A Model of Entrepreneurial Socialization and Organization Formation

Article excerpt

The model presented in this paper employs theories of organizational socialization from the Organizational Behavior literature to the distinctive work setting of the entrepreneur and the emerging organization. The organizational socialization perspective focuses attention on the adaptive intra-personal and inter-personal processes that occur during the newcomer's entry into a new organization or passage across organizational boundaries (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979; Van Maanen, 1979; Louis, 1980; Fisher, 1986). Therefore, a model of entrepreneurial socialization characterizes the aspiring entrepreneur's journey from neophyte to firm founder and suggests factors that influence the transition from the pre-organization to the new organization. This model raises new issues and research possibilities for the study of new venture creation by applying to the unique features of emerging organizations a theoretical framework that originates from the study of existing organizations (Katz & Gartner, 1988; Gartner, Bird, & Starr, in press).

The socialization perspective seems especially promising for the study of organization formation for several reasons. First, the socialization perspective specifies the types of attitudinal and behavioral changes that may occur during the transition from entrepreneurial recruit to firm founder. This viewpoint augments recent scholarly interest in the behaviors and decisions that shape the entrepreneurial process (Gartner, 1989; Stevenson & Jarillo, 1990). Second, distinctive role relationships between the entrepreneur and key outsiders are revealed by viewing influential external constituents as socializing agents who assist the newcomer in the formation of the emerging firm. Third, the socialization literature recognizes that the response to socializing pressures is subject to individual interpretation, thereby offering another explanation for the diversity of entrepreneurial experiences and new ventures (Gartner, 1985). Finally, the socialization perspective complements the population ecology perspective by further specifying the mechanisms that select out those who do not "fit" with the environment (Aldrich & Zimmer, 1986).

Contemporary views of organizational socialization form the basis for our model of entrepreneurial socialization. Fisher's (1986) comprehensive review of the theoretical and empirical literature provides a foundation for identifying the critical factors in the entrepreneurial socialization process. Because of this Special Issue's narrow focus on model development, we make no attempt to provide a comprehensive literature review. Rather, existing entrepreneurship research and key variables identified in earlier studies of new venture creation processes are used to illustrate the socialization perspective of organization formation.


A model of entrepreneurial socialization processes is shown in Figure 1.(1) It distinguishes two identifiable stages which shape organization formation--Anticipatory Socialization and New Entrepreneur Socialization. Anticipatory Socialization characterizes the preparation, learning, and predisposing experiences that precede the cognitive choice to become an entrepreneur. New Entrepreneur Socialization specifies the critical variables that influence the new recruit once the decision is made to start a firm. Three factors determine the transition into the entrepreneurial role: Motivational Bases for Adaptation, Socializing Agents, and the Structural Context of the Entrepreneurial Setting. The eventual outcome of entrepreneurial socialization, Organization Formation, is the survival or discontinuance of the venture--where survival is measured in terms of the stability of roles and organizational routines.

Anticipatory Socialization

Anticipatory socialization includes the prior experience and learning that prepares the individual for entry into an organization (Merton, 1957; Fisher, 1986). …