Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Proclivity for Improvisation as a Predictor of Entrepreneurial Intentions

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Proclivity for Improvisation as a Predictor of Entrepreneurial Intentions

Article excerpt

This study examines the relationship between improvisation and entrepreneurial intentions. Of specific interest is whether or not a proclivity for improvisation explains any variance in entrepreneurial intentions beyond what is accounted for by other relevant individual difference measures. Using a sample of 430 college students, entrepreneurial intentions are found to be significantly associated with measures of personality, motivation, cognitive style, social models, and improvisation. The strongest relationship is found between entrepreneurial intentions and improvisation. The results of hierarchical regression show that improvisation accounts for a significant amount of variance in entrepreneurial intention above and beyond what is accounted for by the other variables.


There is a growing view in the literature that entrepreneurship research should be centered around the process through which individuals identify and exploit opportunities to create future goods and services (Venkataraman 1997). This process has been primarily described as a strategically planned sequence of opportunity identification followed by evaluation and execution (Shane and Venkataraman 2000). This rational model is an appropriate starting point for investigating entrepreneurial action, but fails to fully elucidate how entrepreneurs behave within the highly uncertain, novel, and turbulent environments in which they often operate (Baron 1998).

This gap has been filled to some degree by research that has considered how entrepreneurs use cognitive biases and heuristics (Busenitz and Barney 1997). According to this body of work, when information for rational decision-making is unavailable and time pressure is high, entrepreneurs use familiar mental shortcuts to make decisions. In conjunction with the strategic planning view, these complementary perspectives suggest that entrepreneurs develop and enact plans when adequate resources are available and follow pre-scripted routines when rational planning is not possible. We suggest that both of these views are correct within certain boundary conditions--such as when resources are available for planning or when a heuristic is available for making a quick decision. But through what process do entrepreneurs act when there is no time for planning and no available heuristic to follow?

A recent study by Baker, Miner, and Eesley (2003) points out that these conditions, in which neither strategic planning nor heuristics and biases are feasible, are markedly common throughout the entrepreneurial process. The authors examined the nascent activities of 68 firms through interviews with their founders and employees, and the collection of public documents. Contrary to the utility maximization model of entrepreneurial action (Shane and Venkataraman 2000), none of the firms in the study behaved in a manner that was primarily strategically planned. Further, many of the firms lacked the background to have formed heuristics to fall back upon during the uncertain conditions through which they navigated. Instead, the authors described the behavior of these firms as being characteristic of improvisation. This is to say that the norm for these new ventures was to extemporaneously compose and execute novel solutions to the problems and opportunities that they encountered.

Baker, Miner, and Eesley (2003) demonstrate that improvisation is often an elemental factor in the founding of new firms and that it is also useful in the exploitation of opportunity. The authors note, however, that their study was exploratory, inductive, and designed to focus only on generating hypotheses about improvisation and firm founding. Baker and his colleagues call for further research to test the role of improvisation in entrepreneurship. The current study heeds this call by first developing a conceptual framework for improvisation and then testing hypotheses regarding the role of improvisation within the process of entrepreneurship. …

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