Why is studying the prosocial values and behaviours of entrepreneurs important?

Ethics and prosocial behaviour

Entrepreneurship as a phenomenon takes many forms, but it is primarily about engaging people in new ways of thinking, behaving, and being (Anderson & Gaddefors,2016).  Business entrepreneurs make a positive contribution to the economy, and in doing so, improve the lives of both individuals and communities by creating employment, finding new ways to address problems, and sharing ideas globally.

Social media, analytics, cloud computing, and the internet are providing new challenges for the entrepreneur, in that they’ve opened up new ways of doing business, led to the development of new business processes, and have widened the range of different products and services being offered.  In addition, growing social dilemmas we face in the 21st Century make it increasingly necessary to explore the antecedents of any sustained social impact, and this includes evaluating the association between entrepreneurship and social impact.

Entrepreneurial innovation is not only a key driver of improvements in business performance and financial security, it can also contribute to solving problems like climate change, educational inequality, and unemployment, as well as to improving public services (Hitt, Ireland, Sirmon & Tramhs, 2011).

Ethical behaviour in business is quickly emerging as an essential ingredient for the development of a successful market economy (Choi & Storr, 2020) and knowledge of how this is developed and maintained is important for an understanding of how entrepreneurship can be harnessed for the common good.  However, there is a paradox between an entrepreneurial economy that is focused on making profit and one that recognises the value of adopting a pro-social approach to doing business.  There is a need for greater clarity around how entrepreneurs can be encouraged and supported in adopting a more ethical approach to doing business.

The psychology of entrepreneurship is crucial in helping society to determine whether it has a healthy supply of individuals with the necessary entrepreneurial characteristics that it needs.   Entrepreneurship is a topic of contemporary interest as it can lead to benefits for both individuals and society as a whole.  More specifically, researching individual entrepreneurs can benefit entrepreneurs, the organisations that support them, and policy makers.  It can both increase awareness and understanding of the positive aspects of entrepreneurship and contribute insights into areas of psychological research, for example coping with uncertainty, handling increased time pressure, and taking responsibility.

There are a number of perspectives remaining that require further research, including clarification and more precise definitions of the different concepts and the positive and negative factors impacting upon the entrepreneur at different stages of the business development.

For example, human beings have both intrinsic and extrinsic sources of motivation, and our psychological needs include competency, autonomy, and relatedness. Entrepreneurs values, including openness to change, self-transcendence, conservation and self-enhancement, and operating philosophy are affected by life experience and stages (Bann, 2017). A greater understanding of these factors can be developed by giving consideration to both the individual entrepreneur and the context of their lives and their business.

Anderson, A.R. and Gaddefors, J. (2016) ‘Entrepreneurship as a community phenomenon; reconnecting meanings and place’, International Journal Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp.504–518.

Bann.C. L. (2017).Entrepreneur lives: A phenomenological study of the lived experience of the entrepreneur, including the influence of values, beliefs, attitudes, and leadership in the entrepreneurial journey. Capella University, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2007. 3244893.

Choi, G. S., & Storr, V.H. Market Interactions, trust and reciprocityPLoS ONE 15(5): e0232704. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232704

Hitt, M. A., Ireland, R. D., Sirmon, D. G., & Trahms, C. A. (2011). Strategic entrepreneurship: Creating value for individuals, organizations, and society. Academy of Management Perspectives, 25(2), 57-75. doi:10.5465/amp.25.2.57