ADHD is a Positive When It Comes to Entrepreneurship

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Author Information : Johan Wiklund (Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University)
Holger Patzelt (Technical University, Munich, Germany)
Dino Dimov (University of Bath, UK)

Year of Publication : Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice (2016)

Summary of Findings : ADHD is a common mental disorder with potentially far-reaching negative implications, but this research suggests that ADHD traits may actually be positive in the entrepreneurship context!

Research Questions : How are ADHD traits linked to entrepreneurial action?

What we know : Entrepreneurship entails uncertainty. It is impossible to know the outcomes of action. The rational approach is to wait and collect more information before acting. However, we know that many entrepreneurs don't follow this logic, but instead jump on opportunities as fast as they can. This research shows that the impulsivity and hyperfocus of people with ADHD can be an asset in entrepreneurship.

Novel Findings : Entrepreneurship is a unique context that may suit people who have problems in other walks of life. Otherwise negative personal characteristics may be positive in entrepreneurship.

Implications for Practice : People with ADHD traits often have a hard time finding ways fit in and be productive. Entrepreneurship provides an alternative career path where they may be able to productively contribute to the development of society.

Full Citations : Wiklund, J., Patzelt, H., & Dimov, D. (2016). Entrepreneurship and psychological disorders: How ADHD can be productively harnessed. Journal of Business Venturing Insights, 6, 14-20.

Abstract : Amidst predominant focus on positive traits for entrepreneurship, this paper explores how disorders, such as ADHD, influence the decision to engage in entrepreneurial action and the success of entrepreneurial action. Based on a multiple case study of 14 entrepreneurs previously diagnosed with ADHD, our inductive model highlights impulsivity as a major driver of entrepreneurial action and hyperfocus as a major catalyst for its consequences, both positive and negative. By drawing attention to the positive implications of symptoms commonly seen as negative, the paper opens several major avenues for future theoretical development and empirical research.

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Johan Wiklund

Johan Wiklund

Johan Wiklund is the Al Berg Endowed Chair and Professor of Entrepreneurship at Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University, USA and professor at Lund University, Sweden, and Nordland University, Norway. His research interests include entrepreneurship and mental health as well as the performance, growth, exit, and failure of entrepreneurial firms. He is considered a leading authority in entrepreneurship research with over 50 articles appearing in leading entrepreneurship and management journals. He is editor for Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, and previously editor for Journal of Business Venturing and Small Business Economics.
Johan Wiklund

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