Entrepreneurship: What Separates Those Who Do from Those Who Don't
Editor: Julie Linsey, Maria Yang, and Yukari Nagai
Author: Matthew Lynch, Martin Steinert and Gunnar Andersson
rature, with most of the focus being on what makes a successful entrepreneur; or what separates entrepreneurs from the general population.
Examing the difference between the intention to start and the outcome of getting started is important because within the last three decades, research has indicated that intentions are the most effective predictor of actual behavior (Ajzen, 2011; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Krueger & Carsrud, 1993). As for what causes entrepreneurial intentions, the evidence is mixed. One theory is that personailty traits are predict entrepreneurial intentions and therefore behaviour (Brandstätter, 2011). Traits are usually based on descriptions of how people think, feel, and act in a variety of situations, but these reports are conceived of as indicators of real internal causes. Suggesting that traits, like actions, are outcomes not causes (Brandstätter, 2011). Relying on five measures by which all of human diversity can be measured and graded feels deceptively simple.
There might be a greater value instead in examining nascent entrepreneurs at the level of cognition. Little is known about the ways in which cognitive styles facilitate or inhibit an individual’s entrepreneurial ability (Kickul, Gundry, Barbosa, & Whitcanack, 2009). Research in the entrepreneurial
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cognition domain has demonstrated that entrepreneurs tend to draw from similar sets of heuristics
(Corbett & Hmieleski, 2007). The emerging view of entrepreneurial cognition suggests that an
understanding of the mental processes of entrepreneurs will enable researchers to build a well-grounded
foundation toward systematically explaining the individual’s role within the process of entrepreneurship
(Mitchell et al., 2002).
Depending on the readers personal philosophical standpoint you might be willing to accept that the
reality an individual lives in is largely one that is mentally constructed. That while there are physical
elements that are concrete and solid, how we perceive them and the meaning we attach to them are
mostly personal. In accepting this philosophical standpoint, we can then conceive that entrepreneurs who
pursue their business ideas might reside in a perceived reality that is somewhat different from those who
do not get started. They may perceive starting as easier, more achievable, less of a risk – many of which
are equally explained by measures of personality traits. If we accept this constructivistic point of view, it
becomes critical to try understand the deep knowledge structures of entrepreneurs (Krueger, 2007).
Deeply held beliefs are learned and relearned over time, but are typically anchored on some initial belief
that makes them difficult to change (Krueger Jr, Kickul, Gundry, Verma, & Wilson, 2009). Prior
knowledge, assumptions, and beliefs may profoundly impact behaviour. Therefore, the first task is
metacognitive, to surface these beliefs. Being fully aware of certain of deep beliefs makes it much easier
to question and modify them (Krueger, 2007).
Examining such differing perspectives should form the basis of future research to establish whether such
differences are supported by data. We suggest this might open a rich field of insights that will have
meaning for training future entrepreneurs, and for helping those who have become stuck long the way to
overcome the issues they have encountered. This is based on the assumption that such mindsets can in
fact be changed, and are mallable over the course of a lifetime.