This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Viewing the organization as a social actor: An intentions-based model of firm-level entrepreneurship




Mazzei, Matthew

Type of Degree





A large majority of entrepreneurship research has suffered from a lack of theoretical grounding, and research on corporate entrepreneurship (CE) has been no different. This dissertation posits a theoretically-grounded framework for firm-level entrepreneurial behavior by borrowing theory from the social psychology literature. Viewing the organization as an independent social actor offers clarity to CE-related phenomena by suggesting organizations are purposeful and intentional in their actions. By elevating Ajzen’s theory of planned behavior (TPB) to the organizational level of analysis, this dissertation tests an intentions-based model of firm-level entrepreneurship, with entrepreneurial orientation (EO) as the central construct. The model builds on prior research by positioning EO as a dispositional element representing an organization’s entrepreneurial intentionality, and explores a new classification of internal and external precursors that parallel the TPB. In concert with the causal chain inherent in the theory, this work separates an organization’s intentions from its behavior; thus, a mediator (corporate entrepreneurial behavior) is introduced to better explain how EO positively influences firm financial performance. Mirroring the original conceptualization of the TPB, moderator effects are also hypothesized. Archival data for the years 2002-2011 was collected on a sample of 196 medium and large U.S. businesses to test the proposed model. Although the overall model offers potential in explaining, understanding, and predicting firm-level entrepreneurial behavior, analyses using structural equations modeling tendered limited support of antecedent relationships. Of the hypothesized antecedents, only industry norms with CE were found to be a strong predictor of firm EO. This implies that executives are actively scanning their competitive environment as part of the process to develop their firm’s entrepreneurial intentions. Regarding the consequences of EO, the analyses reveal a positive relationship with innovating behavior. These results suggest that firms develop intentions to behave entrepreneurially before carrying out subsequent entrepreneurial actions. Furthermore, innovation behavior mediates the relationship between EO and firm performance. While further development of the framework and its measurement is warranted, this work has successfully advanced the literature on EO and CE by introducing intentions-based theory as a framework for CE, presenting empirical evidence of EO as a dispositional construct that precedes firm-level entrepreneurial behavior, and offering greater insight into the EO-firm performance relationship.