Advancing the research behind the entrepreneurial mindset
ELI’s thought leadership is based on decades of research and an ethnographic study of entrepreneurs. The Research Center organizes white papers, books, and journal articles that support the constructs behind the entrepreneurial mindset as well as define the environments that encourage or inhibit entrepreneurial behavior.
Dr. Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory of human functioning forms much of the research-based psychological underpinning of the entrepreneurial mindset. Dr. Bandura’s work demonstrates that human functioning is deeply related to individual and collective agency, and that self-efficacy empowers individuals to create their own future through their actions, despite their circumstances.
Recommended books and white papers around self-efficacy include:
- Bandura, A., (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.
- Bandura, A., (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
- Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191-215.
- Bandura, A. (1991). Social cognitive theory of self-regulation. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 248-287.
- Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press.
- Bandura, A. (2000). Cultivate self-efficacy for personal and organizational effectiveness. In E. A. Locke (Ed.), Handbook of principles of organization behavior. (pp. 120-136). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
- Bandura, A., & Locke, E. (2003). Negative self-efficacy and goal effects revisited. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 87-99.
Locus of Control
The work of Dr. Julian Rotter around social learning theory and the concept of locus of control describes the psychology behind how an individual perceives their agency as they interact with their environment. Locus of control is a core concept behind the entrepreneurial mindset as those with an internal locus of control believe that they have the ability to influence their outcomes, rather than let their circumstances determine the course of their lives.
Recommended papers around locus of control include:
- Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied. 80(1), 1-28.
- Rotter J. B. (1975). Some problems and misconceptions related to the construct of internal versus external control of reinforcement. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 43: 56-60.
- Rotter, J. B. (1992). Some Comments on the “Cognates of Personal Control.” Applied & Preventive Psychology 1:127-129. Cambridge University Press.
A key element of the entrepreneurial mindset is overcoming aspects of a fixed mindset, the belief that intelligence, talent, and abilities are fixed, to developing a growth mindset. Dr. Carol Dweck’s demonstrates the positive impact on individual motivation and achievement when they believe that they can grow and develop through action and effort by focusing on learning rather than performance goals. Growth mindset is embraced by entrepreneurial people who seek knowledge and invest effort in order to learn and shape their ideas.
Recommended books and papers on growth mindset include:
- Dweck, Carol. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House.
- Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindset: How you can fulfill your potential. Constable & Robinson Limited.
- Dweck, C. S. & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review.
Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory provides a strong methodology for a deeper understanding of how entrepreneurial thought and action ties to intrinsic motivation. Their work provides a framework for understanding the entrepreneurial mindset through a lens of human motivation and the effects on performance of all types of motivation from extrinsic to intrinsic.
Recommended papers about motivation theory include:
- Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Publishing Co.
- Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2002). An overview of self-determination theory. In E. L. Deci & R. M. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research (pp. 3-33). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.
- Wigfield, A. & Eccles J. (2000) Expectancy–Value Theory of Achievement Motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology 25, 68–81.
- Gagne, M, & Deci, E. L. (2005), Self-Determination Theory and Work Motivation, Journal of Organizational Behavior.
- Kohn, Alfie. (1993). Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
As the “father of positive psychology,” Dr. Martin Seligman’s effort to shift psychological research away from a focus on clinical psychology to the positive psychology of human possibility and flourishing has been ground-breaking. His work showing the effects of an optimistic explanatory style, seeing challenges as temporary and fixable, fall directly in line with how the entrepreneurial mindset can positively impact an individual’s motivation, performance, and resiliency to achieve human flourishing.
Recommended books and papers on positive psychology and explanatory style include:
- Seligman, Martin E.P. (1990) Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. New York: Pocket Books.
- Seligman, Martin E.P. (2002) Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press.
- Seligman, Martin E.P. (2011) Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York: Atria.
- Seligman, Martin E.P. & Maier, Steven F. (1967) Failure to Escape Traumatic Shock. Journal of Experimental Psychology 74, no. 1: 1-9.
- Seligman, Martin E.P. (1972) Learned Helplessness. Annual Review of Medicine 23,: 407-412.
- Seligman, Martin E.P. & Hiroto, Donald S. (1975). Generality of Learned Helplessness in Man. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 31, no. 2: 311-327.
- Peterson, C. (2000), The Future of Optimism. American Psychologist, Vol. 55(1), p. 44-55.
Learning by doing and reflecting on prior experiences in uncertain, resource constrained environments are the hallmarks of how entrepreneurs learn “in the wild.” Their ability to develop and grow through experience is backed by years of research by some of the greatest minds in pedagogical thought. Individuals such as Montessori, Piaget, Kolb, and Dewey provide a foundation for the fundamental components of entrepreneurial learning.
Recommended books and papers referenced from leaders in educational thought include:
- McMullen, J.S. & Shepherd, D.A. (2006). Entrepreneurial Action and The Role of Uncertainty in the Theory of the Entrepreneur. Academy of Management Review, Vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 132-152.
- Montessori, Maria, (1912). The Montessori Method. Translated by Anne Everett George New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company.
- Dewey, J. (1915). The school and society. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
- Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York, NY: The Free Press.
- Piaget, J. (1932). The moral judgment of the child. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
- Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- Dewey, J. (1998). Education and experience: The 60th anniversary edition. West Lafayette, IN: Kappa Delta Pi.
- Kolb, D.A., Boyatzis, R.E., & Mainemelis, C. (2000). Experiential Learning Theory: Previous Research and New Directions.
- R. J. Sternberg and L. F. Zhang (Eds.), Perspectives on cognitive, learning, and thinking styles. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Moss, L. J., & Normore, A. H. (2006). An exploratory analysis of John Dewey’s writings: Implications for school leaders. Proceedings of the fifth annual college of education research conference. Miami, FL: Florida International University, 82-87.
- Felder, R.M. & Brent, R. (2009) “Active Learning: An Introduction.” ASQ Higher Education Brief 2(4).
- Ericsson, K.A., Roring, R.W., & Nandagopal, K. (2007). Giftedness and evidence for reproducibly superior performance: an account based on the expert performance framework. High Abilities Studies, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 3 – 56.
Entrepreneurial people tend to learn implicitly, taking in information without an awareness and gaining tacit knowledge which can be difficult to transfer to others. By researching the implicit nature of this method of learning, we come to understand how an entrepreneurial mindset is developed over time and without conscious effort. Thought leaders such as Reber, Wilson, and Klein decode the secrets of the unconscious mind and its incredible ability to affect human thought and action.
Recommended books and papers on unconscious thought include:
- Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York, NY.
- Reber, A. S. (1993). Implicit learning and tacit knowledge: An essay on the cognitive unconscious. NY: Oxford University Press.
- Klein, Gary (1999), Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions: The MIT Press.
- Wilson, Timothy (2011). Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change. Little, Brown and Company.
- Diennes, Z. & Berry, D. (1997). Implicit learning: Below the subjective threshold. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 4(1), 2 -23.
Psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists have worked to decode successful individuals and how they achieve mastery and reach optimal engagement in their lives. The research behind expanding human potential is the foundation of how entrepreneurial people tend to be goal-oriented and purpose driven and as such, highly engaged to master the skills needed to achieve their goals.
Recommended books and papers around human potential and flourishing include:
- Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1992) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row.
- Coyle, Daniel. (2009), The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. New York: Bantam Dell.
- Gladwell, Malcolm, (2011) Outliers: The Story of Success. Back Bay Books.
- Grant, Adam M. (2014), Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. New York: Penguin Books.
- Ericsson, A. & Poole, R. (2016), Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
- Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Kelly, M.D. & Kelly, D.R. (2007) Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92, no. 6: 1087–1101.
The engine which drives development of an entrepreneurial mindset is a compelling vision and an understanding that through effort, the future can be better than the past. Even in ancient Greece, Aristotle laid out a formula to create hope and human flourishing. Since that time, Hope Theory has evolved and helps explain how those with an entrepreneurial mindset centered on hope tend to be more successful and live more fulfilling lives.
Recommended books and papers central to these ideas include:
- Aristotle & Rackham, H. (1982) The Nicomachean Ethics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
- Frankl, Viktor. (2006) Man’s Search for Meaning, Beacon Press.
- Snyder, C.R. (1995) Conceptualizing, Measuring, and Nurturing Hope. Journal of Counseling and Development 73, no. 3: 355-360.
- Day, L., Hanson, K., Matlby, J., Proctor, C., & Wood, A. (2010). Hope uniquely predicts objective academic achievement above intelligence, personality, and previous academic achievement. Journal of Research in Personality 44: 550-553.
- Snyder, C.R., Shorey, J.C., Pulvers, K.M., Adams, V.H. & Wiklund, C. (2002), Hope and Academic Success. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 94, No. 4, pp. 820-826.
- Huffington, Arianna. (2014) Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. New York: Harmony, Random House.
Group dynamics have a tremendous impact on how entrepreneurial people move their ideas forward and overcome challenges in their environment. The research in this area helps describe why it is so difficult for entrepreneurial people to thrive in an environment which doesn’t encourage and may even inhibit entrepreneurial behavior.
Recommended books and papers on group dynamics include:
- Ross, L., & Nisbett, R. E. (1991). The person and the situation: Perspectives of social psychology. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
- Rosenberg, T. (2011). Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.
- Jiang, Jia. (2015) Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection. New York: Harmony Books, Penguin Random House.
- Asch, S. E. (1951) Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgment. Groups, leadership and men: research in human relations: 177-190.
- Milgram, S., Bickman, L. & Berkowitz, L. (1969) Note on the drawing power of crowds of drawing power of crowds of different size. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 13, no. 2: 79-82.
We live in a rapidly changing, highly dynamic world. Existing research on the theory and practice of understanding the complexities of interconnected, dynamic systems puts context around the challenges of such environments. Understanding this context is essential for the development of an entrepreneurial mindset to empower individuals to determine ways to positively impact the systems withing which they interact.
Recommended books and papers regarding complex systems theory include:
- Senge, P. M.. (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday/Currency.
- Senge, P. M. (1994) The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday/Currency.
- Meadows, D. H. (2008). Thinking in systems: A primer. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.
- McChrystal, S., Collins, T., Silverman, D., & Fussell, C. (2015). Team of teams: New rules of engagement for a complex world. New York, NY: Penguin.