Happiness as a driver of entrepreneurial initiative and innovation capital

Publication Date12 July 2020
Date12 July 2020
AuthorAntonio Usai,Beatrice Orlando,Alberto Mazzoleni
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Knowledge management,HR & organizational behaviour,Organizational structure/dynamics,Accounting & Finance,Accounting/accountancy,Behavioural accounting
Happiness as a driver of
entrepreneurial initiative and
innovation capital
Antonio Usai
Department of Economics and Business, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Beatrice Orlando
Department of Economics and Management, University of Ferrara, Ferrara,
Italy, and
Alberto Mazzoleni
Department of Economics and Management, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy
Purpose This study aims to extend the knowledge in the domain of intellectualcapital and entrepreneurship
by investigating whether happiness may have a positive influence on entrepreneurial initiative and intellectual
property or not.
Design/methodology/approach The used large-scale dataset for 2018 is drawn from the Eurostat. It
includes information on individual happiness, sustainability, start-ups, creativity, intellectual property and
quality of life, grouped by European countries. Hypotheses are tested through using the linear regression
Findings The findings confirm that happiness, along with creativity, fosters both entrepreneurial initiative
and intellectual property.
Research limitations/implications Future studies should test the model by extending the analysis to
different world regions and by considering further variables, such as country culture.
Practical implications The study suggests that policy makers have to focus on improving life conditions
and sustainability as a means to foster local economies and communities.
Originality/value This cutting-edge study is unique in its genus, because the prior literature never focused
on these topics jointly. At an academic level, it ties happiness to creativity and to the entrepreneurial spirit,
thus opening up to a new and vast domain of researches.
Keywords Sustainability, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurial initiatives, Happiness, Start-up, Quality of life,
Intellectual capital, Intellectual property
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
The purpose of this study is to understand how emotions influence entrepreneurial initiative
and the generation of intellectual property.
The term emotion indicates a subjective feeling (Barsade, 2002) and a status of pleasure or
displeasure (Barrett et al., 2007).
Across centuries, the impact of emotions on human decisions was surely one of the most
fascinating conundrums that puzzled scientists, philosophers, writers, policy makers and,
basically, the whole society so far.
Despite the huge scientific advancements that were made in the last century, westill know
a little about how emotions interplay with the birth and the development of businesses.
As a matter of fact, for long time traditional economists completely skewed the
consideration of the impact of feelings on business decisions. Their very concern was the
Happiness in
capital and
This study contributes to the developmental project of the Department of Economics and Business -
University of Sassari (Dipartimenti di Eccellenza 2018-2022) financed by the Italian Minister of
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 6 November 2019
Revised 19 April 2020
Accepted 2 June 2020
Journal of Intellectual Capital
Vol. 21 No. 6, 2020
pp. 1229-1255
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JIC-11-2019-0250
maximization of the utility function, based on the assumption of actorsperfect rationality
(Wald, 1939). This belief started creaking when De Finetti (1937) proposed that probabilities
might be subjective (De Finetti, 1937).
It took almost another two decades for managerial scholars to acknowledge that
rationality is bounded (Simon, 1955) and that humans choices are subjectively biased
(Savage, 1950;Allais, 1953;Ellsberg, 1961).
Almost 40 years ago, scientific enquires in the decision theory field started paying
attention to the impact of emotions on the perception of risk. In this sense, the prospect theory
(Kahneman and Tversky, 1979) represents the milestone of the research domain. Tversky
and Kahneman (1991,1992) revolutionized the existing knowledge on the role of expectations,
by explaining how attachment to status quo affects the evaluation of future prospects.
Actually, the surge of scholarsattention for the happiness economy is a relatively recent
phenomenon (Sen, 1993;Frey and Stutzer, 2002;Kahneman and Deaton, 2010). During the
90s of past century, Sen (1993) introduced the concept that happiness unlocks capabilities
and freedom of choices. The impact of his work was such that the World Bank started the
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), aimed at improving progress and well-
being worldwide.
Differently, Kahneman and Deaton (2010) explained how objective happiness determines
the value or utility function of specific situations. They also noted how happiness is
related to quality of life and resilience (Kahneman and Deaton, 2010).
Over time, the relevance of happiness for economy, business and society became
increasingly evident.
As instance, there is a crucial field of studies which examines the role of emotion in
information systems (Shim et al., 2002;James et al., 2017;Wallace et al., 2017).
Though, there is still a scarce knowledge of how emotions are tied to business growth and
how they influence entrepreneurial initiative, intellectual capital and innovation.
Often, antecedent works adopted a partial view of the phenomenon that inhibits the
extension of these models to the broader managerial field. According to Sen (1993) happiness
is a sort of contextual commodity that is required for unleashing a potential. For Kahneman
and Deaton (2010), happiness only matters as a cognitive anchor for the definition of a
judgemental value. In both cases, they only take into consideration objective happiness,
which is measured by contextual factors.
By and large, sentiments such as anger or happiness are deemed to influence opportunity
identification and evaluation (Shane and Venkataraman, 2000), and, then, vicariously, the
entrepreneurial initiative. This insight is derived from the fact that emotions interplay with
cognition (Baron and Tang, 2011).
In a study conducted by Foo (2011), the authors found that anger and happiness may
lower the perception of risk.
Especially in the last 5 years, the emotional sphere of the entrepreneur became one of the
hottest topics under the research radar. This stream of research acknowledges that the
entrepreneurial endeavour is an emotional process (Cardon et al., 2012). The same
conception is remarked by Baron (2008), who concludes that affect is a prominent variable
throughout the entrepreneurial process. As instance, emotions determine the way an
entrepreneur reacts to failure (Wolfe and Shepherd, 2015) or to other negative personal
circumstances (Miller and Le Breton-Miller, 2017). In a similar vein, a new stream of study
explores the link between resilience and entrepreneurial behaviour (Korber and
McNaughton, 2018). Not always very convincingly, though, some scholars argue that
extremely adverse conditions are the trigger for entrepreneurship (Miller and Le Breton-
Miller, 2017). Adverse conditions should be considered the exception, rather than the real
trigger of entrepreneurship.

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