Mo­ti­vat­ing en­tre­pre­neur­ial be­hav­iour

Finweek English Edition - - Communication & Technology -

Al­though South Africa has one of the high­est lev­els of un­em­ploy­ment in the world, it also has one of the low­est lev­els of en­tre­pre­neur­ial be­hav­iour. In fact, ac­cord­ing to the 2006 Global En­trepreneur­ship Mon­i­tor (GEM) Re­port, South Africa has a very low level of en­tre­pre­neur­ial be­hav­iour even when com­pared to other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

Re­search un­der­taken by Bren­dan le Grange for his GIBS MBA the­sis shows that pro­grammes aimed at en­cour­ag­ing en­trepreneur­ship rarely con­sider mo­ti­va­tion as a vi­tal in­gre­di­ent for the suc­cess­ful cre­ation of new ven­tures. In South Africa this is im­por­tant be­cause long-term un­em­ploy­ment can re­duce a would-be en­tre­pre­neur’s mo­ti­va­tion to start a new ven­ture. While short, un­ex­pected pe­ri­ods of un­em­ploy­ment can ac­tu­ally en­cour­age en­trepreneur­ship, long pe­ri­ods do not.

Le Grange’s re­search ex­am­ined the value that un­em­ployed in­di­vid­u­als place on self­em­ploy­ment, their per­cep­tion of the level of risk in­volved in en­trepreneur­ship and the de­gree to which, if at all, they pre­ferred struc­tured en­vi­ron­ments to un­struc­tured ones. Al­though the re­spon­dents were ex­clu­sively looking for for­mal em­ploy­ment, it was found that a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of them would ac­tu­ally pre­fer to be self-em­ployed.

This dis­con­nect be­tween the de­sires of this group and their ac­tions would have been ex­plained had the group felt in­com­pe­tent or un­qual­i­fied to pur­sue en­trepreneur­ship. How­ever, while it is true that self-em­ploy­ment was viewed as dif­fi­cult and risky, 80% of re­spon­dents were con­fi­dent in their abil­ity to pur­sue it as a ca­reer path. The dis­con­nect would also have been ex­plained had the group lacked ac­cess to the cap­i­tal they needed to start a new ven­ture. Again how­ever, this did not ap­pear to be a ma­jor fac­tor since few mem­bers of the group were pur­su­ing em­ploy­ment to build cap­i­tal re­serves or had ever ac­tively sought fund­ing. Where the abil­ity and op­por­tu­nity to act ex­ist but no action takes place, a lack of mo­ti­va­tion is usu­ally the cause.

Ex­ces­sive lev­els of un­em­ploy­ment are not only a symp­tom of slow eco­nomic growth, but also a po­ten­tial cause of it. When a pop­u­la­tion is not gain­fully em­ployed it loses com­pet­i­tive­ness, on-the-job learn­ing and skills de­vel­op­ment and work ex­pe­ri­ence. In an in­di­vid­ual, con­sis­tently un­suc­cess­ful job searches can lead to lower ex­pec­ta­tions for the fu­ture and a lower sense of self-ef­fi­cacy, which in turn de­stroy the mo­ti­va­tion to cre­ate new ven­tures. This is true even when the goal of self-em­ploy­ment is seen as an at­trac­tive op­tion.

How­ever, le Grange’s re­search sug­gests that mo­ti­va­tion can be re-built or that where in­ter­nal mo­ti­va­tion is lack­ing it can be re­placed by ex­ter­nal mo­ti­va­tion. Pos­i­tive feed­back and a se­ries of small suc­cesses can be used to re­verse the psy­cho­log­i­cal dam­age caused by long-term un­em­ploy­ment. There are two the­o­ries which cover an in­di­vid­ual’s mo­ti­va­tion to pur­sue a goal, namely goalset­ting the­ory and self-determination the­ory. Goal-set­ting the­ory posits that all con­sciously-mo­ti­vated be­hav­iour is goal-ori­ented and that the achieve­ment of th­ese goals is con­tin­gent upon feed­back, com­mit­ment, abil- ity and task com­plex­ity. Self-determination the­ory states that mo­ti­va­tion can be ini­ti­ated in­ter­nally or ex­ter­nally, how­ever in­ter­nally reg­u­lated mo­ti­va­tion leads to a deeper com­mit­ment and the de­sire to go be­yond the con­fines of the tasks spec­i­fied in the goal.

There­fore, even where a goal is set by an ex­ter­nal agent it can be as mo­ti­vat­ing as a goal set by the in­di­vid­ual her­self – pro­vided it is com­mu­ni­cated cor­rectly, comes from a le­git­i­mate source and is in­ter­nalised. All of th­ese fac­tors com­bine to pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant rea­sons for de­vel­op­ing struc­tured pro­grammes that mo­ti­vate peo­ple to pur­sue en­trepreneur­ship.

This res­onates with the re­search where the ma­jor fac­tor hold­ing back the wouldbe en­trepreneurs was, in fact, found to be a strong pref­er­ence for struc­ture in the work place. The ma­jor­ity of would-be en­trepreneurs pre­ferred struc­tured work en­vi­ron­ments, pre­ferred fol­low­ing in­struc­tions rather than giv­ing them and pre­ferred tackling mul­ti­ple small tasks rather than sin­gle large ones.

Pro­grammes aimed at de­vel­op­ing en­trepreneur­ship there­fore need to pro­vide a struc­tured for­mat that will lead new en­trepreneurs through the early stages of ex­plo­ration, start-up and growth. The psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits of pos­i­tive feed­back and the achieve­ment of mul­ti­ple, small goals would over­come the psy­cho­log­i­cal dam­age caused by long pe­ri­ods of un­em­ploy­ment.

Should th­ese in­sights be ap­plied by in­sti­tu­tions such as the Depart­ment of Labour, the new ap­proach could go a long way in pro­mot­ing en­tre­pre­neur­ial mo­ti­va­tion and sub­se­quently en­tre­pre­neur­ial action, thereby low­er­ing the over­whelm­ing num­ber of un­em­ployed in South Africa.

New ap­proach could lower un­em­ploy­ment.

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