Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

The Conflicting Cognitions of Corporate Entrepreneurs

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

The Conflicting Cognitions of Corporate Entrepreneurs

Article excerpt

Research in the entrepreneurial cognition domain has demonstrated that entrepreneurs tend to draw from similar sets of event schemas when considering to start a new venture. The social cognition literature also explains that role schemas affect how individuals encode, process, and use information. In this article, we examine the interplay and divergence between the role schema of individuals in corporations and the event schemas necessary to launch a new venture. By examining these schemas together, we show how the corporate context can create tension between corporate entrepreneurs' role schemas and the event schemas necessary for entrepreneurship. We then construct a theoretical framework for explaining why this tension results in corporate entrepreneurs emphasizing certain event schemas in a manner that is distinct from independent entrepreneurs. Important implications regarding the relationship between context and entrepreneurial cognition are outlined for researchers, entrepreneurs, corporate managers, and educators.

Introduction

The emerging view of entrepreneurial cognition suggests that an understanding of the mental processes of entrepreneurs will enable researchers to build a well-grounded foundation toward systematically explaining the individual's role within the process of entrepreneurship (Mitchell, Busenitz et al., 2002). The current article places another stone on the path toward understanding entrepreneurial cognitions by examining the conflict between the role schemas and event schemas of individuals charged with developing new ventures within existing corporations. Previous research tells us that entrepreneurs think differently from others (Baron, 1998; Busenitz & Barney, 1997). However, do entrepreneurs think differently because they are innately more creative, deviant, or alert than others? Or do they think differently because of their context and the demands of their entrepreneurial role? In this article, we draw out the importance that both context and role schema have on entrepreneurial thinking.

We address these questions by using social cognitive theory to highlight the impact that role schemas have on the new venture-creation decision process within large, established organizations. A role schema is a cognitive structure or mental framework relating to how one's knowledge is organized about the set of behaviors expected of a person in a certain job, function, or role. An event schema is a mental road map: It describes the appropriate sequence of events in a well-known situation (Abelson, 1981). With respect to entrepreneurship, schemas have been examined in research investigating the utility of expert scripts (1) (Mitchell, Smith, Seawright, & Morse, 2000). Expert scripts, or expert schemas, can be seen as the knowledge structures that individuals have with respect to the arrangements, willingness, and abilities necessary to start a new venture. There are different types of schemas, but all schemas perform a similar function. Schemas encode information and are defined as cognitive structures that represent knowledge about a concept, including its attributes and the relationships among those attributes (Fiske & Taylor, 1991). It is our assertion that within the corporate context, the event schemas necessary for entrepreneurship cannot be fully understood without a corresponding understanding of the effect of role schemas. In the current article, we extend the work of Mitchell et al. (2000) to argue that organizations must better understand the concept of entrepreneurial cognition--particularly the influence of role schemas--in order to develop corporate entrepreneurs and corporate entrepreneurship initiatives.

Since corporate entrepreneurship represents an important segment within the domain of entrepreneurship research (Dess, Lumpkin, & McGee, 1999; Hisrich, 1990), the lack of knowledge relating to intrapreneurial cognitions poses an opportunity for a theoretical contribution to be made to the field. …

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