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About the Anti-Social Tendencies of Entrepreneurs

Are entrepreneurs a self-serving species with their own moral ideas and ethical principles?

Media reports about alleged anti-social and delinquent behavior of entrepreneurs are no rarity.

Such reports direct the attention towards possibly ’hidden’ anti-social tendencies in entrepreneurial types. Is it true then, that entrepreneurs are all interested in his own benefit and profit and so abandons ethical and social principles? And if so: what makes him so?

Researchers from the University of Stockholm  and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU) tried to answer these questions, and came to some surprising conclusions.

Data from 1000 Children over 40 Years
The psychologists used a Swedish study, ‘Individual Development and Adaptation‘ which followed 1,000 students living in a medium sized Swedish town over a 40-year time period comparing their later entrepreneurial activity with their social behavior earlier in life.

The scientists analyzed extensive data regarding rule-breaking behavior and attitudes of the participants. They followed these anti-social tendencies in adolescence as well as in the adulthood of the participants. At the same time, a large number of archive data of criminal offenses registered and sanctioned by the police were evaluated.  The psychologists’ research results give a multi-faceted picture, as the latest study by the scientists shows.

Anti-social Tendencies proved in Entrepreneurs’ Biographies
In comparison to others who didn’t found their own business, entrepreneurs showed astonishing characteristics. The future business founders had a distinctly higher tendency to rule-breaking behavior at school, at home dealing with their parents, and in their free time.  Examples were:
  • more frequent disregard of parental orders,
  • more frequent cheating at school,
  • playing truant,
  • a more regular drug consumption or
  • the ‘pinching’ of goods in shops, most notably in the biographies of the male participants of the study.
Entrepreneurs realize Innovations and Visions
"While the urge towards antisocial behavior was clearly present in adolescence, the researchers note, this doesn’t lead to the conclusion, that in adulthood the rules have to be broken serially and that anti-social behavior will be de rigueur."

“It is often claimed that their (entrepreneur's) personality type is rather anti-social and that they are only self-interested,” one psychologist  explains, "it is decisive for entrepreneurs to realize innovations and visions. In people who are able to take those unusual and risky routes, a proximity to non-conformism can often be found. This courage to explore the unusual and the novel could have its roots in adolescent rule-breaking behavior.

“The data suggest that a rebellious adolescent behavior against socially accepted standards and an early questioning of boundaries doesn’t necessarily lead to criminal and anti-social careers. It can rather be the basis for a productive and socially acceptable entrepreneurship,” the study continues. A tendency towards risk-taking which can already become apparent in adolescence plays an important role in their future development as entrepreneurs.
*  *  *  *  *

Story Source:  Martin Obschonka, Håkan Andersson, Rainer K. Silbereisen, Magnus Sverke. Rule-breaking, crime, and entrepreneurship: A replication and extension study with 37-year longitudinal data. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 2013


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