Research Handbooks in Business and Management series
Edited by J. Robert Mitchell, Ronald K. Mitchell and Brandon Randolph-Seng
Chapter 1: Thinking about cognition and its central role in entrepreneurship: confessions of a ‘reformed’ behaviourist
Cognition is now widely recognized as an important key to understanding central aspects of entrepreneurship – everything from opportunity recognition and alertness, on the one hand, through planning, improvisation, strategy formulation, and even the decision to exit from a new venture, on the other. However, this was not always the case; the present author started his own career as a ‘hard-nosed behaviorist,’ believing that cognition was unobservable and therefore not an appropriate topic for research. Only gradually did he come to recognize its central importance in virtually every aspect of complex human behavior, including entrepreneurship. In order to investigate its role in entrepreneurship, we can draw on several different sources of knowledge (e.g., input from successful entrepreneurs). Among these, however, systematic research offers the most effective approach. Future studies can draw on current knowledge of cognition to investigate a myriad of intriguing issues, including the role of self-regulation in entrepreneurs’ success, and the role of several cognitive factors in entrepreneurs’ high levels of philanthropy – their widely recognized tendency to ‘give back’ by sharing their wealth with others (e.g., universities, charitable organizations).