X-factor for innovation: identifying future excellent professionals

J.H. den Hertog

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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In this study we wanted to identify which type of individual is capable of achieving professional excellence. Our main question therefore read: which individual antecedents predict professional excellence? We chose to focus on personality traits and specifically on proactive personality - the entrepreneurial disposition –because it matches our description of an excellent professional. “Proactive people scan for opportunities, show initiative, take action, and persevere until they reach closure by bringing about change.” (Bateman & Crant, 1993, p. 105). Our study took place at Saxion University, because the identification of talent preferably takes place at an early stage - so the talent is able to develop their potential (Guldemond et al., 2007). This university provides us with the ideal context to study potentially excellent professionals. Saxion developed excellence programs specifically aimed at the identification and development of (future) excellent professionals. We included this excellence context, referred to as the ‘honors context,’ in the design of our study. We identified crucial general behavior underlying excellent accomplishments that we included in our model as well, namely innovative behavior. For the study we used a quasi-experimental and longitudinal research design, with one experimental and one control group. The experimental group consisted of students that were recruited and selected for one of several honors programs (N=249). The control group consisted of ‘regular’ bachelor students that did not participate in an honors program (N=345). Our results showed that the personality antecedents predicted variance in innovative behavior over and above control variables. The predictive power of personality in this study however is little, for proactive behavior personality explained an extra 4% of variance over and above control variables (entire model explains 8% of variance) and for creative behavior an extra 2% (entire model explains 14% of variance). Proactive personality proved to be strongest predictor for proactive behavior and openness the strongest predictor for creative behavior. In conclusion we found that both proactive personality and openness are relevant distal antecedents of innovative behavior. We also found that participation in an honors program also influences innovative behavior. This research contributes to our understanding of antecedents of (future) professional excellence.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Groen, Aard, Supervisor
  • van Riemsdijk, Maarten, Advisor
  • Groen, A.J., Supervisor, External person
  • van Riemsdijk, M.J., Advisor, External person
Award date23 Nov 2016
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-4253-1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2016


  • IR-101914
  • METIS-318615


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