Which EO Studies to Read First?

New to Entrepreneurial Orientation Research?

Please note that this is a very concise primer, meant to get researchers unfamiliar with entrepreneurial orientation (EO) up to speed quickly by providing them with a guide concerning how they may approach reading the literature.


With this in mind I would suggest first examining a comprehensive overview of past EO research to gain an overall sense of this important research domain (Covin & Wales, 2019; Wales, 2016; Wales, Covin, & Monsen, 2020; Wales, Kraus, Stöckmann, Covin, & Filser, 2021). Then, I would suggest a deeper dive into the past definitions of EO as listed in Covin and Wales (2012) and Wales, Gupta, Marino, and Shirokova (2019). Read the beginning of Covin and Wales (2012) through page 681. The remainder of the article is too in-depth to use as an origin point when initially getting acquainted with the EO literature.


Next I would review a few of the classics on which the research stream is built. At a minimum I would read the abstract and introduction of Miller (1983), and then the ‘strategic posture’ part of the methods section of Covin and Slevin (1989). Then I would read Covin and Slevin (1991) through p. 10 as it outlines rationale for EO as firm behavior, a point which later work by Anderson et al. (2015) build.


Next I would get acquainted with the Lumpkin and Dess (1996) perspective on EO by reading their seminal 1996 AMR piece (keeping in mind that their perspective on EO as five independent strategic process dimensions is distinct and complimentary to that of Miller/Covin and Slevin (1989), see Wales et al., 2020 for a discussion of strategic process/content). To illustrate different questions that EO research may address across different conceptualizations I suggest reading Covin and Lumpkin’s (2011) introduction to the ETP special issue on EO. Then I'd read Miller’s (2011) reflection on the EO research domain and his suggestions for future studies and finally an update to the multidimensional view offered by Lumpkin and Pidduck (2021).


Given that at this point you have some general background on the EO construct, it would be beneficial to examine a thorough review of the past empirical research on EO (Wales, Gupta, and Mousa, 2013) and best practices when investigating EO-performance relationships (Anderson, Schuler, Baum, Wales, & Gupta, forthcoming) as well as the findings of a meta-analysis on the most investigated relationship in EO research, i.e., the EO-performance relationship (Rauch, Wiklund, Lumpkin, and Frese, 2009).

While you've developed a basic understanding of the EO literature at this point several notable works still remain which may enable deeper insights into the EO research domain. They include, but certainly are not limited to, the other studies published in the 2011 ETP special issue on EO such as Wiklund and Shepherd’s (2011) view of EO as a process of experimentation which increases a firm’s distribution of performance outcomes, that is, both bigger wins as well as bigger losses. Among other excellent contributions in the issue, George and Marino (2011) provide compelling argument for viewing EO as comprised of innovativeness, risk-taking, and proactiveness. Moreover, Wales, Monsen, and McKelvie (2011) theoretically examine how EO may be heterogeneously manifest within organizations across managerial levels, business unit areas, and over time. Recently Anderson, Kreiser, Kuratko, Hornsby, and Eshima (2015) also provide compelling rationale for investigating differences between EO attitudes and behaviors. It is also worth considering EO in relation to foreign market entry. Covin and Miller (2014) provide much needed insight into the developing concept of international entrepreneurial orientation (IEO). With more than 400 empirical studies on EO, it would be impossible to illuminate all of the possible paths that research could proceed in a concise primer. For instance, see a recent virtual special issues covering all of the articles on EO appearing only within the prestigious journal, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice accessible here.


Given that there are so many excellent studies on EO, I must ask the reader to excuse missing works. While incomplete, it is my hope that this primer will be helpful to those new to EO research in their quest to quickly get 'up to speed' with the growing body of work that has accumulated on this influential and needed construct (Covin & Wales, 2019; Wales et al., 2020).