Developing Entrepreneurs: a context-sensitive process – by Francisco Liñán


Entrepreneurship is a process that takes place in its context. Although there is no full agreement on the concept of entrepreneurship, emphasis has recently been put on the idea of interaction with the environment. But, as Professor Francisco Liñán explains, the influence of the environment -or context- goes much further than simply shaping opportunity.

Context is essential in the initial steps of the entrepreneurial process (previous to the business creation): i.e., in forming the personal interest and the decision to become an entrepreneur. We all, as individuals, make our decisions based on our assessment of the environment, and how we expect it to react to our actions.  At the other end, when the business is already created, its future growth is also the consequence of the entrepreneurs’ ability to read and react to the characteristics of the environment.

An ever increasing attention is paid to entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial process, trying to identify and implement ways to effectively help develop, shape and grow entrepreneurs and their ventures.

  • In developing entrepreneurs, the obvious reply is entrepreneurship education. The massive amount of academic literature on this topic, together with the proliferation of courses and programmes at all level of the educational system confirm this idea. The role of personal values, motivations and attitudes is undoubtedly relevant.
  • The context strongly contributes to shaping entrepreneurs and their actions. The discourse about entrepreneurship and the social networks and interaction with other actors is clearly a key influence.
  • Growing entrepreneurial ventures requires a well thought-out and innovative strategy. The ability to develop dynamic capabilities and strategically manage available resources is essential, and the result of pro-active action.

Alain Fayolle (EMLYON Busines School), Paula Kyro (Aalto University) and Francisco Liñán (University of Seville) have reunited a collection of insightful contributions addressing these issues in the sixth volume of the European Research in Entrepreneurship Series. The volume goes a long way to improving our understanding of the ways in which the context affects the entrepreneurial process. It considers not only the development, shape and growth of the entrepreneurial activity, but the interaction of these elements, such as the way in which the venture’s strategy adapts to the specific characteristics of its context.

Of particular interest, we believe, is the analysis of the role of values in entrepreneurship, which is one of the topics considered in this volume. On the one hand, personal values represent the motivational goals or priorities that serve as guiding principles in our lives. Thus, the specific value structure of each individual is bound to have a role in guiding their actions. On the other hand, cultural values represent the share norms and codes of conduct that serve to guide social interaction.


Personal values and entrepreneurship

Personal values have been pointed out as playing a relevant role in entrepreneurship. In this sense, values are also connected to personal goals and, therefore, serve as a guide for human decisions and action. Specific actions (such as starting a venture) may become more attractive to the extent that they promote attainment of valued goals.

Even in more complex decisions involving the need to develop careful plans, values play a relevant role. More important goals induce a stronger motivation to plan thoroughly. The higher the priority given to a value, the more likely people will form action plans that can lead to its expression in behaviour.

Thus, people facing a similar situation may form different decisions and take subsequent actions depending on their value priorities: those valuing stimulation would be attracted to a challenging job offer, whereas those who value security might find the same offer threatening and unattractive.

Personal values are influenced by socialization processes and are, therefore, partly determined by the predominant cultural values in society. Nevertheless, research has shown that there is substantial variability of values across individuals.

Research has found that individualist values are associated with entrepreneurial intentions and behaviour. Similarly, personal values have been found to moderate the influence of different attributes on the individual’s decision to persist pursuing an entrepreneurial opportunity.


Cultural values and entrepreneurship

Culture has been defined as the set of basic common values which contributes to shaping people’s behaviour in a society. The notion of culture also includes patterns of thinking, feeling and acting, which are learned and shared by people living within the same social environment.

However, we recognize that ‘culture’ has many facets, just as each of us belongs to multiple groups with differing norms and values. Thus, ‘culture’ cannot be equated to nation any more. Multiculturalism and immigration are widespread characteristics of present-day societies, and different sub-cultures do exist within any given country, interacting at different levels, such as industry or organizational levels.84713577

Researchers have argued that a country’s culture, values, beliefs and norms affect the entrepreneurial orientation of its resident. Thus, in developed countries (such as those in Europe) a higher cultural emphasis on individualist values is associated with higher entrepreneurial activity.

Differences in entrepreneurial activity among countries, and regions within those countries, are persistent and cannot be fully explained by institutional and economic variables. A substantial part of these differences have been attributed to culture. This influence may occur through social legitimation. That is, the entrepreneurial activity will be more valued and socially recognized in that culture, hence creating a favourable institutional environment, and causing more people to try to start their ventures. In contrast, when predominant cultural values are in conflict with economic innovation and personal success, entrepreneurship may be not approved of by society.

The role of values is only one of several topics address in the book, but one we believe is of the highest importance. Nevertheless, the different chapters significantly contribute to a large number of equally interesting additional research lines.


AIbEiAIAAABECKDqpcvdqr3Z_wEiC3ZjYXJkX3Bob3RvKig0OGMyMTYyMWU3MWM0ODU3NjIzMDE2Y2JmYmUxMjA1Y2ZkYWIwZDNjMAHsFFnAhc-goVrg54MKlVHtfejo0gFrancisco Liñán is associate Professor in Applied Economics at the University of Seville.  He is Co-director of the Master in Entrepreneurship Development.  He is co-editor of Developing, Shaping and Growing Entrepreneurship published by Edward Elgar.

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