Habitual Entrepreneurs: Possible Cases of Entrepreneurship Addiction

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Author Information : Alexander McKelvie (Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University)
J. Michael Haynie (Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University)
April J. Spivack (College of Business, University of Wisconsin)

Year of Publication : Journal of Business Venturing (2014)

Summary of Findings : Habitual entrepreneurs, those who launch multiple start-ups throughout their careers, display symptoms of behavioral addiction, including obsessive thoughts and withdrawal-engagement cycles, as well as suffer negative emotional outcomes, including guilt, high levels of strain and negative physical health. These findings offer a potential psychological explanation for a ‘dark side’ of entrepreneurship. They explain previous findings that entrepreneuring activities may come at the expense of other life activities, leading to strained relationships, health, etc., as well as an increased frequency of entrepreneuring activities over time.

Research Questions : 1. What motivates habitual entrepreneurs?

2. What are the consequences?

What we know : Habitual entrepreneurs are found to display symptoms of behavioral addiction and to suffer negative emotional outcomes. This offers a potential psychological explanation for a ‘dark side’ of entrepreneurship.

Novel Findings : Habitual entrepreneurs, those who launch multiple start-ups throughout their careers, display symptoms of behavioral addiction, including obsessive thoughts and withdrawal-engagement cycles, as well as suffer negative emotional outcomes, including guilt, high levels of strain and negative physical health. These findings offer a potential psychological explanation for a ‘dark side’ of entrepreneurship. They explain previous findings that entrepreneuring activities may come at the expense of other life activities, leading to strained relationships, health, etc., as well as an increased frequency of entrepreneuring activities over time.

Implications for Society: The costs of this “illness” are borne by families, communities, and economies in the form of social ser­vices, healthcare, and public benefits programs. Findings from clinical psychology suggest that the manifestation of behavioral addiction often results in the development of an addictive personality over time and, in turn, makes individuals highly susceptible to other forms of addiction, including other behavioral addictions as well as substance addictions. The consequences of these forms of addic­tion are relatively unexplored in the context of entrepreneurship.

Implications on Research: This study only scratches the surface. It remains to explore the role of other sensory inputs such as taste (e.g., candies in a bowl), smell (e.g., a scented candle), or touch (e.g., a throw pillow on a chair) on relationships and self-regulation.

There may also be alternative ways that employees can facilitate disclosure without the aid of workspace personalization. This may be especially useful for employees who are away from or without a workspace that they can per­sonalize (e.g., salespeople who work away from their workspace) or for employees who are in open spaces that limit the ability to tailor self-closure through object placement.

Full Citations : April J. Spivack, Alexander McKelvie, and J. Michael Haynie, “Habitual Entrepreneurs: Possible Cases of Entrepreneurship Addition,” Journal of Business Venturing, 2014.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0883902613001080

Abstract : We examine the underlying psychological processes that may motivate habitual entrepreneurs to engage in entrepreneurship repeat­edly. By drawing on the psychology literature on behavioral addictions, such as workaholism and Internet use, we develop a framework that defines the symptomatology of what we identify as a “behavioral addiction to entrepreneurship.” Through interviews with two habitual entrepreneurs, we demonstrate how these ad­diction symptoms manifest in the entrepreneurial context. We also demonstrate how psycho­logical, emotional, and physiological aspects of the entrepreneurial experience reinforce a behavioral addiction to entrepreneurship. Our theorizing offers insights into the psychological origins of repeated engagement in venture cre­ation activities and yields insights into possible “dark side” of entrepreneurship outcomes.

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Alexander McKelvie

Alexander McKelvie

Professor McKelvie is an associate professor of entrepreneurship and chair of the department of entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises. His research concerns the study of different types and patterns of growth, corporate entrepreneurship, the acquisition and use of new knowledge in new firms and entrepreneurial decision-making.
Alexander McKelvie
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