The purpose of this paper is to investigate the social origin of an entrepreneurial cognitive model of the innovation process.
The specific research question is how an entrepreneur's social capital diversity influences the characteristics of his/her cognitive model of innovation – complexity and centrality. Data were collected in a survey conducted in two waves on a sample of 1,000 new ventures in the USA. Social capital is measured by the position generator method. Cognitive models are measured by the causal mapping method. Regression analysis was used to test the hypotheses.
The results of the regression analysis support both hypotheses. The analysis shows that social capital diversity at the startup stage increases the complexity and centrality of an entrepreneurial cognitive model of innovation.
Possible limitations are: the low survey response rate; the spread of industries involved; and respondents being the sole data source. Future research could use multiple data sources, focus on a single industry or a set of related industries, and explore other determinants of the cognitive model of innovation.
Entrepreneurs should proactively build a diverse social network at the startup stage because it will positively affect their internal cognitive model of innovation. In the domain of public policy, initiatives such as encouragement of professional, regional, and international networks targeted to early‐stage entrepreneurs may help them build a diverse social network and ultimately shape their strategic actions in new venture innovation.
The paper contributes to the research on mental models and entrepreneurship by studying the role of social relations in the formation of an entrepreneurial cognitive model of innovation. It reveals the positive impact of social capital diversity at the startup stage on the entrepreneur's cognitive framework of an information domain – the innovation process. In addition, empirical measures of latent constructs (complexity and centrality of cognitive models) were developed.
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