Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Entrepreneurial Expectancy, Task Effort, and Performance *

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Entrepreneurial Expectancy, Task Effort, and Performance *

Article excerpt

Research to date has not adequately explained the role that expectancy of entrepreneurial performance based on perceived ability plays in motivating persons to persevere on an entrepreneurial task. This study investigated the entrepreneurial expectancy, effort-performance linkage via a World Wide Web-bared experiment Involving 179 undergraduate business students at a large midwestern university. Results Indicated that the type of feedback (positive versus negative) that Individuals received regarding their entrepreneurial ability (regardless of actual ability) changed expectancies regarding future business start-up, but did not alter task effort or quality of performance. Individuals receiving positive feedback about their entrepreneurial abilities had higher entrepreneurial expectancies than Individuals receiving negative feedback. We also found that males had higher expectancies regardless of experimental condition than females.

INTRODUCTION

Much early entrepreneurship research focused on the search for an entrepreneurial personality (Smilor, 1997; Wortman, 1987). However, the quest to find a consistent set of traits that characterized successful entrepreneurs was troubled at best (Gartner, 1988; Carland, Hoy, & Carland, 1988: Shaver, 1995), largely mirroring earlier efforts in leadership research that sought to differentiate leaders from nonleaders (Geier, 1967; Yukl & Van Fleet, 1992). As a result, entrepreneurship research shifted to explore new venture creation from other perspectives. Shaver and Scott (1991) pointed out, however, that despite the failure of personological trait research, it was still the individual who created a new venture.

Recent research has demonstrated the impact that cognitive and social processes have on entrepreneurial behavior (see for example, Baron, 1998; Douglas & Shepherd, 2000; Gatewood, Shaver, & Gartner, 1995; Krueger, Reilly, & Carsrud, 2000; Nicholson, 1998). One important investigation has focused on how entrepreneurs think about themselves and their abilities, particularly as these thoughts relate to their willingness to persevere with a new venture, even in the face of failure (Baron, 1999; Simon, Houghton, & Aquino, 2000; Shaver & Scott, 1991).

Studies of existing entrepreneurs, however, are necessarily compromised by the fact that the entrepreneur's expectancies and success go hand-in-hand. Only in an experimental context is it possible to manipulate expectancies independently of past performance, and that was the primary objective of the present research. One past experiment has investigated the expectancy-performance link, but its dependent variables were limited in scope. This study, by Pieterman, Shaver, and Gatewood (1993), reported that executive MBAs who were provided negative feedback about their entrepreneurial abilities showed less effort critiquing a business plan than their counterparts who were provided positive feedback. The primary dependent variable in that study was a count of the number of words used in the critique. Arguably, this measure did not fully capture the persistence needed for entrepreneurial success. More important, a mere word count cannot speak to the quality of the advice offered. Consequently, the present research investigated whether feedback regarding entrepreneurial abilities would change business expectancies, and whether those expectancy changes, in turn, would affect subjects' level of effort and performance on an entrepreneurial task. In the context of a Web-based experiment using undergraduate students, the questions we sought to answer were, "Can people be induced to believe in certain ways that affect their effort and performance on an entrepreneurial task? Furthermore, do these effects, if they exist, differ by sex?"

THEORETICAL CONTEXT

Entrepreneurship Motivational Research

Few topics in the applied social sciences have received as much attention as has the subject of motivation. …

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