Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Explaining Entrepreneurial Behavior: Dispositional Personality Traits, Growth of Personal Entrepreneurial Resources, and Business Idea Generation

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Explaining Entrepreneurial Behavior: Dispositional Personality Traits, Growth of Personal Entrepreneurial Resources, and Business Idea Generation

Article excerpt

Applying a life-span approach of human development and using the example of science-based business idea generation, the authors used structural equation modeling to test a mediation model for predicting entrepreneurial behavior in a sample of German scientists (2 measurement occasions; Time 1, N = 488). It was found that recalled early entrepreneurial competence in adolescence predicted business idea generation. This link was mediated by entrepreneurial human and social capital. Moreover, an entrepreneurial Big Five profile was associated with early entrepreneurial competence and predicted entrepreneurial human and social capital. Results underscore the relevance of the long-neglected developmental approach to entrepreneurship.

Keywords: entrepreneurship, opportunity recognition, personality, Big Five, competence growth in adolescence

Across the globe, the world of work is changing rapidly. Economic, social, and technological changes bring new demands but also opportunities for individuals' careers (Silbereisen & Chen, 2010). One way to proactively cope with those demands and to utilize the new possibilities is through entrepreneurship, that is, starting one's own business. Indeed, Hisrich, Langan-Fox, and Grant (2007) reported that entrepreneurship is a worldwide phenomenon that is on the rise (see also Mahbubani, 2008).

The core of entrepreneurship represents the innovative business idea, defined by Grandi and Grimaldi (2005, p. 826) as "the complex of products/services, knowledge, competencies, market, and technologies that arc necessary to run a business" (see also Ardichvili, Cardozo, & Ray, 2003). Shane and Venkataraman (2000) defined the field of entrepreneurship research as the study of "how, by whom, and with what effects opportunities to create future goods and services are discovered, evaluated, and exploited" (p. 218). As Audretsch (2007) emphasized, not only is die success of a new venture rooted in the quality, newness, and potential of its business idea, but the success of whole entrepreneurial societies depends on the generation (and exploitation) of innovative business ideas.

Why do some individuals engage in the development of a business idea whereas others do not? To understand entrepreneurial behavior, entre - preneurship research traditionally focused on personality traits (Rauch & Frese, 2007). In contrast, vocational development in the context of entrepreneurship is an understudied field of research, and previous studies have neglected to explore the process through which personality traits could channel a person's vocational development toward entrepreneurship. This process may start early in life given that vocational development is considered to begin in childhood (Härtung, Porfeli, & Vondracek, 2005). Likewise, modern personality psychology emphasizes the relevance of a life-span approach when studying the effect of personality traits. For example, McAdams and Pals (2006) assumed that personality is expressed as an evolving pattern of dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations (e.g., competencies), and personal life narratives. Indeed, Schmitt- Rodermund (2007) and Zhang and Arvey (2009) found adults' entrepreneurship to be linked with the interplay between personality traits and characteristic adaptations (e.g., age-appropriate entrepreneurial competence in adolescence) from early developmental stages forward.

In the present study, we examined adults' engagement in business idea generation from a life-span perspective. Targeting the evolving pattern of dispositional personality traits and characteristic adaptations across adolescence and adulthood, we developed and tested a path model using the example of science-based business idea generation by researchers. We chose this approach because, in today's knowledge-based economies, competitive advantage comes in large part from innovations. Audretsch (2007) stressed the fundamental role of innovative entrepreneurship, that is, the entrepreneurial exploitation of new knowledge generated in research institutions, for job creation and macroeconomic growth (sec also Grandi & Grimaldi, 2005). …

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