Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

A Measure of Adaptive Cognition for Entrepreneurship Research

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

A Measure of Adaptive Cognition for Entrepreneurship Research

Article excerpt

To sense and adapt to uncertainty may characterize a critical entrepreneurial resource. In this research, we employ a metacognitive lens toward the development of a 36-item inventory designed to assess cognitive adaptability, defined as the ability to be dynamic, flexible, and self-regulating in one's cognitions given dynamic and uncertain task environments. Construction of the inventory, and subsequent factor analysis, is confirmatory in nature based on five theoretically justified dimensions of metacognition. We describe the development of the instrument, discuss its implications for entrepreneurship, and finally offer suggestions for further development and testing.

Introduction

Entrepreneurship scholars suggest that cognition research can serve as a process lens through which to "reexamine the people side of entrepreneurship" by investigating the memory, learning, problem identification, and decision-making abilities of entrepreneurs (Mitchell, Busenitz, et al., 2002, p. 93). This research is positioned to further such inquiry, through the development of a measure appropriate to investigate individual differences in cognitive adaptability in an entrepreneurial context. We define cognitive adaptability as the ability to effectively and appropriately change decision policies (i.e., to learn) given feedback (inputs) from the environmental context in which cognitive processing is embedded. Research suggests that while such a cognitive task is difficult to achieve (Rozin, 1976), it is positively related to decision performance in contexts that can be characterized as complex, dynamic, and inherently uncertain (Earley & Ang, 2003). The entrepreneurial context exemplifies such a decision environment.

Although measures exist that capture some elements of flexibility and self-regulation at the firm level of analysis (e.g., measures of strategic posture [Covin & Slevin, 1986, 1988, 1989; Miller, 1983] and in entrepreneurial management practices [Brown, Davidsson, & Wiklund, 2001]), to advance the study of cognition in entrepreneurial environments requires measures of cognitive adaptability focused at the individual level of analysis. Such measures should be positioned to explore heterogeneity in an individual's performance across a wide variety of entrepreneurial tasks and situations. Currently, the most widely employed measure focused on individual self-regulation in entrepreneurship is based on Higgins's (1997) Regulatory Focus Theory, and is focused on self-regulation as a motivation to reduce some disparity or discrepancy between a current state and some desired end-state (Higgins). In the development of the measure of cognitive adaptability proposed here, rather than a motivational approach, we focus on cognitive processes and employ metacognitive theory. Metacognition describes a process which incorporates self-regulation, but yet advances regulation to also describe the process through which regulation informs the development and generation of new sense-making structures (heuristics) as a function of a changing environment (Flavell, 1987; Nelson, 1996). Research indicates that individuals who are more metacognitive in the way that they approach a task or a situation are: (1) more likely to recognize the fact that there are multiple decision frameworks available to formulate a response; (2) more likely to engage in the conscious process of considering those multiple alternatives; and (3) more likely to be sensitized and receptive to feedback from the environment and to incorporate that feedback into subsequent decision frameworks (Melot, 1998; Schraw & Dennison, 1994). It is the purpose of this article to develop a measure of cognitive adaptability grounded in metacognitive theory that is appropriate for use in an entrepreneurial decision context.

This article proceeds as follows. In the next section we introduce metacognition as the theoretical perspective for developing a measure of cognitive adaptability. …

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