Strategic Cognitive Maps of Small Business Leaders


  • G. Tyge Payne University of Texas at Arlington
  • Kevin H. Kennedy Ohio University
  • John D. Blair Texas Tech University
  • Myron D. Fottler University of Central Florida


Cognitive maps influence organizational strategic behaviors by guiding the perceptions of key decisions makers. This paper empirically examines these maps in small business leaders who have the ability to strongly influence an organization's attributes and actions. Results demonstrate that two distinct and polar orientations develop from small business leaders' self-identity with their organization, overall assessments of external stakeholders, and general perceptions of the environment. The strategic implications of these findings suggest that small business leaders should be mindful of their own viewpoints and biases since they can greatly influence organizational behaviors and subsequent performance.


Albert, S. & Whetlen, D. (1985). Organizational identity. In Research in Organizational Behavior Eds. L.L. Cummings & B. Slaw, Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, Vol. 7: 263-295.

Blair, J.D. & Whitehead, C.J. (1988). Too many on the seesaw: Stakeholder diagnosis and management for hospitals. Hospital and Health Services Administration, 35(1): 326.

Brockner, J., Higgins, E.T. & Low, M.B. (2004). Regulatory focus theory and the entrepreneurial process. Journal of Business Venturing, 19(2): 203220.

Castrogiovanni, G.J. (2002). Organization task environments: Have they changed fundamentally over time? Journal of Management, 28(2): 129-151.

Chen, M. & Hambrick, D.C. (1995). Speed, stealth, and selective attack: How small firms differ from large firms in competitive behavior. Academy of Management Journal, 38(2): 453-482.

Covin, J.G. & Slevin, D.P. (1989). Strategic management of small firms in hostile and benign environments. Strategic Management Journal, 10(1): 75-87.

Covin, J.G. & Slevin, D.P. (1991). A conceptual model of entrepreneurship as firm behavior. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 16(1): 725.

Crossan, MM. & Berdrow, I. (2003). Organizational learning and strategic renewal. Strategic Management Journal, 24: 1087-1105.

Daft, R.L. & Weick, K.E. (1984). Toward a model of organizations as interpretive systems. Academy of Management Review, 9: 284-295.

Dess, G.G. & Beard, D. W. (1984). Dimensions of organizational task environments. Administrative Science Quarterly, 29: 52-73.

Dutton, J.E., Dukerich, J.M. & Harquail, C.V. (1994). Organizational images and member identification. Administrative Science Quarterlv, 39(2): 239-263.

Elsbach, K.D. & Kramer, R.M. (1996). Members' responses to organizational identity threats: Encountering and countering the Business Week rankings. Administrative Science Quarterly, 41(3): 442-476.

Forster, J., Higgins, E.T. & Bianco, A.T. (2003). Speed/accuracy decisions in task performance: Built-in trade-off or separate strategic concerns? Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 90: 148-164.

Freeman, R.E. (1984). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach. Marshfield, MA: Pitman Publishing.

Hambrick, B.C. & Mason, P. (1984). Upper Echelons: The organization as a reflection of its top managers. Academy of Management Review, 9: 193-206.

Higgins, E.T. (1998). Promotion and prevention: Regulatory focus as a motivational principle. In: Zanna, M.P. (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 30: 146. Academic Press, New York.

Jackson, B.C. (2000). A fantasy theme analysis of Peter Senge's learning organization. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 36(2): 193-209.

Kramer, R.M. (1991). Intergroup relations and organizational dilemmas: The role of categorization processes. Research in Organizational Behavior, 13: 191-227.

Krueger, N.F. (2000). The cognitive infrastructure of opportunity emergence. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 24(3): 5-23.

Liberman, N., Idson, L.C., Camacho, CJ. & Higgins, E.T. (1999). Promotion and prevention choices between stability and change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychologv, 77(6): 1135-1145.

Mason, R.O. & Mitroff, I.I. (1981). Challenging strategic planning assumptions. New York: Wiley.

McCline, R.L., Bhat, S. & Baj, R. (2000). Opportunity recognition: An exploratory investigation of the component of the entrepreneurial process in the context of the health care industry. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 25(2): 81-94.

McGee, J.E. & Shook, C.L. (2000). Responding to industry consoledation in fragmented industries: The role of capabilities in small firm survival. Journal of Small Business Strategy, 11 (2): 21-32.

Miles, R.E. & Snow, C.C. (1978). Organizational strategy, structure, and process. New York: McGrawHill.

Miller, D. & Friesen, P.H. (1984). Organizations: A quantum view. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: PrenticeHall.

Mintzberg, H. (1983). Power in and around organizations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Pfeffer, J. & Salancik, G.R. (1978). The external control of organizations: A resource dependence perspective. New York: Harper and Row.

Porter, M.E. (1980). Competitive strategy. New York: Free Press.

Russell, R.D. (1999). Developing a process model of intrapreneurial systems: A cognitive mapping approach. Entrepreneur ship: Theory and Practice, 23(3): 65-84.

Schendel, D.E. & Hofer, C.W. (1979). Strategic management: A new view of business policy and planning. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.

Starbuck, W. & Milliken, F. (1988). Executives' perceptual filters: What they notice and how they make sense. In The executive effect: Concepts and methods for studying top managers. Ed. D. Hambrick, Greenwich, Conn.: JAI Press, 35-65.

Stubbart, C. (1989). Management cognition: A missing link to strategic management research. Journal of Management Studies, 26: 325-347.

Sutcliffe, K.M. (1994). What executives notice: Accurate perceptions in top management teams. Academy of Management Journal, 37(5): 13601378.

Tan, J.J. & Litschert, R.L. (1994). Environment-strategy relationship and its performance implications: An empirical study of the Chinese electronics industry. Strategic Management Journal, 15: 1-20.

Trauner, J.B. & Chestnutt, J.S. (1996). Medical groups in California: Managing care under capitation. Health Affairs, Spring: 159-170.

Utterback, J.M. (1994). Mastering the dynamics of innovation: How companies can seize opportunities in the face of technological change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Vera, D. & Crossan, M. (2004). Strategic leadership and organizational learning. Academy of Management Review, 29(2): 222-240.

Walsh, J.P. & Fahey, L. (1986). The role of negotiated belief structures in strategy making. Journal of Management, 12(3): 325-338.

Weick, K.E. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Weick, K.E. & Bougon, M.G. (1986). Organizations as cognitive maps: Charting ways to success and failure. In The thinking organization. Eds. H.P. Sims. & D.A. Gioia. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 102-135.

Zahra, S.A. (1991). Predictors and financial outcomes of corporate entrepreneurship: An exploratory study. Journal of Business Venturing, 6(4): 259-286.







How to Cite

Strategic Cognitive Maps of Small Business Leaders. (2005). Journal of Small Business Strategy (archive Only), 16(1), 27-40.