Friday, September 18, 2009

Entrepreneurial rollercoaster- am happy, have vision; am sad, will focus on task
There is a recent article by foo et al, that shows , using Experience Sampling method, that entrepreneurs, when in a negative mood (not necessarily sad, but including anger, irritability etc...sorry for misleading headline:-) are more likely to be focusing on the task at hand; while those same entrepreneurs , when they were in a happy or positive mood would be more likely to be spending efforts on tasks that are more future directed. They interpret their finding in terms of the affect-as-information theory, whereby a positive affect signals that everything is hunky-dory in the present and one can take chances and focus on the future instead; while a negative affect is an indication that things are not going well and one needs to focus on the tasks at hand.  To quote:

Our findings suggest that affect serves as a source of information for entrepreneurs. As argued in the affect-as-information theory, negative affect signals that things are not going well in the venture and may lead entrepreneurs to expend more effort on venture tasks requiring immediate attention. An unexpected finding was that negative affect also increased venture efforts beyond what is immediately required. Because negative affect signals that something is wrong in the venture situation, it could lead entrepreneurs to engage in precautionary behaviors to prevent future damage to the venture.

Positive affect signals that things are going well in the venture, and, using affect-as-information theory, one might expect the entrepreneur to reduce effort because all is well at the moment. In the present study of entrepreneurs, we argued that positive affect should increase venture efforts. It is precisely because positive affect signals that things are going well at the moment that the entrepreneur’s focus can shift to the future, and such focus motivates the entrepreneur to work harder because it promotes behaviors to achieve desired future outcomes (Karniol & Ross 1996). This argument was supported, because our findings showed that future temporal focus mediated the link between positive affect and venture efforts beyond what is immediately required (next-day lagged outcome). Although not hypothesized, positive affect was also found to increase effort on tasks immediately required, and a future temporal focus also mediated the link between positive affect and venture tasks immediately required (with a next-day lag). Striving toward desired future states involves bridging the present and the future (Karniol & Ross, 1996). When entrepreneurs focus on the future, they may not neglect the present, as knowledge of the present may be required to determine how one can reach the desired outcome. To become successful in their venture pursuits, entrepreneurs should be able to integrate the present and future time horizons (Bird & West, 1997). They must be able to make sense of the here and now and the what will be and establish a coherent link between them.

I , would , of course , not restrict myself to what the authors conclude but , as is my ilk, would like to extend the findings and relate to other stuff. For example, I have written earlier about the Promotion and Prevention focus and how promotion focus is related to happiness/mania; while preventive focus may be more related to sadness/depression. Although, not mutually exclusive, a new hypothesis could be that the affect was due to promotion and preventive focus, which itself was due to either the environment was risky or risk-free. The same risky or risk-free environment which led to the negative or positive mood also lead to focusing on the here-and-now or on the future. I'm also tempted to correlate this with some other articles I came across recently-namely one that found that future orientation leads to creativity, while if there is not enough psychological distance we tend to be not -so creative; Could it also be that that is why entrepreneurs long-term strategies and visions are creative; while their short term tactics and day to day handling of affairs is mundane; while we are on the subject of creativity and vagueness (either in distance or space or time or abstractness) another study found that being primed about or thinking about Love leads to creativity while being primed with Lust leads to better analytical ability; is analytical ability much different from focusing on here-and-now; while creativity more future oriented? All these have important implications on how you can use your affect to either focus on hand in an analytical manner or solve problems in future creatively and with vision. As a last afterthought, is that why Manics, who are extremely happy, have such grand visions of future and are so future directed and entrepreneurial in spirit?
Foo MD, Uy MA, & Baron RA (2009). How do feelings influence effort? An empirical study of entrepreneurs' affect and venture effort. The Journal of applied psychology, 94 (4), 1086-94 PMID: 19594247

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