Impulsivity Theory of Entrepreneurship

What is the impulsivity theory of entrepreneurship?

Impulsiveness refers to taking action without thinking about it first and considering data before deciding. Wiklund, Patzelt and Dimov (2016) state that "acting without thinking is characterized by rapid decision making in situations that would seem to require extensive analysis and deliberation." They go on to explain that individuals need to act impulsively in some entrepreneurial conditions because it is impossible to complete a throughout analysis due to uncertainty, ambiguity, and urgency. Rather than succumbing to analysis paralysis, entrepreneurs take leaps of faith that most others are not willing to.

As it turns out, there is a way to measure impulsivity. Attention deficit and hyper-active disorder (ADHD) is usually considered a problem that need to be addressed. For instance, many parents medicate their children with drugs like Ritalin in order to combat the negative effects of ADHD. 

Interestingly, ADHD has been associated with entrepreneurial behaviors. The disorder increases the impulsiveness of the individual, which is useful for taking action under uncertainty (Wiklund, Patzelt and Dimov, 2016).

According to National Institute of Mental Health: "Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development...Impulsivity means a person makes hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them and that may have high potential for harm; or a desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may be socially intrusive and excessively interrupt others or make important decisions without considering the long-term consequences."

Verheul et al. (2015) studied a very large sample of higher education students and find that students with more ADHD symptoms had more entrepreneurial intentions.

Perhaps the lifestyle of the entrepreneur or perceived lifestyle is attractive the impulsive students. This may be because impulsiveness may lead to failures in other aspects of life, such as math homework. Perhaps there are links here to the misfit theory.

It will be interesting to see if future research is able to distinguish whether impulsiveness is more closely linked to entry, or whether it is more closely linked with entrepreneurial performance. Perhaps impulsive people are more likely to engage in entrepreneurship, but do they actually do better over the long run? Future studies may tell. It will also be important to assess how much impulsiveness matters among other individual characteristics, like need for achievement, locus of control, and self-efficacy.

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