Entrepreneurial Competence Development : Triggers, Processes & Consequences

Abstract: This dissertation, comprised of the cover story and the four separate but interrelated articles, focuses on exploring the development of entrepreneurial competence. Building on the assumption that purposeful engagement in entrepreneurial action potentially leads to the acquisition of specific entrepreneurial competencies, this thesis investigates the mechanisms facilitating and enabling entrepreneurs’ acquisition of entrepreneurial expertise, and the consequences of this process. As such, it unpacks the entrepreneurial learning process. In particular, building on Bandura’s (1986) social  cognitive theory (SCT), this study explores the role of deeply held beliefs, goal orientation and social networks (role models) in shaping entrepreneurs’ behavior, specifically their ability to create new means-ends frameworks (cf. Sarasvathy, 2001). The research included in this dissertation provides insight into the complexity of entrepreneurial competence development by connecting multiple theoretical perspectives, utilizing two different qualitative datasets situated in the context of gourmet restaurateurs and abductively building theory by developing explanations of the phenomenon of interest. This is one of the first attempts to open the ‘black box’ of entrepreneurial learning by simultaneously incorporating the contextual variables and the cognitive properties and practices of entrepreneurs in exploring their learning process. By combining SCT with entrepreneurship theory, the thesis develops an integrating model of entrepreneurial competence development that explains the relation between the preferred learning mode, action-control beliefs, the perceived role identity and role models. The findings suggest that attainment of entrepreneurial competence, and ultimately expertise, is facilitated by changes in action-control beliefs; and by the development of entrepreneurial identity. The findings also suggest that the role model’s perceived function changes depending on the entrepreneur’s goal orientation. Thus, one of the most important implications of the study is the idea that entrepreneurs need to become agents of their own development. Overall, this dissertation provides an explanation of the mechanisms of entrepreneurial competence development by suggesting that changing action-control beliefs and the formation of entrepreneurial identity are crucial in the development of entrepreneurial competence. In addition, access to role models and learning goal orientation facilitate this process.