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date: 06 December 2023

The Evolution of the Entrepreneurial Orientation (EO) Construct: Dominant Research Questions and Conversational Shiftslocked

The Evolution of the Entrepreneurial Orientation (EO) Construct: Dominant Research Questions and Conversational Shiftslocked

  • Patrick Kreiser, Patrick KreiserManagement and Marketing, University of Wyoming College of Business
  • Jeffrey G. Covin, Jeffrey G. CovinEntrepreneurship, University of Wyoming College of Business
  • Matthew J. Fox, Matthew J. FoxEntrepreneurship, University of Wyoming College of Business
  • Ignacio Godinez PueblaIgnacio Godinez PueblaThe University of Texas at Tyler Soules College of Business
  •  and Shawn EnriquesShawn EnriquesUniversity of Wyoming College of Business


Entrepreneurial orientation (EO) has become a central construct in the management and entrepreneurship literature over the past several decades. Specific questions and associated themes have dominated EO research over the years, with the research itself exhibiting a number of conversational shifts prompted by the publication of seminal articles. The period 1973–1982 is the EO Construct Pre-emergence Era. During this time, scholars began to allude to the possibility that firms themselves—rather than only individuals—could act in entrepreneurial manners. What constitutes an entrepreneurial firm, wherein entrepreneurship might be seen as a central attribute of the firm, was yet to be clearly specified.

The period 1983–1995 is the EO Construct Introduction and Legitimization Era. This era was prompted by the publication of an article by Danny Miller in which he introduced EO as a unidimensional construct composed of three overlapping dimensions: risk taking, innovativeness, and proactiveness. Dominant research questions of the era include: How is entrepreneurship manifested as an attribute of firms, independent of firm size and age? and What do entrepreneurial firms have in common?

The period 1996–2010 was the EO Construct Critical Examination and Debate Era. This era was launched by an article by Tom Lumpkin and Greg Dess in which they observed that two additional dimensions to EO might be considered—namely, competitive aggressiveness and autonomy—and that EO might, alternatively, be represented by a firm’s profile across these five dimensions. Common research questions of the era include: How can entrepreneurial firms be different? Does EO look the same in different institutional and environmental contexts? Are there attributes that must be present in order to label a firm “entrepreneurial”? Is there a most appropriate way to conceive of EO’s dimensionality? and Does EO predict firm performance?

The period 2011–2022 is the EO Construct Expansion and Specialization Era. This era began with the publication of an article by Jeff Covin and Tom Lumpkin in which they recognized differences between proposed conceptualizations of EO and suggested that future research explore both dominant EO conceptualizations, that is, the unidimensional and the multidimensional conceptualization of the construct. Research questions of the era include: Is it appropriate to consider different constructs using the label EO? What are the various forms and indicators of EO? How can EO be measured using nontraditional methods? Should the EO construct be extended to other levels of analysis? What are the antecedents to EO? and What are some of the non-performance-based outcomes of EO?

As scholars addressed the prominent research questions of the day, intellectual building blocks have been established and promising domains of future research have been recognized. In general, the observed knowledge expansion that began with an emphasis on EO’s meaning and measurement now includes, for example, greater emphasis on EO’s nomological network, forms and manifestations, antecedents and outcomes, and applicable contexts and theories.


  • Business Policy and Strategy
  • Entrepreneurship

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