Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

An Intentions-Based Model of Entrepreneurial Teams' Social Cognition *

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

An Intentions-Based Model of Entrepreneurial Teams' Social Cognition *

Article excerpt

Research has identified crucial antecedents of corporate entrepreneurship. Research has also identified crucial antecedents of entrepreneurial thinking. This article uses lessons from social cognition to explicitly link these two issues. We adapt an intentions-based model of how to promote entrepreneurial thinking from its original domain of individual entrepreneurship and translate that model to the domain of corporate entrepreneurship. From our intentions-baud model of the social cognition of entrepreneurial teams, we emphasize the importance of perceptions of desirability and feasibility and that these perceptions are from the team as well as the individual perspective. This leads to three propositions about entrepreneurial teams and an outline of the opportunities for future research.

INTRODUCTION

In a rapidly changing world, organizations need to continually identify new opportunities beyond existing competencies (Hamel & Prahalad, 1989; Mintzberg, 1994) if they are to survive. Therefore, organizations adopt what Covin and Slevin (1991) describe as an "entrepreneurial orientation," i.e., an orientation toward seeing (and acting on) opportunities regardless of existing resources (Stevenson & Jarillo, 1990). The resulting innovations provide a basis for economic profit (McGrath et al., 1996). Not surprisingly, corporate entrepreneurship scholars have tried to increase our understanding of what makes a firm entrepreneurial by investigating the corporate environment and its impact on corporate venturing. However, there has not yet been a theory-driven model that explicitly links our understanding of entrepreneurial thinking in this context.

While corporate entrepreneurship scholars have made a substantial contribution to our understanding of the corporate environmental factors that encourage an individual to be entrepreneurial, few studies have investigated the corporate environmental factors that encourage teams to be entrepreneurial. This is surprising for a number of reasons. First, recent research has concluded that teams are central to our understanding of what makes an organization entrepreneurial (e.g., Senge, 1990; Brown & Eisenhardt, 1995: Anderson & West, 1998). A team that is entrepreneurial is one that is focused on proactively and creatively seeking opportunities to bring into existence future goods and services (cf. Stewart's "team" [1989]). Second, as Jelinek and Litterer point out, understanding entrepreneurial activity at the organization level requires "... a cognitive paradigm which focuses on [both] individual sense-making and collective decision processes, and on the organizational context ..." (1995, p. 137). This is particularly important because information processes in a group often differ from individuals' processes of sensemaking and enactment (cf. Weick, 1979). In particular, a mental model, such as a perceived opportunity held by a team need not reflect the models held by its members.

Given the importance of teams to entrepreneurial activity, and the inadequacy of addressing collective decisions by simply summing the cognitions of team members, it is important to offer a model of social cognition to the study of corporate entrepreneurship. In this article we develop such a model and in doing so make a number of contributions to the corporate entrepreneurship literature. In particular, we show that work in social cognition offers the researcher a way to link individual-level research to more collective settings, such as teams. The intentions-based cognitive model does adapt to collective settings, but requires insights from social cognition to do so.

This article focuses on the intersection of three research streams--cognition, entrepreneurship, and teams--as represented in Figure 1. We explore that aspect of cognition that occurs in teams with regard to entrepreneurship using an intentions-based lens. …

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