Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Views From Inside the "Black Box": A Q-Methodology Study of Mentoring Support for Entrepreneurs
by Stanigar, Jennifer Jill, Ph.D., North Carolina State University, 2016, 286; 10585503
Abstract (Summary)

Aspiring entrepreneurs give and receive support in growth-fostering interactions with seasoned entrepreneurs, mentors, peers, and others. This dissertation investigates viewpoints held by entrepreneurs about their experiences of effective mentoring support. Little is known about how an entrepreneur learns through interacting with different mentors, or what they perceive as valuable in those interactions. This raised the question of how entrepreneurs would characterize the type of support they receive in high-quality interactions with mentors. Successful entrepreneurs often credit mentors for shaping their career trajectory and fostering the attainment of personally meaningful goals. The 21st century entrepreneurial startup environment exists in a state of constant challenge and change, described by Vaill (1996) as "continuous white water", wherein substantive, lifelong learning is an essential way of being. In the entrepreneurial context, learning is sought out to meet an entrepreneurs’ changing needs at a particular moment in time. This study explores the relative importance of three support behaviors widely cited in the workplace mentoring literature: instrumental, psychosocial, and relational. The conceptual framework for this research uses the “black box” metaphor to represent the subjective experiences of mentoring. Q-methodology was selected to carry out the research, as it offers a way to study subjectivity and clusters of subjects who think in similar ways. The researcher developed a 50-item instrument for use in a card sorting activity followed by a questionnaire. The data were collected from 46 entrepreneurs operating in the Research Triangle Park region of North Carolina. Four unique viewpoints emerged from the factor analysis: Competence Builders, Self-Developers, Network Expanders, and Respect Seekers. The analysis highlights statements that illustrate similarities and differences between viewpoints. In-depth interviews with representative members of each group helped draw meaning from the findings. Themes emerged around (1) methods and practices of entrepreneurship, (2) unlimited potential for learning and development, (3) support structures conducive to innovation, and (4) relational savvy needed in entrepreneurial mentoring. A matrix presents important processes and interactions transpiring inside the “black box” of mentoring for this set of entrepreneurs. This study found that, in general, effective mentoring support builds practical entrepreneurial competency and capacity, develops the self, empowers leadership, expands influence, values diversity, and respects action. A number of implications flow from the study. The findings could positively influence learning activities and relational practices of a founderentrepreneur. Novice entrepreneurs could identify with particular aspects of mentoring support they may not have previously considered. Experienced entrepreneurs who want to mentor could consider expectations, costs, and benefits that surround mentoring, which may increase the likelihood of a successful match. Educators could design curriculum segments for degree programs in entrepreneurship, or improve current offerings to prepare future entrepreneurs. Programs could incorporate meaningful experiences that will match the needs and support the learning of entrepreneurs in their programs. Formal programs could establish guidelines and expectations around best practices. Social networks could attract and invite diverse perspectives at all levels of the ecosystem. Policy could be informed by support structures conducive to growth and the liability of newness associated with the novice entrepreneur. Future research could explore the connections to entrepreneurial identity, and the gendered nature of entrepreneurial activity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Chapman, Diane D.
School: North Carolina State University
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 78/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Entrepreneurship, Adult education, Business education
Keywords: Entrepreneurial education, Mentoring
Publication Number: 10585503
ISBN: 978-1-369-64177-6
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