Reference : Venture Creation Intentions and Midlife Crisis
Scientific congresses and symposiums : Unpublished conference
Business & economic sciences : Strategy & innovation
Venture Creation Intentions and Midlife Crisis
Heuer, Annamaria mailto [Université de Liège - ULg > HEC-Ecole de gestion de l'ULg > HEC-Ecole de gestion de l'ULg >]
Surlemont, Bernard mailto [Université de Liège - ULg > HEC - Ecole de gestion de l'ULg > Gestion internationale - Entrepreneuriat >]
XXII-Research in Entrepreneurship and Small Business
November 20-21, 2008
[en] Entrepreneurial intentions ; Theory of Planned Behaviour ; Age ; Midlife
[en] Aim of the paper
This paper aims to analyse the relationship between life stages and the drivers of venture creation intention and, hence, the venture creation. The objective is to analyse the extent to which the single-minded focus of most policy measures on early adult population to spur intention is not understating the importance of adapting the approach to specific life stages of the target population.
Using different conceptualisations of age biological, psychological, organisational and life span related , we will take here a closer look at the midlife age cluster, centred around the 35th year.
Contribution to the literature
Numerous studies have applied models based on cognition research to understand entrepreneurial intentions and the factors that impact them (e.g. Autio et al., 2001; Kolvereid, 1996; Krueger, Reilly and Carsrud, 2000; Kristiansen and Indarti, 2004). However, besides a few exceptions, such as Douglas and Shepherd (2002) or Davidsson (1995), most scholars have conducted their studies on university students, due to their advantages as sample, like easier information access and homogeneity of population. Not much attention has been paid to the potential influence of the life-stage factor and its potential impact on policy formulation.
Taking a chronological age perspective, Levinson (1986) proposed that there is an “underlying order in human life course”, no matter what occupation or background people have. He conceived life as a sequence of eras, each of them with a specific biopsychosocial character and each of them contributing to the whole life cycle. Major changes of life characteristics occur in the cross-era transition, but also within a life stage.
According to this approach, every life stage has tasks to be accomplished (Levinson et al., 1978). From an entrepreneurship perspective, it is especially interesting to introduce this model by taking a closer look at stages of “Early adulthood” (age c. 20-40).
“Early adult transition” (age c. 17-22) for instance is characterised by reflections about one’s own place in the world independent from the institutions of youth (parents, school…). It is also about testing one’s initial choices about preferences for the adult life. This is in line with the “impressionable years” hypothesis, which is based on the notion that key attitudes, beliefs, and values are of great plasticity during the early adult years (Sears, 1975; Visser et al., 1998), while suggesting that susceptibility to change in attitude falls sharply after early adult years and stays on a low level for the rest of the life cycle.
These attitudes, beliefs and values build an essential pillar of intentions, and are thus relevant for the study of entrepreneurial intentions. A vast quantity of policies trying to foster entrepreneurship usually target the “Early adult transition” cluster, arguing that entrepreneurial intention is created at this stage, even though, it is rather the entrepreneurial attitude that comes into existence at this point.
Another remarkable and relevant milestone of Levinson’s life stage development model is linked to the age of c. 29 to 33, called “Thirties transition”, and which is dealing with the evaluation of the accomplishments of the twenties and the adjustments to the adopted life structure. It is a time characterised by instability and change, in which it is to be expected that commitment and satisfaction will remain low: for instance, individuals at this era will express greater intentions to leave their company (Ornstein et al., 1989), and possibly, to create one. This may provide another explanation to why it is observed that the age for new venture creation is around 35 years.
Given that entrepreneurial activity does not only depend on the desirability and feasibility of entrepreneurship, but also upon the desirability and feasibility of employment (Kolvereid, 1996b), this could help to explain the increased levels of early-stage entrepreneurship in this age-cluster, and is leading to the following questions:
(i) If potential entrepreneurs in their thirties are much more susceptible to change, and considering the aging population and the expected increase of retirement age in the western world the economic importance of “older” entrepreneur’s is likely to increase (Weber, 2004), why then not stimulate them more?
(ii) If attitude gets more rigid with age, is applying the same policy strategies to “younger” and “older” potential entrepreneurs really the most efficient approach, or are, this way, policy-makers failing to stimulate a part of the population?
(iii) If policy-making is about trying to sell an idea and make the population buy it, why are we then ignoring basic marketing segmentation strategies?
In order to provide to our knowledge the first more holistic picture of possible adult development related impacts on entrepreneurial intention, we will proceed in a rather systematic way by choosing different perspectives of aging such as chronological, psychological and organisational, focusing on and around the “midlife” age cluster.
This paper is conceptual in nature, transferring important ideas from adult-development studies to the domain of entrepreneurship. Through our argumentation we will show that an in-depth analysis, in form of comparative studies, of aging-related changes of the factors determining intention is timely.
To date, there has been only sporadic, short argumentation for aging-related changes of intentional antecedents, such as “organisational age” impacting perceived behavioural control or life-span age impacting how to bear the uncertainty of income from self-employment activity (Shane, 2003). We will provide a more rigorous review of this problematic, and by that hope to contribute to a better understanding of sometimes ambiguous details of study outcomes.
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