A groundbreaking research project conducted by a team of experts from HEC – School of Management at the University of Liège and the University Hospital of Liège (CHU Liège) has yielded surprising insights into the brains of entrepreneurs. By combining the fields of entrepreneurship and neuroscience, experts have uncovered intriguing data about the connections of these individuals’ brains and how they relate to their unique thinking.
The study utilized the technique of resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI), which captures images of brain activity while participants are at rest. This approach allowed the researchers to gain a deeper understanding of how entrepreneurs’ brains function and how their cognitive processes differ from others.
The lead author of the study, Frédéric Ooms, a researcher and associate professor specializing in management and entrepreneurship at HEC – ULiège School of Management, explains the significance of this study, stating, “This study represents an important step forward in our understanding of the entrepreneurial mind.”
The results of the study showed that serial entrepreneurs – those who start multiple businesses – have stronger connections between two crucial areas of the brain: the right insula, associated with mental flexibility, and the anterior prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision-making. The results of this study were published in the journal Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice
In contrast, managers who did not engage in serial entrepreneurship did not show the same level of strong connections between these brain regions. This suggests that serial entrepreneurs have a unique capacity for flexible thinking that allows them to switch easily between pursuing new ideas and capitalizing on existing opportunities. This balance is the key to entrepreneurial success.
The findings, published in Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, shed light on the cognitive flexibility of serial entrepreneurs and provide new insights into the design of training and professional development programs. Increasing cognitive flexibility and developing an entrepreneurial mindset will enable employees in various organizations to adapt to the ever-changing business environment.
Unlike traditional fMRI methods that require participants to perform certain tasks during the scan, rs-fMRI aims to study the resting state of the brain. This means that no specific tasks or stimuli are given to participants during the scan, allowing researchers to observe the brain in its natural state.
This unique approach provides valuable insights into the cognitive processes of entrepreneurs and emphasizes the importance of cognitive flexibility in their thinking. Using this knowledge, educators and researchers will be able to develop new pedagogical approaches to design thinking in entrepreneurship education, fostering an entrepreneurial mindset in students.
Professor Bernard Surlemont, a renowned expert on entrepreneurship at ULiège (HEC Liège), emphasizes the importance of fostering entrepreneurial thinking and developing cognitive flexibility in organizations. In a rapidly changing and unpredictable world, these qualities are recognized by the OECD as the most important challenges of the 21st century.
Implementing the results of this research into organizational practice will enable companies to unlock the potential of their teams and better navigate the complexities of today’s business landscape.