This paper examines psychological and behavioral mechanisms that underlie business growth expectations by examining how managerial optimism and self-regulatory focus influence learning behaviors. To empirically examine these relationships, the study situates in a resource-constrained business context by studying managers in two Pacific Island economies. Results indicate that a positive view toward gains encourages exploratory learning in unknown situations; whereas, a less optimistic disposition and avoidance are related to exploitative learning. This finding is consequential as managerial learning that leans toward development of new insights and possibilities is associated with greater business growth expectations versus learning that adheres to familiar and proven ideas and alternatives. The study results have implications for both practice and theory.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Ahmadi, S., Khanagha, S., Berchicci, L., & Jansen, J. J. P. 2017. Are managers motivated to explore in the face of a new technological change? The role of regulatory focus, fit, and complexity of decision-making. Journal of Management Studies, 54(2): 209–237.
Audia, P. G., Locke, E. A., & Smith, G. G. 2000. The paradox of success: An archival and a laboratory study of strategic persistence following radical environmental change. Academy of Management Journal, 43(5): 837–853.
Bandura, A. 1991. Social cognitive theory of self-regulation. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2): 248–287.
Barnard, C. I. 1938. The functions of the executive. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Baum, J. R., & Bird, B. J. 2010. The successful intelligence of high-growth entrepreneurs: Links to new venture growth. Organization Science, 21(2): 397–412.
Birkinshaw, J., & Gibson, C. 2004. Building ambidexterity into an organization. MIT Sloan Management Review, 45(4): 47–55.
Briguglio, L. 1995. Small inland developing states and their economic vulnerabilities. World Development, 23(9): 1615–1632.
Brockner, J., Higgins, E. T., & Low, M. B. 2004. Regulatory focus theory and the entrepreneurial process. Journal of Business Venturing, 19(2): 203–220.
Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. 2014. Review: Dispositional optimism. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18: 293–299.
Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Segerstrom, S. C. 2010. Optimism. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7): 879–889.
CIA World Factbook. 2016a. The world factbook: Fiji. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/fj.html, Accessed May 31, 2017.
CIA World Factbook. 2016b. The world factbook: Tonga. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/tn.html, Accessed May 31, 2017.
Crowe, E., & Higgins, E. T. 1997. Regulatory focus and strategic inclinations: Promotion and prevention in decision-making. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 69(2): 117–132.
De Noni, I., & Apa, R. 2015. The moderating effect of exploitative and exploratory learning on internationalisation-performance relationship in SMEs. Journal of International Entrepreneurship, 13(2): 96–117.
Finkelstein, S., Hambrick, D. C., & Cannella, A. A. 2009. Strategic leadership: Theory and research on executives, top management teams, and boards. New York: Oxford University Press.
Fornell, C., & Larcker, D. F. 1981. Evaluating structural equation models with unobservable variables and measurement error. Journal of Marketing Research, 18(1): 39–50.
Friedman, R. S., & Förster, J. 2001. The effects of promotion and prevention cues on creativity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(6): 1001–1013.
Gundry, L. K., & Welsch, H. P. 2001. The ambitious entrepreneur: High growth strategies of women-owned enterprises. Journal of Business Venturing, 16(5): 453–470.
Gupta, A. K., Smith, K. G., & Shalley, C. E. 2006. The interplay between exploration and exploitation. Academy of Management Journal, 49(4): 693–706.
Hair, J. F., Black, B., Babin, B. J., & Anderson, R. E. 2010. Multivariate data analysis. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.
Hambrick, D. C. 2007. Upper echelons theory: An update. Academy of Management Review, 32(2): 334–343.
Hambrick, D. C., & Mason, P. A. 1984. Upper echelons: The organization as a reflection of its top managers. Academy of Management Review, 9(2): 193–206.
Haws, K. L., Dholakia, U. M., & Bearden, W. O. 2010. An assessment of chronic regulatory focus measures. Journal of Marketing Research, 47(5): 967–982.
Helfat, C. E., & Peteraf, M. A. 2015. Managerial cognitive capabilities and the microfoundations of dynamic capabilities. Strategic Management Journal, 36(6): 831–850.
Higgins, E. T. 1997. Beyond pleasure and pain. American Psychologist, 52(12): 1280–1300.
Higgins, E. T. 1998. Promotion and prevention: Regulatory focus as a motivational principle. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 30: 1–46.
Hmieleski, K. M., & Baron, R. A. 2008. Regulatory focus and new venture performance: A study of entrepreneurial opportunity exploitation under conditions of risk versus uncertainty. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 2: 285–299.
Hmieleski, K. M., & Baron, R. A. 2009. Entrepreneurs’ optimism and new venture performance: A social cognitive perspective. Academy of Management Journal, 52(3): 473–488.
Hughes, M., Hughes, P., & Morgan, R. E. 2007. Exploitative learning and entrepreneurial orientation alignment in emerging young firms: Implications for market and response performance. British Journal of Management, 18(4): 359–375.
Kammerlander, N., Burger, D., Fust, A., & Fueglistaller, U. 2015. Exploration and exploitation in established small and medium-sized enterprises: The effect of CEOs’ regulatory focus. Journal of Business Venturing, 30: 582–602.
Lanaj, K., Chang, C. H., & Johnson, R. E. 2012. Regulatory focus and work-related outcomes: A review and meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 138(5): 998–1034.
Li, C. 2013. Disentangling the effect of exploratory learning and exploitative learning in product innovation process. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences [Revue Canadienne Des Sciences De l’Administration], 30(2): 101–114.
Liberman, N., Molden, D. C., Idson, L. C., & Higgins, E. T. 2001. Promotion and prevention focus on alternative hypotheses: Implications for attributional functions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80(1): 5–18.
Locke, E. A., Shaw, K. N., Saari, L. M., & Latham, G. P. 1981. Goal setting and task performance: 1969–1981. Psychological Bulletin, 90: 125–152.
Lockwood, P., Jordan, C. H., & Kunda, Z. 2002. Motivation by positive or negative role models: Regulatory focus determines who will best inspire us. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(4): 854–864.
Luthans, F., & Youssef, C. M. 2007. Emerging positive organizational behavior. Journal of Management, 33(3): 321–349.
March, J. G. 1991. Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning. Organization Science, 2(1): 71–87.
Markovits, Y. 2012. The development of regulatory foci characters and moderation effects on satisfaction and commitment. International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, 2(4): 71–80.
Miner, J. B., & Raju, N. S. 2004. Risk propensity differences between managers and entrepreneurs and between low-and high-growth entrepreneurs: A reply in a more conservative vein. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(1): 3–13.
Mom, T. J., Van Den Bosch, F. A., & Volberda, H. W. 2009. Understanding variation in managers’ ambidexterity: Investigating direct and interaction effects of formal structural and personal coordination mechanisms. Organization Science, 20(4): 812–828.
Morris, M. H., Miyasaki, N. N., Watters, C. E., & Coombes, S. M. 2006. The dilemma of growth: Understanding venture size choices of women entrepreneurs. Journal of Small Business Management, 44(2): 221–244.
Morrison, A., & Bergin-Seers, S. 2002. Pro-growth small businesses: Learning “architecture”. Journal of Management Development, 21(5): 388–400.
Nadkarni, S., & Herrmann, P. 2010. CEO personality, strategic flexibility, and firm performance: The case of the Indian business process outsourcing industry. Academy of Management Journal, 53(5): 1050–1073.
Neill, S., Metcalf, L. E., & York, J. 2017. Distinguishing entrepreneurial approaches to opportunity perception. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, 23(2): 296–316.
Neill, S., Pathak, R. D., & Reddy, N. 2009. Marketing concept manifestations in Fiji enterprises: Confirming the link to organizational competitiveness. Journal of Global Marketing, 22(1): 43–52.
Neill, S., Singh, G., & Pathak, R. D. 2014. Technology and marketing capabilities in a developing economic context: Assessing the resource-based view within a boundary condition. International Journal of Business and Economics, 13(1): 75–92.
Nes, L. S., & Segerstrom, S. C. 2006. Dispositional optimism and coping: A meta-analytic review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(3): 235–251.
Neubert, M. J., Kacmar, K. M., Carlson, D. S., Chonko, L. B., & Roberts, J. A. 2008. Regulatory focus as a mediator of the influence of initiating structure and servant leadership on employee behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(6): 1220–1233.
Noel, T. W., & Latham, G. P. 2006. The importance of learning goals versus outcome goals for entrepreneurs. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 7(4): 213–220.
Papenhausen, C. 2010. Managerial optimism and search. Journal of Business Research, 63: 716–720.
Penrose, E. T. 1959. The theory of the growth of the firm. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Piao, M., & Zajac, E. J. 2016. How exploitation impedes and impels exploration: Theory and evidence. Strategic Management Journal, 37: 1431–1447.
Porter, M. E. 1990. The competitive advantage of nations. New York: Free Press.
Raisch, S., Birkinshaw, J., Probst, G., & Tushman, M. L. 2009. Organizational ambidexterity: Balancing exploitation and exploration for sustained performance. Organization Science, 20(4): 685–695.
Scheier, M. F., Carver, C. S., & Bridges, M. W. 1994. Distinguishing optimism from neuroticism (and trait anxiety, self-mastery, and self-esteem): A reevaluation of the life orientation test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(6): 1063–1078.
Schwartz, S. H. 2004. Mapping and interpreting cultural differences around the world. In H. Vinken, J. Soeters, & P. Ester (Eds.). Comparing cultures: Dimensions of culture in a comparative perspective: 43–73. Liden: Brill.
Shepherd, D. A., Williams, T. A., & Patzelt, H. 2015. Thinking about entrepreneurial decision making: Review and research agenda. Journal of Management, 41(1): 11–46.
Siegel, R., Siegel, E., & Macmillan, I. C. 1993. Characteristics distinguishing high-growth ventures. Journal of Business Venturing, 8(2): 169–180.
Singh, G., Pathak, R. D., & Naz, R. 2010. Issues faced by SMEs in the internationalization process: Results from Fiji and Samoa. International Journal of Emerging Markets, 5(2): 153–182.
Singh, S., Pathak, R. D., Shee, H., Kazmi, A., & Parker, D. 2013. Interplay between entrepreneurial characteristics, organisational structure, corporate culture and SME performance: Empirical results from Fiji Islands. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, 18(2): 229–246.
Summerville, A., & Roese, N. J. 2008. Self-report measures of individual differences in regulatory focus: A cautionary note. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(1): 247–254.
Treacy, M., & Sims, J. 2004. Take command of your growth. Harvard Business Review, 82(4): 127–133.
Tumasjan, A., & Braun, R. 2012. In the eye of the beholder: How regulatory focus and self-efficacy interact in influencing opportunity recognition. Journal of Business Venturing, 27(6): 622–636.
United Nations. 2008. Statistics of the human development report. http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/, Accessed January 17, 2009.
Wallace, J. C., Butts, M. M., Johnson, P. D., Stevens, F. G., & Smith, M. B. 2016. A multilevel model of employee innovation: Understanding the effects of regulatory focus, thriving, and employee involvement climate. Journal of Management, 42(4): 982–1004.
Wiklund, J., Davidsson, P., & Delmar, F. 2003. What do they think and feel about growth? An expectancy-value approach to small business managers’ attitudes toward growth. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 27(3): 247–270.
Winters, D., & Latham, G. P. 1996. The effect of learning versus outcome goals on a simple versus a complex task. Group & Organization Management, 21(2): 236–250.
World Bank. 2008. World bank group entrepreneurship survey 2008. http://go.worldbank.org/T8G73Z9ZM0, Accessed July 8, 2009.
World Bank. 2009. World development indicators database. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DATASTATISTICS/Resources/GDP_PPP.pdf, Accessed July 5, 2009.
World Bank. 2012. Pacific Islands overview. http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/pacificislands/overview, Accessed September 23, 2012.
Wu, C., McMullen, J. S., Neubert, M. J., & Yi, X. 2008. The influence of leader regulatory focus on employee creativity. Journal of Business Venturing, 23(5): 587–602.
Youssef, C. M., & Luthans, F. 2007. Positive organizational behavior in the workplace the impact of hope, optimism, and resilience. Journal of Management, 33(5): 774–800.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Neill, S., Pathak, R.D., Ribbens, B.A. et al. The influence of managerial optimism and self-regulation on learning and business growth expectations within an emerging economic context. Asia Pac J Manag 37, 187–204 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10490-018-9612-x
- Regulatory focus
- Managerial learning
- Growth expectations
- Pacific Island countries