Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research
1996 Edition
SUMMARIES

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THE ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES: GENES, DARWIN, AND ENTREPRENEURS


Richard Y. Weaver

Glasgow Caledonian University
Park Campus
1 Park Drive, Glasgow
Scotland

Telephone
0141 337 4028

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0141 337 4206

Principal Topics

This paper examines the influence of Biology on Psychology in order to determine whether or not a relationship exists between an individuals propensity to behave entrepreneurially and their genetic composition. An individuals response to their environmental dimension is discussed in the context of a behavioral continuum, which in terms of entrepreneurship ranges from active to evasive. Catastrophe Theory is utilized to integrate the biological determinants of an individuals entrepreneurial characteristic set with environmental factors and to present the behavioral outcome in the form of an Entrepreneurial Cusp Catastrophe.

Method

A literature review of texts and publications was undertaken to establish and illustrate the functional relationship of deoxyribonucleic acid (D.N.A. to genes, chromosomes, and cells. This phase of research was critically important in determining the degree to which each individual is biologically unique and specifically the identification, or otherwise, of a particular gene or genotype which could lead to an individual exhibiting entrepreneurial behavior. Reference was then made to the evolution of biological species and their survival or decline under differing environmental conditions.

A postal survey was undertaken from a cross-section of the population of Ayrshire in the West of Scotland (p=10,000) to determine the degree to which individuals possessed certain entrepreneurial characteristics. The survey was based upon a characteristic inventory developed under previous research. The response was (n=875).

Environmental impact data was derived by re-applying an organizational diagnosis inventory to a sample group at the Aviall Caledonian aerospace engineering plant at Prestwick, simultaneously with the characteristic inventory mentioned above. The derived behavior was then located on a cusp catastrophe. No intervention was made to develop the characteristic set of individuals, although the environment was altered significantly.

Major Findings

A significant finding of this paper is that no scientific evidence exists to substantiate the statement that entrepreneurs are born and not made.

From a behavioral perspective the main determinant is the specific environment experienced and sensed by an individual. Environmental sensing is achieved through the Somatic Nervous System and a sustained exposure to a particular environment will lead to a behavioral posture appropriate to it. This posture will range from active-through passive- to evasive entrepreneurial behavioral propensity.

The paper also demonstrates how behavior can be modeled to include continuous and discontinuous change by adopting the Cusp Catastrophe. This model integrates an individuals entrepreneurial characteristic set with an environmental spectrum, the extremes of which are Bureaucratic and Achievement. The resulting behavioral posture is located on the three dimensional cusp.

Implications

If it were true that entrepreneurial behavior was based on a genetic derivative, then much of what has been delivered in terms of education and development in the field of entrepreneurship would, for most individuals, be sterile. The fact is that there is no genetic derivative for entrepreneurial behavior. Indeed entrepreneurship is a specific form of behavior and the findings of this paper could be applied more generally to the field of management development. It is also critical to accept the distinction between skill set development and mind set development. This paper has been concerned with the latter and has illustrated that the environment surrounding an individual must be conducive to the behavioral posture. The implication of this is that no amount of skill enhancement will evoke behavioral development and therefore educators and trainers must establish an experiential environment of such form to nurture the individual mind set.

In terms of organizational development, firms who seek growth, require to address the issue of change. This change is not only concerned with a different way of doing things but an incremental or even fundamental shift in the mind set of organizational members. If the growth vector, magnitude and direction, is dramatic, then clearly entrepreneurial behavior would be a desired option. This paper has demonstrated how the cusp catastrophe could be adopted by organizations to locate and identify their members behavior on a continuum which is the resultant of the integration of their entrepreneurial characteristic set and the organizations culture. Thus to achieve the desired behavioral response, the cultural climate must be appropriate to nurture the individual or collective characteristic set.

It is suggested that should organizations address these issues systematically then they are likely to access an energy more powerful than the atomic bomb-namely that which created it-the entrepreneurial mind.

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