The creative entrepreneur
: a study of the entrepreneur's creative processes

  • Robert Beattie

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The aim of the research was to increase the understanding of how the entrepreneur’s process of creativity began and evolved by determining how ideas and opportunities were discovered, recognised and harnessed prior to the advent of entrepreneurship.
There appeared to be a shortage of appropriate research studies into the entrepreneur’s creative processes, describing how it began and evolved over time. There also appeared to be few studies that attempted to describe how entrepreneurs discovered their ideas, harnessed them, and converted them into opportunities. It would seem that the majority of the empirical research studies on the subject have focused upon managers and founders of companies compared to studies involving nascent entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs.
The objective of the research study was to provide a new synthesis of the research literature in order to create a framework that described the key cognitive processes and personal attributes that were involved in the entrepreneurs’ search and evolution of their ideas. The content and elements of the framework were then compared with the context of the entrepreneurs’ personal histories in order that generic themes could be identified. After a period of one year, further interviews were held with the entrepreneurs in order to monitor any changes to the processes involved.
The research began with a review of existing literature relating to the entrepreneur and entrepreneurship. A selective review of the historical research literature on the entrepreneur was followed by an appraisal of some of the entrepreneurs’ attitudes and behaviour patterns. This provided a thumbnail sketch of each entrepreneur, his or her origins, and what he or she did. This was followed by a description of what might be construed as a typical nascent entrepreneur. This description detailed the process from the ‘learning phase’ to the ‘triggering event’ that caused such a dramatic change in his or her career path, i.e. the critical incident that set off a mental chain reaction within the nascent entrepreneur that led to the establishment of his or her entrepreneurial intentions.
A review of the research literature concerning the focal theory of the research objectives led to an in-depth appraisal of what is meant by ‘creativity’ and ‘cognitive processes’. The difficulties of researching such subjective actions are shared by previous research literature.
The creative variables were then brought together in a number of phases contained in the discovery and evolution processes. The process was then followed through the discovery phase, stressing the importance of the prepared mind to the birth of the idea. The various thinking and analytical processes involved in the evolution of an idea into an opportunity were discussed in the context of an entrepreneur’s core attributes and beliefs. The focal theory review concluded with a framework of the elements appertaining to the research objectives that had been derived from the research literature. The structure and elements of the framework were then compared with the relevant data from the field research study. A number of research questions arose from the key issues raised in the research literature.These concerned, having a prepared mind, happenstance, intuition, self-belief, values, visualisation and goal setting.
The sample of the population chosen for the research study comprised fifty Scottish entrepreneurs of both sexes and varying sizes of company, ages of business, turnover and number of employees. The companies with whom entrepreneurs were involved covered various industries and activities.
Following the guidance obtained from the research literature, in-depth interviews were carried out. A number of the entrepreneurs interviewed were subjected to a follow-up meeting after one year, in order to monitor any further developments and changes to the themes identified from the first interviews, and to provide the research with a further means of validation. An opportunity was taken at the meeting to share with the entrepreneurs the preliminary findings arising from the previous interviews.
The interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed, and data was computerised. The data was then subjected to content analysis, as was the secondary information obtained from publications, newspaper articles and other case studies.
The research findings identified many generic themes among the entrepreneurs, particularly in the area described as the discovery and evolution phases of the creative process. A high percentage of entrepreneurs also had beliefs and attitudes that were similar to their business philosophy. The findings supported a number of theories that have been outlined previously in the research literature, as well as confirming many of the traits, characteristics and behaviours attributed to being entrepreneurial.
The findings of the research confirmed that many of the entrepreneurial ideas occurred serendipitously, and the use of visualisation and rehearsal techniques was considered by many to be invaluable in the creative process. Goal setting also appeared to provide essential stepping stones to the monitoring and attainment of many successful outcomes, particularly in the evolution stage. The structure and elements of the framework of the process of creation appeared to be well supported by the majority of the entrepreneurs interviewed.
Recommendations are made as to how the adoption of some of the research findings could assist in the encouragement and advancement of an enterprise learning culture, and the establishment of a ‘can-do’ attitude towards enterprise creation.
Date of AwardOct 1999
Original languageEnglish

Cite this