Personality Types of Entrepreneurs and Business Students: Implications for Management Education

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ABSTRACT

Proponents of change in management education suggest that entrepreneurship should receive greater emphasis in the curriculum. However, there maybe differences in the cognitive abilities of entrepreneurs and business students. This study examined differences in psychological type preferences of business school students and high-growth entrepreneurs. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was used to identify students' preferred methods of perceiving information and making decisions. These preferences were then compared with a previous study of high-growth entrepreneurs. The results indicate significant differences in the cognitive styles of the two groups. Implications of these differences for management education are discussed.

INTRODUCTION

In a recent analysis of the prospects for future management education and development, Porter and McKibbin (1988, p. 316) recommend: more diversity of mission (but not of quality) is vital if universitybased management education and development is to make major strides toward improvement in the future.

Their analysis concludes that business school education tends to be focused on a narrow range of analytical tools and techniques. A major shortcoming of this approach is that students learn to analyze situations from this narrowly focused perspective and appear to be unable to assess the impact of a much broader range of issues that affect an organization's success.

Two major criticisms of the business school curriculum cited by Porter and McKibbin are "insufficient emphasis on generating 'vision' in students" and "insufficient emphasis on integration across functional areas." Entrepreneurship, which focuses on the process of creating new organizations, received a high degree of interest from study participants as an area that needed more attention by business schools. Increased attention to this topic was based on two considerations: that business schools need to respond to the downsizing of large corporations by stressing "intrapreneurship," entrepreneurship within an existing business organization, and that many business school graduates either start their own small, entrepreneurial businesses or are employed by small businesses.

Gartner, Bird and Starr (1992) raise an important consideration for universities that plan to focus more attention on entrepreneurship education. They note that entrepreneurship education differs fundamentally from other types of management education. Emerging businesses deal with uncertainties, while managers of existing organizations are primarily concerned with non-equivocal events. This difference may suggest that the cognitive processes of entrepreneurs are different from those of managers. If the cognitive styles of business students are more compatible with those of managers than entrepreneurs, then business schools may need to pay special attention to this difference in their entrepreneurship program. If business schools focus more attention on entrepreneurship, the cognitive styles of current and prospective business school students will need to be considered as a part of the change process.

For example, students who are successful in today's business schools may not have the same personal attributes as entrepreneurs. Curriculum changes alone may not enable students to become more entrepreneurial. Additionally, many students who possess entrepreneurial abilities may be unable to gain admission or be successful in current business schools.

This study investigates the cognitive style preferences of a sample of business school students using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBIT) and compares the results to a sample of high-growth entrepreneurs. By comparing the psychological types of current business school students and highgrowth entrepreneurs, significant differences in personal abilities may be identified that need to be addressed as part of the change process. Changing the business curriculum to encourage entrepreneurship may not be the only area that needs to be addressed in improving business school education. …