Eugene Sadler-Smith, Plymouth Business School,  UK.

Scholars have argued that as a distinctive section of the business community, entrepreneurs are likely to share some common characteristics (e.g.: Chell, Haworth and Brearley, 1991).  Previous research has included locus of control (e.g.: Furnham, 1986), risk-taking behaviour (e.g.: Miller and Friesen, 1982) and need for achievement (e.g.: Hornaday and Bunker, 1970; Smith and Miner, 1984).  More recent research adopting a cognitive perspective suggests that entrepreneurs may process information differently from managers in larger organizations (e.g.: Busenitz and Barney, 1996).  For example, Allinson, Chell and Hayes (2000) proposed that cognitive style (an individual's preferred way of processing information) might be an alternative way of differentiating entrepreneurs from non-entrepreneurs.

The purpose of this research was to build upon previous work by: (i) exploring the role of cognitive style as a means of conceptualising entrepreneurial traits; (ii) examining the relationship between cognitive style and a variety of measures of organizational performance.  It was hypothesized that: (i) the cognitive styles of managers in higher growth companies will be more intuitive and more global than those of managers in lower growth companies; (ii) the cognitive styles of managers in lower
growth companies will be more rational and more local than those of managers in higher growth companies.  Four cognitive style instruments were used in the research: (i) the local and global scales from the Mental Self Government (MSG) questionnaire (Sternberg, 1997); (ii) the rational and intuitive scales from the General Decision Making Style (GDMS) questionnaire (Scott and Bruce, 1995).  Demographic information and company performance data also were gathered.  A questionnaire survey form was mailed to a sample of owner managers in smaller firms and 141 usable responses were received.
Scale inter-correlations were low suggesting that the four cognitive styles measures used are independent constructs.  In order to test the two research hypotheses the cognitive style variables and controls (years trading, size and sector) were regressed separately on the financial and non-financial performance measures.  The regression model for financial performance was statistically significant.  The results offered support for the hypothesis that managers in higher growth companies adopt cognitive style that are more intuitive and more global than those of their lower growth counterparts.

The results did not support the view that managers in lower growth companies are more rational and more local in their cognitive styles than are their higher growth counterparts.  The research supported the view that "successful entrepreneurs adopt an intuitive approach to information processing" (Allinson, Chell and Hayes, 2000: p.41).  The implications of
these results for the theory and practice of cognitive style,entrepreneurship and small business management, as well as for future
research, are discussed.

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