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Inspired or foolhardy: sensemaking, confidence and entrepreneurs' decision-making.

Cunningham, James; Anderson, Alistair R.


Alistair R. Anderson


The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role of confidence in how both new and experienced entrepreneurs interpret and make sense of their business environment to inform decision-making. We illustrate our conceptual arguments with descriptive results from a large-scale (n = 6289) survey on entrepreneurs' perception of business performance and their decisions taken at a time of uncertainty in an economic downturn. Quantitative findings are stratified along experiential lines to explore heterogeneity in entrepreneurial decision-making and directly inform our conceptual arguments, while qualitative data from open questions are used to explain the role of confidence. Newer entrepreneurs are found to be more optimistic in the face of environmental risk, which impacts on their decision-making and innovative capabilities. However, the more experienced entrepreneurs warily maintain margin and restructure to adapt to environmental changes. Instead of looking directly at the confidence of individuals, we show how confidence impacts sensemaking, and ultimately, decision-making. These insights inform research on the behaviour of novice and experienced entrepreneurs in relation to innovative business activities. Specifically, blanket assumptions on the role of confidence may be misplaced as its impact changes with experience to alter how entrepreneurs make sense of their environment.


CUNNINGHAM, J. and ANDERSON, A.R. 2018. Inspired or foolhardy: sensemaking, confidence and entrepreneurs' decision-making. Group decision and negotiation [online], 27(3), pages 393-415. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 10, 2018
Online Publication Date Feb 22, 2018
Publication Date Jun 30, 2018
Deposit Date Feb 23, 2018
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2018
Journal Group decision and negotiation
Print ISSN 0926-2644
Electronic ISSN 1572-9907
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 3
Pages 393-415
Keywords Confidence; Entrepreneurs; Decision making; Experience; Mixed method
Public URL


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