Entrepreneurship and learning styles (Kolb, 1984)

The creation of valuable services and goods depend of why, when, and how an opportunity can be captured (Venkataraman, 1997). Opportunity recognition, therefore, is central to the domain of entrepreneurship research. Opportunity recognition has been defined as the ability to identify a good idea and transform it into a business concept that adds value and generate revenues (Lumpkin and Lichtenstein, 2005). Different types of prior knowledge affect the manner in which people recognize opportunities. Special interest knowledge, general industry knowledge, prior knowledge of markets, prior knowledge of customer problems, and knowledge of ways to serve a specific market will all increase the likelihood of opportunity recognition (Ardichvili et al., 2003).
Using Kolb’s theory of learning, Corbett (2007) researched cognitive abilities to identify opportunities. Using data collected from 380 technology professionals, Corbett tested whether people that learn through experience show differences recognizing opportunities with people who learn through conceptualization. The manner in which people learn was captured using a normative version of Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory. The inventory rates 24 independent statements regarding people preferred manner of information acquisition determining whether the learning acquisition mode is either apprehension (learning through concrete experience) or comprehension (learning through abstract conceptualization). Results showed that what matter most is what the entrepreneur does with the knowledge s/he receives. It is not just what people know but the process through which people acquire and combine new information. Corbett found that two people with high levels of specific human capital can differ in recognizing opportunities. Implication of Corbett’s finding advice educators that opportunity recognition is not only related with knowledge of a specific industry but also with the ability to creatively shape solutions to human needs. Before Corbett, Baron and Ward (2004) also demonstrated, in term of information processing and combination, that individuals that have a preference for intention outperform those with a preference for extension. Recall that, according to Kolb (1984), individuals who favor intention are primarily concerned with avoiding failure and those who favor extension ignore failure and focus on maximizing success. Individuals who favor extension examine many alternatives and look for more than one answer.
In the same way that specific human capital and information acquisition (apprehension or comprehension) affect the discovery of opportunities, the manner in which an individual transform and combines exiting knowledge also affect opportunity identification (Corbett, 2007). In order to discover opportunities not only is necessary to know the industry and the market but also possess the cognitive abilities to combine the information and identify the opportunity (Shane & Venkataramen, 2000).
If some learning styles are more prone to facilitate entrepreneurial action then entrepreneurship educators will need to design learning environment to foster those styles. The issue for teaching entrepreneurship is how much of one’s learning style is genetic and how much is learned. It seems that much of what the school system teach is still designed to introduce children to the industrial discipline, grooming them with rigid schedules and repetitive work for life in a factory (Toffler, 2006). These learning strategies are more prone to create individuals primarily concerned with avoiding failure (intention paradigm). If the way we approach information and knowledge depend on paradigms learned at home and school, entrepreneurship educators will need to work on unlearn those paradigms and embrace the ones that are more compatible with entrepreneurial action.

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