Financial Review, Global Business and Organizational Excellence, Ivey Business Journal, Leadership Excellence Essentials, Rutgers Business Review, Strategic Change, Strategic HR Review, Talent Development, and the World Financial Review. Contact him at: or follow him on Twitter: @DrBTkaczykMBA.

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