In recent years, Entrepreneurial Education (EE) has gained significant traction, particularly within Higher Education. Indeed, many Universities now offer EE programming at a range of levels from Undergraduate through to MBA and Executive Education. Aligned to this increased provision, a strong body of academic and practitioner research has emerged on the pedagogy and delivery modes of EE.
‘Best practice’ EE is increasingly considered to include an entrepreneurial cognition approach to study, whereby an emphasis is placed on how entrepreneurs think and behave (Mitchell et al., 2002) – the so called ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ (Naumann, 2017). This focuses on one’s entrepreneurial thinking, behaviours and actions in the pursuit of entrepreneurial activities and outcomes. Key skills and behaviours such as experimentation, creation, persistence and empathy (Neck et al., 2014) are emphasised, largely drawing on action-learning base pedagogical approaches (Mukesh et al., 2020) used at leading US institutions.
Critically, however, this cognition approach to EE is somewhat myopic in scope. The skills and behaviours emphasised are derived from predominantly North American and Western European contexts, which share similar attitudes towards risk, uncertainty, short-termism, individualism and failure (Hofstede, 2001). This calls into question not only the value of current cognition-based EE models in international contexts, but also the relevance of EE curricula for international students studying in Western Europe or North America and planning to return to their own home countries.
Based on these issues and the gaps in our current understanding, this PhD project aims to investigate how perceptions of entrepreneurial thinking underpinning behaviours (‘mindset’) differ across cultural contexts and how this impacts the perceived value of EE programmes. This aligns to recognition in the literature of the importance of appropriate EE provision for international students (Bhatia and Levina, 2020) and the need for a focus on applied and practical learning that builds the skills required for conducting business now and for shaping the future of business (Binks et al., 2007).
In response, this PhD project will be driven by the following research questions:
-What cultural contextual factors affect entrepreneurial thinking and action (mindset) in different geographic locations?
-How do these culturally-mediated views shape the relevance of entrepreneurial mindset as currently constructed?
-How do these culturally-mediated views shape perceptions of relevance of EE programming?
-What are the implications for EE generally and for cognition/entrepreneurial mindset-based EE in different countries around the world?
Few studies have sought to better understand the intersection between culture and the construct of entrepreneurial mindset (Cacciotti and Hayton, 2017; Welter, 2011).
This is unsurprising, since the notion of entrepreneurial mindset itself has been evolving over the past fifty years. Early approaches draw on the trait perspective, founded on the assumption that entrepreneurs have distinctive features setting them apart from non-entrepreneurs (Brockhaus, 1980; Hull et al., 1982; Liles, 1974; McClelland, 1961; McClelland and Winter, 1969). The perspective has been criticised as inadequate to explaining all variations of entrepreneurial behaviour (Gartner, 1988; Ramoglou et al., 2020). An alternative approach has drawn on a cognitive lens, proposing that entrepreneurial behaviour is better understood in terms of how entrepreneurs think rather than who they are (Mitchell et al., 2007). This perspective has flourished into a number of dimensions of entrepreneurial thinking, including their how they reason under uncertainty and risk (Brockner et al., 2004; Jones and Casulli, 2014), how they solve problems and identify opportunities (DeTienne and Chandler, 2004; Welter et al., 2016), how they respond to positive or negative developments (Haynie et al., 2012), and how they handle failure (Cacciotti et al., 2016; Cardon et al., 2011; Cope, 2003, 2011).
Wider research on cross-cultural differences would suggest that many of the principles underpinning these concepts may not just sit uncomfortably in some countries, but may in particular contexts actually work against individuals and their entrepreneurial ambitions (Rarick and Han, 2015). Take, for instance, the concept of failure. Whilst this is celebrated and seen as a valuable learning opportunity in the US and the UK (Cope, 2003, 2011), in other contexts such public ‘humiliation’ can result in the loss of ‘face’ (Wang, 2012), ostracism by communities and, in the extreme, cause public stigma (Ucbasaran et al., 2013) and shame that may result in suicide (Lester, 1997; Yamasaki et al., 2004). As a result of these differing cultural perceptions on the skills and behaviours underpinned by mindset, it is critical to understand how such cultural beliefs also shape perceptions of the value of EE built on the principles of an entrepreneurial thinking (mindset). Not only may this educational approach be of lower perceived value in some contexts, critically it may not be considered relevant or useful by students seeking training and support in entrepreneurship.
There is thus a significant – and timely – need to challenge the dominant assumption that the principles of the entrepreneurial mindset, as currently conceived by Western EE education, have universal appeal and application.
With support from the MBA office at the University of Strathclyde, the successful candidate will be facilitated in accessing a ‘sampling frame’ of over 500 MBA participants across eight different geographical contexts (subject to participants’ consent).
An indicative timeline for the PhD project is outlined below:
Year 1: Literature research and review; meetings with relevant stakeholders (e.g. MBA office; international MBA centres). Regular supervisory sessions. Research Methods training as part of Strathclyde Business School as well as Entrepreneurial Mindset classes in the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship as well as at other world leading institution. Design of data collection instrument.
Year 2: Implement Phase 1 of data collection and analyse data; establish principles for Phase 2 ‘real time’ data collection; collate and analyse Phase 2 data; develop Phase 3 interview protocol based on Phase 2 findings; complete Phase 3 interviews.
Year 3: Transcribe and code Phase 3 interviews; analyse the full data set; develop a full draft of the thesis; begin dissemination of findings to stakeholders; prepare research paper for submission to relevant conferences and journals.
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