The role of cognitive flexibility in entrepreneurial opportunity recognition

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Type and Duration

FFF-Förderprojekt, February 2016 until June 2018 (finished)


Chair of Technology and Entrepreneurship

Main Research

Growth and Complexity

Field of Research



Entrepreneurial opportunity recognition is considered as a pivotal capability for entrepreneurial action and success. This is especially true for entrepreneurs who operate in complex and competitive environments, where the pressure is high to constantly seek and seize opportunities for innovative products and business models.
Currently, however, it is neither understood profoundly how individuals perceive and develop innovative opportunities effectively, nor how this multi-faceted process can be fostered on an individual level. This project aims at addressing these questions by means of approaches from cognitive psychology that have the potential to advance academic and practical knowledge by examining underlying cognitive abilities, motivations and consequent strategies.
Based on previous works, we argue that successful entrepreneurs have both a higher awareness for novel situations and do also better in linking new information to existing knowledge. We suggest that these entrepreneurs are guided by high levels of cognitive flexibility, which allows them to switch between different perspectives, while they contrast and connect different information pieces, by that triggering the process of entrepreneurial opportunity recognition.
Additionally, we hypothesize that a combination of cognitive and motivational aspects is indispensable in informing the way entrepreneurs identify opportunities. Thus, we plan to examine the need for cognition, an individual's tendency to enjoy effortful thinking. This characteristic is a promising alternative to rather metaphoric notions, such as entrepreneurial alertness.
The approach to take such a complex phenomenon to an individual level and studying underlying dispositions and strategies of entrepreneurs will contribute to a better understanding of success factors in setting up new ventures. Furthermore, the goal of this research is to provide actionable guidelines to enhance the efforts of novice and less successful entrepreneurs.

Reference to Liechtenstein

Following recent calls from the government to enhance new business venturing and innovation at national level in Liechtenstein, this project's purpose is to examine individual strategies that are likely to foster the capability of entrepreneurial opportunity recognition. This capability is a pivotal prerequisite for novice and established entrepreneurs in Liechtenstein in order to develop innovative products, services and business models in dynamic and technological market environments.
We occupy an interdisciplinary perspective to gain a profound understanding about underlying cognitive abilities, motivations and strategies of very successful and innovative entrepreneurs. By that, we plan to develop actionable guidelines to be applied and facilitated in different areas in Liechtenstein, i.e., in entrepreneurship-related educational programs at the University of Liechtenstein or by means of tailored coaching and consultancy products at the Center for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises in Liechtenstein (KMUZ).


Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurial opportunity, Opportunity exploitation, Opportunity recognition, Business ideas


  • Forschungsförderungsfonds der Universität Liechtenstein


  • Zagorac-Uremovic, Z., Palmer, C., Marxt, C., & Kraus, S. (2018). Kognitive Prozesse der Entrepreneurial Opportunity Recognition: Eine Literaturanalyse. Zeitschrift für KMU und Entrepreneurship, 66(3), 185-210. (VHB_3: C)

  • Zagorac-Uremovic, Z., & Marxt, C. (2017). Divergent and Convergent Thinking Patterns Across Different Entrepreneurial Opportunity Contexts. Paper presented at the ISPIM Innovation Conference 2017, Vienna, Austria.

  • Zagorac-Uremovic, Z., Palmer, C., & Marxt, C. (2017). The Joint of Effects of Divergent and Convergent Thinking on Entrepreneurial Opportunity Recognition: Findings from Exploratory Case Studies. Presented at the Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship and Research Exchange 2017, Melbourne, Australia.