Degree of digitalization and entrepreneurial orientation of internationalizing micro- , small- and medium- sized enterprises: The mediating roles of self- concept traits

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Idioma: Inglés


Degree of digitalization and entrepreneurial orientation of internationalizing micro- , small- and medium- sized enterprises: The mediating roles of self- concept traits 


Although the widespread adoption of digital technologies creates an enabling business environment based on wide scalability and powerful resources for processing and storing information, the digital context also accentuates the competitive landscape all around the world. As it shapes spatial and temporal boundaries of entrepreneurial processes and outcomes (Nambisan, 2017), digital technologies reduce many barriers as regards reaching the global marketplace. This context allows new players to compete and completely transforms the patterns of both domestic and international trade. In such a competitive environment, micro- , small- and medium- sized enterprises (MSMEs), and especially internationalizing ones, are required to adjust their efforts by aggressively trying to preserve a market advantage and demonstrate a strong entrepreneurial orientation (EO) (Covin and Slevin, 1989). EO refers to strategic behaviors that are entrepreneurial in nature, in other words, it consists of decision- making practices that demonstrate innovativeness, proactiveness and risk- taking (Anderson et al., 2009). In that regard, by allowing more variability in entrepreneurial activities and in value creation, integrating digital technologies into internal and external firms’ operational dimensions might offer new opportunities, not only for building strong competitive advantage, but also for optimizing managerial and strategic decisions (Hull et al., 2007; Bharadwaj et al., 2013; Nambisan, 2017; Autio et al., 2018; Kraus et al., 2019). At a firm level, digital technologies are a major type of external enabler that have a paradigm- shifting role in entrepreneurship (Nambisan, 2017; von Briel et al., 2018). They have rendered entrepreneurial activities less bounded and have decentralized and distributed firm governance between groups of actors, thereby enabling innovation collectives and the sharing of value creation (Nambisan, 2017). However, even if the change in competitive and technology landscapes creates entrepreneurial opportunities to be discovered and pursued by entrepreneurs (Schumpeter, 1934; Shane, 2000), those individuals need to be aware of these new possibilities in order to reinforce the entrepreneurial behaviors of their firms and be ready for sustainable innovations (Shane, 2000; Kraus et al., 2019). As acknowledged by Schumpeter (1934), it is individual characteristics that influence the discovery and exploitation of opportunity – and thus, personal traits. Prior knowledge, as well as technology and managerial capabilities are also required (Shane, 2000; Grégoire and Shepherd, 2012; Gruber et al., 2012). In the literature, despite the burgeoning scholarly interest in the digital area, a number of ontological questions persist. Indeed, minimal research has addressed the role of digital technologies in shaping entrepreneurial opportunities, decisions, actions and outcomes (Nambisan, 2017).

Within the entrepreneurship domain, particularly in a context of rapid technological advances, many researchers have been interested in profiling the specific characteristics that define the entrepreneur and his entrepreneurial actions (Schumpeter, 1934; Shane, 2000; Rauch and Frese, 2007; Gruber et al., 2012). As self- motivated individuals, entrepreneurs rely primarily on themselves to achieve their goals and thus, are a central driver in taking advantage of technological changes and defining competitive strategies (Schumpeter, 1934). Similarly, recurrent debates in scientific literature associated the personal traits of managers with a firm’s EO (Miller and Friesen, 1982; Miller, 1983; Mueller and Thomas, 2001; Poon et al., 2006; Khedhaouria et al., 2015; McGee and Peterson, 2019). As contended in the Miller and Friesen (1982) study, executive goals and traits are central to driving a firm’s EO. At the individual level, there are many self- concept traits that have a theoretical relationship with a firm’s strategic posture. The most popular concepts in the field of entrepreneurship are self- efficacy, which refers to individuals’ perceived ability to accomplish a certain level of performance (Bandura, 1986) and locus of control, which refers to the disposition of a manager to perceive control over the environment (Rotter, 1966). In our research, we suggested that entrepreneurs have several opportunities to maintain their firms’ competitive and entrepreneurial strategic posture by reinforcing EO capabilities with the use of digital technologies. Nevertheless, in the literature, only few empirical studies have explored these dimensions together in order to understand how the integration of digital technologies into firms may drive EO (Hervé et al., 2020a). In our research, we thus extended the theoretical boundary and contributed to the entrepreneurship literature by testing a comprehensive model that used both firm- level and individual- level variables to explain the EO of MSMEs. Specifically, drawing on digital and technology entrepreneurship, on EO and the theories of self- concept traits, we argued that the integration of digital technologies into internal and external dimensions of a firm is central to reinforcing the strategic posture of entrepreneurially internationalizing MSMEs and proposed that individuals are the central driver of this strategic approach. In sum, we aimed to investigate the effect of the digitalization of MSMEs on their EO as well as examine the role of individuals’ behaviors as potential mediating variables to explain this relationship. Toward these ends, we developed a model linking four levels of digital transformation (i.e., process and infrastructure – people and culture – digital sales – customer involvement) to the three main EO components (i.e., innovativeness – proactiveness – risk- taking) and measured how the relationship transits through self- concept traits (i.e., self- efficacy and locus of control). Based on parallel mediation analysis, the model was empirically tested using 143 Swiss internationalizing MSMEs. Our study made two distinct contributions to theory on entrepreneurship. First, by using an integrative perspective, it provided new impetus to research on the effect on the firms’ EO of integrating digital technologies into operational dimensions. Second, our research shed new light on the important role of individuals in shaping these digital opportunities to reinforce strategic posture. By providing empirical evidence of the mediating role of individual behaviors, we demonstrated that self- efficacy can be a way forward to strategically use digital technologies in order to reinforce EO and, simultaneously, to provide competitive advantage of internationalizing firms.


Annaële Hervé

Christophe Schmitt

Rico Baldegger


Año: 2022

Aportado por: José Carlos Sánchez García

AFIDE (Asociación para la Formación, Investigación y Desarrollo del Emprendimiento) no se hace responsable de las consecuencias que se puedan derivar respecto a la difusión de contenidos no autorizados por sus autores y expuestos en esta sección por terceros, siendo estos últimos, en todo caso, los responsables de los contenidos subidos a la plataforma o expuestos, de algún modo, en ella.
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