Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises


Johan Wiklund

Subject Categories



Anecdotal evidence of successful entrepreneurs with ADHD, along with books on the strengths of ADHD individuals, have drawn people’s attention towards the potential benefits of this mental disorder. Instead of viewing those individuals as inattentive, impulsive and hyperactive, the very characteristics may become assets in certain environments where creativity, quick action and experimentation are needed. Entrepreneurship represents such an environment that has been long recognized by scholars and practitioners alike. First, entrepreneurship is an uncertain journey full of obstacles, which requires potential entrepreneurs to overcome the fear and worry and resolve the uncertainty through entrepreneurial actions. Second, compared with existing organizations, entrepreneurship provides more autonomy and flexibility of job design, which may attract certain individuals who find fitting with traditional settings difficult. Third, entrepreneurship is a creative destruction process where being creative and innovative are crucial.

Recognizing the unique characteristics of the entrepreneurial environment and the potential fit with ADHD, in this dissertation I draw on Person-Environment Fit and Strategic Leadership Theory to examine why, how, and when ADHD could be related to entrepreneurship. Specifically, I focus on the ADHD symptoms (i.e., inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity symptoms) instead of the ADHD diagnosis due to the fact that ADHD has been found to be a continuous attribute among the population. Three essays are included in this dissertation. The first essay (chapter 2) is a conceptual piece that looks at impulsivity traits in particular. Impulsivity is a key characteristic of individuals high on ADHD symptoms and by its definition very related to action under uncertainty. The paper outlines a conceptual framework and develops detailed propositions for the multifaceted influence of impulsivity on entrepreneurial action. It moves beyond entrepreneurship as a deliberate cognitive process to sufficiently account for how uncertainty influences action. The second essay (chapter 3) is an empirical one that develop and test a model which suggests that ADHD symptoms influences entrepreneurial preference and business startup through the multifaceted trait of impulsivity. The third essay (chapter 4) directly examines the functionality of ADHD symptoms in terms of firm performance.

The three essays show the nuanced relationship between ADHD symptoms, impulsivity traits and entrepreneurship. Results suggest that ADHD symptoms are indeed related to entrepreneurship because of the potential fit of ADHD characteristics with the environmental features of entrepreneurship (whether question). Further, the distal psychiatric symptoms of ADHD can lead to higher entrepreneurial intention and action through the multifaceted impulsivity traits and to better firm performance through the entrepreneurially oriented strategy (how question). Finally, the functionality of ADHD symptoms may depend on the particular symptoms being examined, the particular traits being manifested by ADHD and the type of venture being pursued (when question). Generally speaking, I find that the sensation seeking tendencies of individuals high on ADHD may be most beneficial for entrepreneurship and that impulsivity and hyperactivity symptoms of ADHD are more functional than inattention symptoms. By showing that ADHD symptoms, which are commonly viewed as negative, could be assets in entrepreneurship, this dissertation indicates the uniqueness of entrepreneurship as a research field and the practical need for entrepreneurial career training programs for ADHD individuals.


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