Advancing the research behind the entrepreneurial mindset

Research Center

ELI’s thought leadership is based on decades of research and an ethnographic study of entrepreneurs. The Research Center organizes white papers, books, and journal articles that support the constructs behind the entrepreneurial mindset as well as define the environments that encourage or inhibit entrepreneurial behavior.


Dr. Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory of human functioning forms much of the research-based psychological underpinning of the entrepreneurial mindset.  Dr. Bandura’s work demonstrates that human functioning is deeply related to individual and collective agency, and that self-efficacy empowers individuals to create their own future through their actions, despite their circumstances.

Locus of Control

The work of Dr. Julian Rotter around social learning theory and the concept of locus of control describes the psychology behind how an individual perceives their agency as they interact with their environment. Locus of control is a core concept behind the entrepreneurial mindset as those with an internal locus of control believe that they have the ability to influence their outcomes, rather than let their circumstances determine the course of their lives. 

Growth Mindset

A key element of the entrepreneurial mindset is overcoming aspects of a fixed mindset, the belief that intelligence, talent, and abilities are fixed, to developing a growth mindset. Dr. Carol Dweck’s demonstrates the positive impact on individual motivation and achievement when they believe that they can grow and develop through action and effort by focusing on learning rather than performance goals. Growth mindset is embraced by entrepreneurial people who seek knowledge and invest effort in order to learn and shape their ideas. 


Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory provides a strong methodology for a deeper understanding of how entrepreneurial thought and action ties to intrinsic motivation.  Their work provides a framework for understanding the entrepreneurial mindset through a lens of human motivation and the effects on performance of all types of motivation from extrinsic to intrinsic.  

Explanatory Style

As the “father of positive psychology,” Dr. Martin Seligman’s effort to shift psychological research away from a focus on clinical psychology to the positive psychology of human possibility and flourishing has been ground-breaking.  His work showing the effects of an optimistic explanatory style, seeing challenges as temporary and fixable, fall directly in line with how the entrepreneurial mindset can positively impact an individual’s motivation, performance, and resiliency to achieve human flourishing.

Entrepreneurial Learning

Learning by doing and reflecting on prior experiences in uncertain, resource constrained environments are the hallmarks of how entrepreneurs learn “in the wild.”  Their ability to develop and grow through experience is backed by years of research by some of the greatest minds in pedagogical thought. Individuals such as Montessori, Piaget, Kolb, and Dewey provide a foundation for the fundamental components of entrepreneurial learning. 

Implicit Learning

Entrepreneurial people tend to learn implicitly, taking in information without an awareness and gaining tacit knowledge which can be difficult to transfer to others. By researching the implicit nature of this method of learning, we come to understand how an entrepreneurial mindset is developed over time and without conscious effort. Thought leaders such as Reber, Wilson, and Klein decode the secrets of the unconscious mind and its incredible ability to affect human thought and action.

Human Potential

Psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists have worked to decode successful individuals and how they achieve mastery and reach optimal engagement in their lives. The research behind expanding human potential is the foundation of how entrepreneurial people tend to be goal-oriented and purpose driven and as such, highly engaged to master the skills needed to achieve their goals. 

Hope Theory

The engine which drives development of an entrepreneurial mindset is a compelling vision and an understanding that through effort, the future can be better than the past.  Even in ancient Greece, Aristotle laid out a formula to create hope and human flourishing.  Since that time, Hope Theory has evolved and helps explain how those with an entrepreneurial mindset centered on hope tend to be more successful and live more fulfilling lives.

Group Dynamics

Group dynamics have a tremendous impact on how entrepreneurial people move their ideas forward and overcome challenges in their environment. The research in this area helps describe why it is so difficult for entrepreneurial people to thrive in an environment which doesn’t encourage and may even inhibit entrepreneurial behavior. 

Systems Theory

We live in a rapidly changing, highly dynamic world. Existing research on the theory and practice of understanding the complexities of interconnected, dynamic systems puts context around the challenges of such environments. Understanding this context is essential for the development of an entrepreneurial mindset to empower individuals to determine ways to positively impact the systems withing which they interact.