How Events Create Ventures and Ventures Create Entrepreneurs
Chapter 9: Entrepreneurship as Peak Experience
9. Entrepreneurship as peak experience* There were probably about five games in my career where everything was moving in slow motion and you could be out there all day, totally in the zone, and you don’t even know where you are on the field, everything is just totally blocked out. (Lawrence Taylor, American football player) INTRODUCTION As an experience, entrepreneurship represents a complex and evolutionary phenomenon, and its more salient aspects remain unclear. In this chapter, we explore the manner in which the higher-intensity aspects of an entrepreneurial venture are experienced. Three interrelated constructs from psychology would seem to offer promising insights into these high-intensity periods: peak experience, peak performance, and flow. Maslow’s (1971) notion of peak experience, if applied to entrepreneurship, approaches venture creation and growth as an aspect of self-actualization and optimal emotional functioning. Peak performance concerns situations where individuals are motivated by circumstances to perform at unusually high levels (Privette, 1981). Flow is a positive experiential state where the individual is totally connected to the task and personal skills are equal to the required challenges (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997). These three constructs are relevant in explaining how entrepreneurs experience the venture creation process and, importantly, whether their personal performance is affected by the nature of the experience. A conceptual model linking these three constructs to one another and to the entrepreneurial process is presented. To assess the model, results are reported of a series of in-depth interviews with a cross-sectional sample of entrepreneurs. The relevance of these three constructs...
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