Entrepreneurs' Implicit and Explicit Achievement Motives and Their Early International Commitment.

VerfasserXue, Rui
PostenRESEARCH ARTICLE

1 Introduction

Empirical studies show that entrepreneurs' new ventures demonstrate different degrees of early international commitment (EIC) (e.g., Cavusgil and Knight 2015; Nadkarni and Perez 2007; Qian et al. 2018; Sleuwaegen and Onkelinx 2014). Some new ventures do not have any overseas business or focus on exports only whereas others set up manufacturing facilities in other countries. EIC is defined in this study as the degree to which new firms commit irreversible investments to foreign markets (Nadkarni and Perez 2007). If EIC is taken as a continuum, new ventures disperse across the continuum (Yang et al. 2020). The question of what drives the commitment diversities among new ventures remains an important topic in international business (IB) studies.

The mainstream IB literature largely uses no commitment, exporting, licensing, joint ventures, and wholly-owned subsidiaries to differentiate degrees of commitment (Agarwal and Ramaswami 1992; Cavusgil and Knight 2015). Many small, new firms are purely domestic and are not committed to international markets at all. Exporting reflects a low level of international commitment, because new firms do not demonstrate significant commitment to the entry mode and can exit the market without heavy financial losses. Licensing and joint venture agreements reflect a medium level of international commitment, because partners share investments and risks associated with investments in a specific market; exiting the market is not as easy as exporting. Finally, wholly-owned subsidiaries, including sales offices, manufacturing plants, acquisitions, and the like, signal high levels of international commitment.

The existing international entrepreneurship (IE) studies have largely used entrepreneurs' conscious rationale, such as personal values, risks, resource and experience limitations, and economic benefits of internationalization, to determine the degrees of a new venture's international commitment (Bolzani and Der Foo 2018; Vanderstraeten et al. 2020; Yang et al. 2020). For example, step-wise models trace the diversities of commitment degrees to the gradual development of market-specific knowledge and conclude that firms commit to foreign markets gradually (i.e., starting from exporting and then shifting to licensing/joint ventures, and finally ending up with wholly-owned subsidiaries) (Johanson and Vahine 1977). Other studies argue that firms may not necessarily follow the step-wise process, because firms draw from ownership, location, and internalization advantages to select their entry modes (Agarwal and Ramaswami 1992; Dunning 1993). Another stream of studies focuses on entrepreneurs' cognition and suggest the cognition, such as personal values and self-efficacy, influences new ventures' international commitment (Bolzani and Der Foo 2018; Yang et al. 2020). Although we applaud these studies' efforts to identify the determinants of new firms' international commitment, these studies largely take entrepreneurs' decisions as a conscious behavior and the impacts of entrepreneurs' unconscious motives remain relatively unclear. The issue has become increasingly urgent as recent psychology studies suggest that human's unconscious motivation also has a decisive influence on their strategies and performance (Schultheiss et al. 2014; Spangler et al. 2014). More importantly, conscious and unconscious motives are separate and uncorrelated when they are involved in predicting human behavior (McClelland et al. 1989). We may not get a complete picture of forces driving small, new firms' international commitment if entrepreneurs' unconscious motivation factors are left out.

This study attempts to fill in the gap by including entrepreneurs' unconscious motives. We focus on a particular psychological construct, i.e., achievement motivation, and use conscious and unconscious motives behind the psychological construct to explore the diversities of EIC among entrepreneurs. Achievement motivation is an individual's tendency to desire and work toward accomplishing challenging personal and professional goals (Atkinson and Feather 1966). We use the psychological construct because empirical studies have confirmed that the construct is an important force driving entrepreneurs' behaviors (Carsrud and Brannback 2011; Frese and Gielnik 2014; McClelland 1965; Rauch and Frese 2000). Many entrepreneurs desire success to indicate a high ability (Miner 1997) and they need achievement to establish leadership authority, image, and status to run their small, new firms (Paunova 2015). In psychological terms, achievement motivation captures the behaviors concerned with achieving excellence. Behavior that is directed only toward gaining external rewards, such as profits, is not achievement motivation in psychological sense (Fang et al. 2012; McClelland et al. 1989).

Drawing from the achievement motive theory and cognition theory (e.g., McClelland et al. 1989; Schultheiss et al. 2014; Spangler et al. 2014), this study differentiates between implicit and explicit achievement motivation systems and argues that the two distinct and uncorrelated systems influence entrepreneurs' EIC strategies. The explicit achievement motive refers to conscious, language-based representations of individuals' beliefs about their motivational orientation. Because people are aware of their explicit motives, the motives can be measured by interviews and self-report questionnaires (Fang et al. 2012). The implicit achievement motive refers to associative networks in the mid-brain that constitute non-conscious motivational needs (McClelland et al. 1989; Rawolle et al. 2013). Implicit motives are closely associated with the release of hormones from the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axes (Schultheiss 2013). For example, desire for power is associated with basal levels of testosterone in men and estradiol in women and predicts changes in these hormones in response to victory or defeat (Schultheiss et al. 2014). Because people are not aware of their implicit motives and they often defend against knowledge of the implicit motives, implicit motives can be identified in human imaginative thought spontaneously generated in fantasy stores in response to ambiguous pictures (Lang et al. 2012). Implicit motives predict spontaneous behavioral trends (e.g., "I am thrilled by the messy complexities shown in the picture") whereas explicit ones predict deliberate response to specific situations (e.g., "the challenge of the task demonstrates my superior ability") (McClelland et al. 1989).

Different from the traditional psychology studies on implicit motives, this study employs a unique methodology to measure and test explicit and implicit achievement motives driving new ventures' EIC. The methodology integrates the coding methods developed by Chatterjee and Hambrick (2007) and Winter (1994) with the computer-aided content analysis widely used in IB studies (Cuervo-Cazurra et al. 2017; Belderbos et al. 2017). The methodology helps us capture entrepreneurs' implicit motives and associate the motives with entrepreneurs' strategies. This study does not use the traditional methodology in psychological studies to score respondents' imaginary stories in response to pictures because few sample entrepreneurs are willing to conduct such studies in labs.

Our achievement motive model does not attempt to challenge the mainstream argument that entrepreneurs internationalize their businesses in their rational efforts to pursue overseas opportunities. In contrast, our model supports the mainstream argument by adding bounded rationale that has hitherto received relatively little attention: The need for achievement motivates entrepreneurs to internationalize early and the motives consist of distinct and uncorrelated systems (i.e., conscious and non-conscious motives). That is, EIC may be a conscious or unconscious behavior by entrepreneurs.

The findings of this study advance our knowledge on entrepreneurs' EIC strategies. The existing IB literature mainly uses conscious motives to explain small, new ventures' EIC strategies. The evidence collected in this study shows that entrepreneurs' achievement motivation has significant effects on their firms' EIC, and the achievement motives can be conscious and unconscious. The mainstream EIC literature focuses on conscious motivations and overlooks the fact that entrepreneurs are self-oriented leaders and their managerial cognition is often idiosyncratic, erratic, and non-conscious (Crossan et al. 2008; Maitland and Sammartino 2015; McClelland 1965, 1987). By integrating the concepts from psychology and IE literature, this study explores the relationships between entrepreneurs' achievement motivation and their small, young firms' EIC strategies. The relationships are complicated, not only because they involve entrepreneurs' conscious and non-conscious motives, but also because the relationships are moderated curvilinearly by different task incentives.

2 Theoretical Background

This section introduces the two streams of recent theoretical developments as the building blocks for our conceptual model. The first stream of research associates new ventures' early internationalization with entrepreneurs' 'entrepreneurial cognition' (Acedo and Florin 2006; Acedo and Jones 2007) and argues that the cognition is the important antecedent to new ventures' early internationalization (Bolzani and Der Foo 2018; Vanderstraeten et al. 2020; Yang et al. 2020). Early internationalization provides an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs to show success, because it demonstrates how a leader leads his/her firm to conquer foreign customers and crush foreign competitors at high risks and with high challenges associated with liabilities of newness, smallness, and foreignness (Powell and Rhee 2018). Based on a large number of empirical findings, this stream of research argues that...

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