Congenial Rascals or Reckless Brutes?
Successful entrepreneurs sometimes have to go against the grain. An innovation is by definition something that’s new, which means that it only comes about when you question the world’s status quo and have the courage to break existing rules, patterns, and conventions. But where’s the limit; how far is too far? Can you afford to be breaking rules when criminal law, contracts, and morals are concerned? These are the exact questions Nikolaus Franke, Academic Director of the MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the WU Executive Academy, explored in a study conducted at his institute at WU – and the results were surprising.
In the course of a recent study carried out at the Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Donatella Rubelj interviewed 89 entrepreneurs-to-be and 70 non-entrepreneurs of the same age bracket, comparable educational background, and the same gender ratio with specific assessment tools developed by Brauer & Chaurand (2009).
Participants were presented 21 rule violations encountered in everyday life and asked to share their subjective assessments of how gravely these went against existing standards. More specifically, they were told to imagine that they were observing an average, young man displaying the specified behaviors, and then rank how upset they would be about it on a scale from 1 = no problem to 10 = very upset.
Let’s start with the group of minor criminal law violations: entrepreneurs regarded them significantly less often as serious offenses than non-entrepreneurs:
There were also no significant differences between the two groups regarding their assessments of minor civil law offenses. Both entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs had a quite critical view of such misdemeanors – even more so than for criminal misdemeanors. However, there were some interesting differences between the two groups.
On the one hand, the entrepreneurs could not bear the thought of somebody smoking in a public building – they seem to particularly take issue with the impudence expressed in this impolite behavior. Non-entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are more easily angered by straight-forward rule-breaking, for instance displayed by a person refusing to give up a seat on the train that was reserved by another person.
What was most surprising, however, was that there were no significant differences between entrepreneurs’ and non-entrepreneurs’ assessments in the field of moral standards and conventions.
Spitting on the street, shoving somebody in a crowd, a howling motorcycle, having a loud conversation in the movie theater, forgetting to thank the person holding the door open for you – entrepreneurs found all of these examples of inappropriate behavior as disturbing as non-entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs were even significantly (if just a little) more appalled at a person opening the newspaper in their neighbor’s face on the bus (mean value = 4.4 compared to non-entrepreneurs’ lower mean value of 4.0). The same was true for resting your legs on the table in a library: at a mean value of 5.9, entrepreneurs were (slightly) significantly more indignant compared to non-entrepreneurs (mean value = 5.4).
Overall, this creates a very interesting picture: Entrepreneurs come across as little rascals who have a lenient view when it comes to minor rules. But as ready to break the rules as they are, politeness and respecting the personal space of others seem important to them – which makes them very likeable. Just because you want to change the world does not mean you have to do it in a rude way!
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