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It’s All in Your Head: Why We Need Neuroentrepreneurship. It will be 1 page and it will be single space.
Dialog It’s All in Your Head: Why We Need Neuroentrepreneurship Journal of Management Inquiry 2014, Vol 23(1) 93-97 © The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/1056492613485913 jmi.sagepub.com Pablo Martin de Holán Abstract In this article, we argue that entrepreneurship researchers would benefit from incorporating methods and technologies from the neurosciences. Many of the phenomena studied in entrepreneurship scholarship invoke the mind of the entrepreneur, and these can be best understood with the emerging technologies used to understand the brain and its works, particularly those that study entrepreneurial cognition and emotion. Keywords Neuroscience and management, neuroentrepreneurship, entrepreneurial cognition The brain is central to the human condition: Our brains allow us to think, feel, and act, and thanks to our brain we are able to experience life. Nothing that happens to us and nothing we do can be isolated from otir brain and its functioning (Seung, 2012): A body may survive its brain, but when our brain dies, and as writer Jorge Luis Borges famously claimed, our “uni- verse disappears” and our organs can be harvested legally (Lock, 2002).’ It is only very recently that we have hegun to comprehend how the brain works, and otir most important organ, at least in cognitive terms, remains one of the least understood (Alivisatos et al., 2013). Consequently, many of the concepts which we would like to explain in entrepreneurship research can be explained only very poorly with the instruments we use now: We are trying to explain something that happens in the mind with tools that capture only very partially, and sometimes in a biased way, what the brain does. Entrepreneurship researchers, however, seem to love the mind and its workings. Consequently, they have focused on entrepreneurs’ cognition (R. K. Mitchell et al., 2002), knowl- edge (Shane, 2000), intuition (J. R. Mitchell, Friga, & Mitchell, 2005), and mind-sets (Haynie, Shepherd, Mosakowski, & Earley, 2010) among many other phenomena that take place within the human mind. Yet, for want of a tool that would allows us to see how the mind works, we are focusing on what entrepreneurs are or have (attributes), or what they do (behav- iors), instead of what they think, how they think, and of course why they think the way they do and how they came to think that way. Furthermore, in contrast with other disciplines that are now going as far as “predict(ing) human behavior during social interaction before the interacting partner commtinicates a specific decision” by decoding brain states from the tempo- ral and spatial patterns using real-time functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) data (Holhnann et al, 2011 ; see also Haynes & Rees, 2006), entrepreneurship lags behind in the adoption of new tools and methodologies, depriving us of the possibility of conducting research that can vastly contribute to otu- under- standing of many dimensions of entreprenetirship. Consider a recent article in a leading journal titled “From Minds to Markets” which focuses on entrepreneurial creativ- ity (Gruber, MacMillan, & Thompson, 2012). In this article, the authors find that higher educational level and relevant experience lead to superior identification of market opportu- nities. Yet, methodological limitations prevent the authors from examining how the entrepreneur’s mind actually trans- forms prior knowledge and experience into decisions, or how that knowledge may or may not lead to actions, felicitous or otherwise. A natural extension of the study would be to study how these entrepreneurs do or do not use their experience to make such decisions with the tools of netiroscience, fulfilling the authors’ original ambition of understanding how something that resides in the mind allows some persons, sometimes, to do certain things better than other persons. It is a shame to have an emerging tool that does precisely that and not use it. Neuroscience for the Social Scientist Neuroscience is just beginning to make an impact on the social sciences. We do not have a complete topology of the human brain and we still do not understand how we go from brain functioning to consciousness, or from experience to ‘EMLYON, Ecully, France Corresponding Author: Pablo Martin de Holán, EMLYON, 23 Avenue Guy de Collongue, 69134 Ecully, France. Email: [email protected] 94 Journal of Management Inquiry 23(1) memory, among other mysteries (Alivisatos et al, 2013). Furthermore, and in spite of the importance of leaming, for- getting, memory, and memory errors for life in general and social sciences in particular, “there is no convincing account of the overall process by which … memories are encoded in the brain, stored, and then retrieved” (Cookson, 2012, p. 11). Neuroscience is helping to change some ofthat by provid- ing a better understanding of the brain and how it works. As has been the case with medicine in general, progress began with case studies of pathologies, accidental or disease-gener- ated (Damasio, Grabowski, Frank, Galaburda, & Damasio, 1994; Ratiu, Talos, Haker, Lieberman, & Everett, 2004, and before that, Bigelow, 1850, and Brocea, 1861). Scientists had to make inferences from extreme cases (Doidge, 2007) and constmct theories of human reasoning and behavior from explicit manifestations such as actions or words, making par- tial and incomplete inferences about our human essence: people as maximizers, satisficers, guided by “invisible hands,” alienation, “animal spirits,” “revealed preferences,” or habitus, among many others. Even today, for most of our theories, the brain is a small, impenetrable black box (Sacks, 1985). Improvements in technology have helped develop a better understanding of the brain, both stmcturally and functionally (Iacoboni, 2009; Kaas, Kmbitzer, Chino; Langston, Polley, & Blair. 1990; Rapoport & Gogtay, 2007; Sanes & Donoghue 2000). Early technologies made it possible to see stmctural dysfunctions in the topology and stmcture of the brain, while more recent ones focused on complex functions. Today, sev- eral technologies for studying the brain are available,^ but these can be roughly subsumed into two general families that are preferred because they do not require injecting substances into the body or destroying parts of it: fMRI, which aims to measure brain activity through changes in blood flow and oxygen in the blood, and elecfroencephalography (EEG) which measures changes in electrical activity of the brain over a period of time. (For an introductory explanation see Camerer, Loewenstein, & Prelec, 2005.) Both technological families, in isolation or combined (Laufs et al., 2003), allow researchers to observe brain activity as it happens, leading to thought-provoking findings that have challenged many theo- ries and taken-for-granted assumptions. Neuroscience-inspired studies of decision making, for example, both baseline and in speciflc and sometimes unusual circumstances such as detecting sarcasm or lies (Shany-Ur et al, 2012), after bad amorous breakups (Najib, Lorberbaum, Kose, Bohning, & George, 2004), in contexts of social rejection (Eisenberger, Lieberman, & Williams, 2003), and when negotiating (Hollmann et al, 2011), have shown that the decisions we make are heavily influenced by circumstances as varied as one’s mood, the temperature, or whether one has an ache or not. This variability in decision making challenges a central pillar of classic economics, especially when it postulates that human interactions are the result of careflilly evaluated processes of decision making whose observation reveals individual preferences that are stable over time. These premises have been challenged (Glimcher, 2010) by three findings of neuroscience: evi- dence showing the brain is constmcted to support automatic processes which happen faster than conscious deliberations, rather than continuous calculation of preferences (Bargh, Chaiken, Raymond, & Hymes, 1996); evidence that the brain constantly eliminates signals from the environment to func- tion and overlooks evidence that contradicts prior beliefs; and findings showing that the brain is easily fooled by emo- tional states, which prevent it from making fully rational decisions (Camerer et al, 2005). With these tools, we are seeing what the brain “is really trying to do” instead of what we think it should do (Camerer et al., 2005) Entrepreneurship and Neuroscience Compared with other social sciences, entrepreneurship research has been slow to adopt (and adapt) these tools, for three reasons at least. First, there is an inconfrovertible need to build research teams that are truly multidisciplinary (including scientists used to dealing with the specificities of these data and technicians who know how to operate these machines), with all the complexities inherent to it. Then, the novelty and complexity of the technologies, and of course of the brain itself, which obliges researchers to ride steep leam- ing curves to translate research questions into meaningful studies. Finally, the cost: Using EEG is expensive, and using fMRI prohibitively so, even if the machine itself has already been bought. Yet, and in spite of all these difficulties, the insights to be gained could be superlative. For example, we know that prior knowledge is important to entrepreneurs (Shane, 2000), but knowing exactly how that knowledge is stored, retrieved, and mobilized would make our findings much stronger. Is all knowledge important? Is knowledge acquired from tmsted sources mobilized more often than knowledge from distant ones? Consider what could be done if we reconciled Shane’s (2000) view with that of LaBar and Cabeza (2006), who argue that emotional memories are “retrieved with an accom- panying sense of recollection rather than familiarity,” which probably influences the way they are used by entrepreneurs when scanning or exploiting opportunities, or Shiv, Loewenstein, Bechara, Damasio, and Damasio (2005), who suggest that emotional states lead to worse decisions, includ- ing, probably, opportunity exploitation. Think about the possibilities of linking emotional states and entrepreneurial activity and outcomes. A similar case could be made for Foo’s (2011) recent work on emotions and opportunity recognition (among many other research pro- grams that involve entrepreneurial cognition) because, we believe, neuroscience is a natural companion for entrepre- neurship research, not just a “cool tool” to play with. Consider the recent and well-constmcted paper on “the search for new research opportunities in entrepreneurship.” Martin de Holán 95 In it, the authors convincingly argue that an important research avenue needs to deal with the fact that “certain cog- nitive factors may differentiate entrepreneurs from non- entrepreneurs” (Hoskisson, Covin, Volberda, & Johnson, 2011, p. 13). If that is the case, and we agree that it is, neuro- science is the tool to prove or falsify it, as it may help us to understand the mechanisms that operate in the mind of the entrepreneur, mechanisms we can only speculate about with our ctirrent tools. As far as we know, there is as yet no published study that tries to understand any of the dimensions of entrepreneurship (e.g., opportunity recognition, entrepreneurial orientation, etc.) using neuroseientifie methodologies, technologies, and tools, and the few that are relevant to our field of study were initiated by neuroscientists, psychologists, economists, or marketing scientists among others, and were obviously designed and framed with their research questions in mind. Consider how a study of brain functioning could contrib- ute to the ideas put forward by Shane and Venkataraman (2000) in their seminal paper, which suggests that the cir- cumstances that infiuence people to exploit an opportunity can be found in the opportunity itself. Or what the same type of study could do for Welpe, Spörrle, Grichnik, Michl, and Audretsch’s (2012) paper and research program, which con- vincingly argue that emotional states influence enfrepreneur- ial exploitation. We have not yet begun to explore what neuroseience can do for entrepreneurship, and we only know how little we know. As is widely acknowledged in the fleld, “entrepre- neurship has traditionally focused on opportunity recogni- tion” (Hoskisson et al., 2011), so it seems natural that this appears as an obvious early area of study. Specifically, what happens in the brain of an entrepreneur that allows him or her to recognize or eonstmct an opportunity, be resourceful, or do bricolage?’ Is the functioning of his or her brain supe- rior to other people’s, or just pathologically biased and impervious to the rather slim odds of success of most new ventures? Is entrepreneurial drive a manifestation of brain pathology? Is success in entrepreneurship related to the capacity to recognize an opportunity, or, as has recently been argued, the capacity to organize resources around that opportunity or to ignore reality? (Each, for example, involves different parts of the brain, different neuronal paths, and different skills, some of which are acquired.) Is successful entrepreneurship related to a superior ability to reason, or is it more a capacity to seduce people, or both, or neither? (Each involves different zones of the brain, and so perhaps physiological differences can explain heteroge- neous results.) And are these differences created? Can they be developed? Do entrepreneurs detect opportunities faster than other people? And if they do, are they more error prone? The possibilities are vast. It is otjr opinion that most of the research questions and avenues suggested by Hoskisson et al. (2011) can be better answered with neuroseientifie tools than with most of the tools we use now, and the answers we produce may well per- manently change the way we see the entrepreneur, the entre- prenetirial process, and entrepreneurial management in general. If, as Hoskisson et al. argue, we need more research on the microantecedents of innovation and performance, we cannot afford to keep ignoring the foundational microante- cedent of any human decision and action: our brain. Furthermore, extending this line of thought to other areas of management, we believe that all research dealing with cognition will benefit from neuroseientifie tools: Instead of examining the verbalization of thinking as a mechanism to see what is going on in the mind, we ean examine the mind itself as it is doing something, as it is being done elsewhere, for example, when we examine what happens in the mind of a person who is looking at something he or she considers beautiful or ugly (Cela-Conde et al., 2004) and that, without having to ask and therefore avoiding the issues of confusion, desirability, or oufright lies. Many, if not most, areas of man- agement research would benefit from the new possibilities afforded to us by these new tools. As is the case with any methodology used to study a social phenomenon and with anything our bounded ratio- nality can think about, both the tools that neuroseience uses and the way they are used are subject to limitations, biases, and boundary conditions (Eastman & Campbell, 2006; Vul, Harris, Winkielman, & Pashler, 2009). Neuroseience is not a solution to all of our research ques- tions, which are vaster than any simple methodology can capture and will benefit for a long time from multiple methods. Yet, not using a powerful research methodology is not a very good idea. We argue that neuroscienee can be beneficial to entrepre- neurship scholarship, both in allowing us to understand many facets of the practice of enterprising and those who carry it out, and by providing evidence that it can be developed and taught in our classrooms. This essay should be seen as an encouragement to fellow researchers to pay attention to the considerable possibilities opened to us by neuroseienee, and the unique chance to reshape our understanding of entrepre- neurship and the nature and work of the entrepreneur. Let’s embrace neuroentrepreneurship. Author’s Note The argument which we expound in this artiele, we believe, can and should be extended to management research in general, as insight- fully argued by the organizers and participants of the Symposium Neuroseience and Management Research at the Academy of Management Meetings 2011 and 2012. Due to obvious constraints, however, we will focus here on entrepreneurship alone. Declaration of Conflicting Interests The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. 96 Journal of Management Inquiry 23(1) Funding The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author- ship, and/or publication of this article. Notes 1. See part of the debate about the moment of death in Wijdicks (2002); Rady, Verheijde, and McGregor (2010); and Legislative Fact Sheet—”Determination of Death Act” (Uniform Law Commission). 2. For example. Computer axial tomography (CAT), Stmctural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), diffusion tensor-MRI (DTI), and, for brain activity, electroencephalography (EEG), positron emission tomography (PET), functional MRI (fMRI), pharmacological functional MRI (phMRI), transcranial mag- netic stimulation (TMS), among others. Among the most recent ones one finds connectomics and the Brain Activity Map, which aims to map the connections between neurons. 3. 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Author Biographies Pablo Martin de Holán is a full professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at EMLYON. His research deals with the unintended con- sequences of social action, and on the dynamics of knowledge cre- ation and deterioration. He has published in numerous academic {Management Science, Journal of Management Studies, Strategie Organization, Industrial and Corporate Change, etc.) and practitio- ner journals {Sloan Management Review, Financial Times, Harvard Business Review Latin Ameriea, etc.). His research linking neuro- science and entrepreneurship began in 2012, and aims to understand how the mind shapes entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial agency. Copyright ofJournal ofManagement Inquiryisthe property ofSage Publications Inc.andits content maynotbecopied oremailed tomultiple sitesorposted toalistserv without the copyright holder’sexpresswrittenpermission. However,usersmayprint, download, oremail articles forindividual use.

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