A pioneering study led by a multidisciplinary team from the HEC – School of Management at the University of Liиge and Liиge University Hospital (CHU Liиge) has unveiled intriguing evidence suggesting that entrepreneurs possess heightened neuronal connectivity in their brains, contributing to their distinct cognitive attributes. This collaborative effort between entrepreneurship researchers and neuroscientists utilized resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) to reveal that serial entrepreneurs display increased connectivity between the right insula, linked to cognitive flexibility, and the anterior prefrontal cortex, a region pivotal for exploratory decision-making. This connectivity pattern enables serial entrepreneurs to effectively navigate between exploration and exploitation, a crucial equilibrium for their achievements.

The study’s innovative methodology, observing the brain during rest rather than task-based fMRI, breaks new ground in understanding the entrepreneurial mind. This approach offers insights beyond the traditional tools employed in studying entrepreneurial cognition. The research involved a cohort of forty participants, including entrepreneurs and managers, to unravel the neural secrets behind entrepreneurial success.

Dr. Frйdйric Ooms, an Assistant Professor in management and entrepreneurship at HEC – ULiиge School of Management and lead author of the publication, emphasizes the significance of this research, stating, “This study represents an important advance in our understanding of the entrepreneurial mind. It highlights the potential of neuroscience and how this approach complements the traditional tools used to study entrepreneurial cognition. By highlighting the difference in cognitive flexibility, it also offers a new perspective to inform the design of training or professional development programs aimed at improving the cognitive flexibility and entrepreneurial spirit of individuals within various organizations.” Dr. Ooms’ work draws from his Ph.D. thesis on entrepreneurial cognitive flexibility, presented in April 2023.

The implications of this research extend to cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset within organizations. In a rapidly changing world, cognitive flexibility is essential for adaptation, a quality recognized as a 21st-century challenge by the OECD. Professor Bernard Surlemont, a Professor of Entrepreneurship at ULiиge (HEC Liиge), underscores the importance of fostering an entrepreneurial mindset and cognitive flexibility within teams.

Dr. Steven Laureys, a neurologist and Clinical Professor at the Centre du Cerveau of the University Hospital (CHU) of Liиge, further elaborates on the study’s significance. He notes that this collaborative and multidisciplinary effort exemplifies “neuro-entrepreneurship,” where the integration of neuroscience knowledge with the entrepreneurial realm contributes to better understanding the neural networks involved in cognitive flexibility. Such insights facilitate adaptation to a constantly evolving reality, a cornerstone of entrepreneurial achievement.

By Impact Lab