Entrepreneurial intention is the internal motivation and positive perception of starting a business. Theoretically, it is understood that high individual entrepreneurial intention leads to higher probability of starting a new venture. Azjen’s (2002) Theory of Planned Behaviour suggests that intention for a certain behaviour is directly related to the probability of exhibiting the actual behaviour. For entrepreneurship, this implies that the more an individual wants to become an entrepreneur and sees this behaviour or career path as attractive, the more likely the that the individual will become an entrepreneur and start their own venture.
This means that the ability to measure the presence of entrepreneurial intention enables organisations such as the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation to identify which individuals exhibit high levels of intention and how this changes throughout their entrepreneurial journey. However, more importantly than measuring current entrepreneurial intention is understanding how one is able to influence and improve entrepreneurial intention. As per the Theory of Planned Behaviour, intention is determined by various factors as shown in Figure 1 and described below:
- Subjective norms – including what the people who are close to you including friends and family think of the behaviour
- Personal attitudes or attractions – referring to whether one personally thinks the behaviour is positive or negative and the potential consequences of the behaviour
- Perceived behaviour control – referring to one’s personal capabilities in relation to the behaviour.
Additional research has built on these antecedents to include:
- Personality – including aspects of optimism, innovativeness, appetite for risk taking, self efficacy, need for achievement, proactiveness and an internal locus of control
- Family background – including familial remodelling of entrepreneurship
- Social environment factors – including the influence of different cultural practices on an individuals’ desire to become an entrepreneur
- Economic and political conditions – including the laws and practices of a country as well as existing economic opportunities within the country.
- Entrepreneurial education and training – although studies have showed mixed results in terms of shifting entrepreneurial intention and Ozaralli et all emphasise the need to educate individuals for entrepreneurship rather than about entrepreneurship.
It must of course be noted that these are not an exclusive list of contributing factors to entrepreneurial intention, nor that these factors cannot be overcome – but that they can create barriers or bridges for individuals in their entrepreneurial journeys.
Figure 1: Suggested Theory of Planned Behaviour model for Entrepreneurial Intention
As noted, although measurement presents the opportunity to gauge intention among individuals, Theory of Planned Behaviour suggests ways of developing entrepreneurial intention – which becomes invaluable to entrepreneurial development initiatives. Research suggests that key ways of influencing and developing entrepreneurial intention lie in:
- Exposing individuals to entrepreneurial education and training to enhance their perceptions of their ability and behaviour control,
- Exposing individuals to other cultures to enhance innovative thinking and introduce a variety cultural values that encourage entrepreneurship,
- Exposing individuals to new experiences to enhance cognitive diversity and creativity,
- Minimising perceived barriers to entry through advocacy and education around economic and political conditions.
Entrepreneurial intention at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation
The Foundation recognises the importance of entrepreneurial intention within the Scholars, Candidate Fellows and Fellows community. Entrepreneurial intention and the value thereof is measured and developed differently throughout the programme.
At Scholarship level the focus is on emphasising the importance of an entrepreneurial mindset and giving Scholars an understanding of what entrepreneurship can look like outside of expected conventions. The Foundation understands that during the Scholarship phase, individuals are learning about their own passions and future career paths rather than already committing to one. Despite this, the Scholarship’s 2016 Grade 10, 11 and 12 cohorts showed an 87% favourable response to their intentions to become entrepreneurs within the next 10 to 15 years.
At Fellowship level the presence of entrepreneurial intention is more important for selection into the programme. It is highly desirable, if not necessary, for Candidate Fellows and ultimately Fellows to show high levels of entrepreneurial intention. The programme develops entrepreneurial intention actively through the Fellowship’s entrepreneurial development programme.
At Association level, encouraging entrepreneurial actualisation in individuals who self report low levels of entrepreneurial intention could become challenging, where motivating and developing intention becomes more and more difficult.
It can be argued that some success stories have become entrepreneurs without consciously choosing their path. However, the concept of entrepreneurial intention and theory of planned behaviour suggests that planned behaviour, such as career choices, are based on deliberate and conscious decisions and informed by our personal circumstances and history, our perceived attractiveness of the possibility and our estimated ability to achieve. This suggests that ultimately, a minimum benchmark for entrepreneurial intention must be present at entry into the Fellowship programme, which can in turn be nurtured and cultivated during the four years in the programme. Conversely, an absence of entrepreneurial intention will lead to overwhelming barriers at the Association phase. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is committed to further research to formalise internal targets for benchmarks as well as enhance measurement tools of entrepreneurial intention.
Ajzen, I. (2002). Perceived behavioral control, self-efficacy, locus of control, and the theory of planned behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32, 1–20.
Ozaralli N., & Nancy K. Rivenburgh, N.K., 2016. Entrepreneurial intention: antecedents to entrepreneurial behavior in the U.S.A. and Turkey. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (6:3). Accessed at https://journal-jger.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40497-016-0047-x
Peng, Z., Lu, G., & Kang, H., 2012. Entrepreneurial intentions and its influencing factors: A survey of university students in Xi’an China. Scientific Research (Vol 3: p. 95 – 100). Accessed at http://file.scirp.org/pdf/CE_2013011710020463.pdf
Remeikiene, R., Startiene, G., & Dumciuviene, D., 2013. Explaining entrepreneurial intention of university students: The role of entrepreneurial education. Management, Knowledge and Learning International Conference 2013. Accessed at http://www.toknowpress.net/ISBN/978-961-6914-02-4/papers/ML13-258.pdf