Entrepreneurial Identity Construction - what does existing literature tell us?
Paper in proceedings, 2012
Objectives. Research in entrepreneurship education maps the competencies, skills and knowledge necessary for entrepreneurship (Bager 2011; Jones 2010; Mwasalwiba 2010; Sánchez 2011), exploring whether the skills taught are applicable to entrepreneurial practice (Edelman et al. 2008). However, entrepreneurial learning has not addressed how identity construction may be integrated with individual competency development for entrepreneurial action. Sveningsson and Alvesson (2003) emphasize that identity is central to meaning, motivation, decision-making, and other activities that can be seen as critical for entrepreneurial action. Building from a review of literature, the article explores research addressing entrepreneurship and identity, focusing on processes for identity construction. The aim of the exploration is to identify processes of entrepreneurial identity construction that can be applied to entrepreneurship education.
Prior work. There exists literature regarding identity and entrepreneurship, but limited publications of these areas in combination. In particular, nothing has been proposed regarding the process by which nascent entrepreneurs construct identity.
Approach. The key terms ‘identity’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ were used in a database search using Scopus, restricting to published articles within the social sciences/humanities. Of the resulting 161 articles, 26 were selected for further analysis, based upon relevancy to the research question. Common themes were identified.
Results. Many of the articles reviewed present identity as a fixed state of existence, resulting in categorizations of entrepreneurial identities (Lähteenmäki 1997; Melin 2001; Vesalainen and Pihkala 2000). These categories include entrepreneurial identity as it relates to ethnicity, gender, careers, and the family framework, and not method or process of construction. A small portion of the literature reviewed discusses themes such as narrative and storytelling as means towards shaping an entrepreneurial identity. Of these, some also propose entrepreneurial identity as constructed in the situation (Down and Warren 2008; Hytti 2003; Johansson 2004) and through socialization (Falck et al. 2010; Rigg and O'Dwyer 2012), but the question how entrepreneurial identity is constructed in the educational process has not significantly explored in the literature.
Implications. A review of the literature illustrates existing knowledge gaps regarding entrepreneurial identity and areas requiring additional investigation regarding entrepreneurial identity construction. This informs areas for future research while also contributing to a consolidation of entrepreneurial identity construction.
Value. An understanding of entrepreneurial identity and identity construction can allow for development of entrepreneurial capacity through learning and training programs. This can have an impact on the amount of entrepreneurial activity in a society, contributing to employment opportunities, new products/services, and other outcomes of entrepreneurship.