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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Barbara Reda, Management

Imprints in the Sand: How Family Affects Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Monday, June 6, 2022 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


This three-paper dissertation examines the family’s impact on the entrepreneurial decision to begin a new business or maintain innovative capabilities in an existing one. I will be looking at how early childhood memories and family relationships affects innovation at the individual level. The overall research question asks how society can create more entrepreneurs and what effect the family has in this process.

The first paper examines the link between a person’s entrepreneurial intentions and their family’s expectations. Survey data from 157 business undergraduates indicate that although no direct effects were found linking family relationships with entrepreneurial intention, the addition of family relationships improves the perceived expectations’ predictive ability on entrepreneurial intentions. An emergent finding also points to the importance of childhood memories and how they affect entrepreneurial intentions.

The second paper uses a single case study of a business family to examine the effects of childhood memories (imprints) on future behaviour. The analysis of the qualitative data indicates that imprints that develop from the observation of others must occur before those that develop through personal experience. Furthermore, the source of imprints forms different innovative behaviours. An interesting finding was the importance placed by the family members on family bonding experiences created from shared family activities such as family dinner conversations and family vacations.

The third paper uses a mixed method, multiple case study of 27 family firms to explore the relationships between imprints and entrepreneurial behaviours and includes family bonding experiences. Findings from the second paper were replicated with the addition of a new innovative behavioural type. This unique behavioural type emerged from the participants who were not close to other family business members but still maintained their family’s innovative and entrepreneurial behaviours.

Overall, this dissertation contributes to the entrepreneurial and innovation literature in two ways. First, it extends the knowledge of imprinting both in terms of the process of imprinting and its link to innovative behaviours. Second, it has practical implications for policymakers and business families interested in developing next-generation entrepreneurs.

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