Research into traits that favor entrepreneurial success goes back to the 1920s. In the 1960s, the "traits" approach was pursued in the USA in particular - with the aim of making it easier for venture capital investors to assess companies' prospects of success. The work of psychologists, social scientists and economists resulted in different catalogs of criteria - which, however, agreed on many points. These were used as the basis for the development of EDD.

Characteristics - or "personality traits" - are to be understood as behavioral or experiential traits that manifest themselves constantly over time and in different situations. They emerge in the course of personal development as a result of the interaction of genetic and environmental factors.

In combination with other influencing factors such as education, industry experience, ... as well as the specific environmental situation, these become effective and can be considered relevant for success.

Risk propensity2023-05-16T06:56:06+02:00

describes the willingness to make decisions even under uncertainty and to accept possible failure.

People with a high risk propensity are prepared to accept failure in the sense of financial as well as personal loss, provided they value the prospect of success more highly than the probability of failure.

Even the first formal definition of "entrepreneurship" by Richard Cantillon in 1755 includes the subject of risk-taking as a distinguishing feature from other "businessmen": Cantillon describes the entrepreneur as an "adventurer" with the characteristic ability to recognize fruitful business opportunities and to exploit them while taking a risk.

Radical innovation entails a far higher risk than moderate growth with continuous small innovation steps. In this respect, the willingness to take high risks is a fundamental prerequisite for tackling such an undertaking in the first place. However, in order to lead it to success and not to rush headlong into the adventure, only to go down with flying colors, the risk propensity should be in a high, but still controlled range.

Solution orientation2023-05-16T20:37:57+02:00

describes an optimistic and at the same time realistic basic attitude as well as the constructive handling of negative experiences.

Solution-oriented people neither look away from problems nor try to gloss over them, nor do they try to analyze them in detail. They recognize the situation objectively and soberly and look for the most direct possible solutions. They do not focus on the problem, but on the desired state and try to muster the necessary resources for this.

Understanding a problem and wanting to break down its origins in detail is not in itself a negative quality. However, when it comes to rapid growth, pragmatic action with a clear focus on goals is often required.

Perseverance & Persistence2023-05-16T20:57:35+02:00

Describes the tendency to consistently pursue goals even when resistance, setbacks, or exhaustion occur.

Persistent people maintain their motivation over a long period of time, are not discouraged by anything and - come what may - stick to their goals once they have been set.
goals once they have been set. People with high perseverance values are more eager to meet professional and non-professional demands with vigor. They are more optimistic about the future, more self-critical about their achievements, more focused on perseverance and more interested in continuous development.

Too much persistence sometimes threatens to become "doggedness" and makes you miss the moment when it might be better to rethink your strategy.


describes the breadth, depth, and complexity of a person's thought world.

The personality trait "openness" is one of the characteristics of the Big Five or OCEAN model. It characterizes people who have an intellectual curiosity and feel the urge to gain experience and implement new ideas. Open-minded people like variety, often question the tried and true, and are interested in new things. They are inquisitive and have a strong imagination.

Their aspiration is to broaden their horizons at every available opportunity. Learning does not mean effort, but represents a fundamental need. As a result, they acquire a broad spectrum of knowledge that is not limited to a single subject area. They deal with a wide variety of topics, enjoy acquiring new skills and are open to new things - whether they are ideas or other people.

Need for autonomy2023-05-16T21:06:15+02:00

describes the urge to take one's life into one's own hands and to shape it independently of external influences or supposed limitations.

People with a strong desire for independence want to make it on their own. Success only really counts if it has been achieved independently, preferably without outside help. Therefore, it is often difficult for them to accept support - whether in the form of money, work or connections. In principle, they do not like to commit themselves - especially not to people who want to have a say in decisions.

The focus in the pursuit of autonomy and self-actualization can vary:

Financial independence - People like to make monetary decisions without external control and are also prepared to take calculated risks for which they themselves "take the rap".

Administrative independence - corporate structures with several hierarchical levels and long decision-making paths are a no-go. Speed and joy of discovery instead of preservation, trial & error instead of error avoidance.

Mental / creative independence - The central interest is in living out creativity and realizing one's own life plan.


describes the confidence of being able to successfully solve future challenges based on one's own abilities.

In the literature, self-efficacy is described as "task-specific self-confidence" or the "basic ability to cope, perform, and succeed." Individuals with strong self-efficacy recover more quickly from setbacks, show greater commitment to overcoming hurdles, and thus increase the likelihood of success.

Experienced successes increase the conviction that one can also be successful in the future - especially if these successes are attributed to one's own abilities and not to fortunate circumstances: People who initially have to accept setbacks and then make progress through their own efforts increase their self-efficacy level more than those who are successful right away.

There is also a significant relationship between self-efficacy and goal commitment. High self-efficacy increases the acceptance of high goals: People do not give up in the face of setbacks; instead, they continue to develop new strategies for achieving goals and intensify their efforts.

Conscientiousness & Discipline2023-05-16T21:00:43+02:00

describes the orderliness and accuracy.

People with a high expression in this area are structured, meticulous and often tend towards perfectionism. Conscientiousness is a key characteristic when it comes to completing necessary tasks.

Conscientious people look for the one perfect solution, systematically analyze and meticulously check all details. They play an essential role in setting up effective structures and processes and ensure a low error rate. In addition, they are willing to invest a lot of time and energy and do not let adverse circumstances stop them from consistently pursuing their goals.

Conscientious people weigh decisions carefully, which makes them stabilizers but not necessarily "drivers" within a team. If this characteristic is present in excess or in several people, it can slow down progress to the point of an "innovators dilemma".


Describes the ability to regulate one's own impulses and to use energy in a task- and goal-oriented manner.

People with strong self-control are intrinsically disciplined. They think before they act and are usually strong in task planning, organization and prioritization.

Willingness to defer reward: Characteristic here is a reward system that does not demand immediate gratification: Small needs are put aside in favor of large experiences of success.

Efficient information processing: People with high self-control can block out irrelevant information. This allows them to concentrate on the essentials, reach their goal faster and are also less prone to errors.

Emotional stability2023-05-16T20:49:40+02:00

describes the degree of mental balance.

Emotionally stable people are calm, self-confident and level-headed. They can perceive their feelings quite intensively, but do not let them determine them or throw them off course. They are able to act rationally even in emotionally challenging situations. Overall, they can filter, analyze and control their emotions better than unstable (vulnerable) people.

In the sense of the Big Five personality model, the counterpart would be "neuroticism", whereby this is not to be understood in the Freudian sense, but merely expresses how much one is guided by negative feelings. Emotional stability means being able to withstand stress and pressure situations, low blows and fear and, in the best case, even being able to draw positive energy from them.

Value orientation2023-05-17T14:09:39+02:00

Describes a clearly defined, overriding value system that determines all thinking and actions.

Every person has his or her own construct of values: An invisible guideline consisting of what is personally important to one, what one is willing to give and what one demands from one's fellow human beings. Values provide orientation and set the standard for what is good, desirable and right. The clearer a person's values are, the more stable his or her actions will be and the less easily he or she will be thrown off course.

Strongly value-oriented people know their WHY, their purpose of existence: they know WHY they do what they do and follow a clear blueprint for the future. It is easy for them to keep the big picture in mind and they do not tend to get bogged down in trivialities. They know the framework in which they operate, know what is important to them and have (moral-ethical) boundaries that they would not cross.

"If there is no agreement on the fundamental, there is no point in making plans with each other." (Confucius)

Shared values within a team (or any other form of organization) are the basis for success and an anchor at the same time: If people agree on the mission to be accomplished and the means they are willing to use to achieve it, they will always know what needs to be done to achieve the goal.

Social competence, empathy2023-05-16T20:46:48+02:00

describes the ability to perceive emotional states and needs.

Empathy is considered the fundamental principle of human interaction. Those who are able to empathize with the perception and experience of others recognize their needs - and can integrate this knowledge into the development of products and (customer) relationships.

Individual components according to Howard Gardner and Thomas Hatch:

  • Transferring one's own mood regarding feasibility and enthusiasm to others (leadership)
  • Negotiate solutions, mediate, prevent or resolve conflicts
  • Make personal connections
  • Perceive and understand feelings, motives and concerns of others (social analysis)

In the early days, entrepreneurial teams spend between 30 and 50 percent of their already long working hours on communication. The way in which "relationship capital" is created and maintained via personal exchange therefore has a significant influence on further progress. Internally, a high degree of empathy is reflected in a cooperative and appreciative corporate culture as well as the ability to win over and emotionally retain employees.

Entrepreneural Passion2023-05-16T07:06:24+02:00

describes the degree of emotion associated with the understanding of the role in relation to entrepreneurship and is significant for one's own identity.

Entrepreneurially passionate people are ready to devote themselves to their goals with full vigor, using all their strength. They want to put their know-how and experience into practice, they live and love what they do, which in turn acts as a true "energy booster" and enables them to achieve great things.

Passion is also contagious: for entrepreneurially passionate people, it is easy to inspire and spur on others (customers, partners, employees, ...) and thus promote the success of the company.

Extraversion & Charisma2023-05-16T06:54:03+02:00

describes emotional expression, self-confidence, self-determination and freedom from inner conflict.

Charismatic people are not stewards of the status quo. They seek stimulation, set idealized goals, and show a strong commitment to those goals.

People with a high degree of extraversion appear active, dominant and are socially energetic. They have high expectations and at the same time great trust in their comrades-in-arms, whom they direct with social competence and motivate to subordinate their own interests to the common mission.

Communicating a vision has been found in research to be as important as the vision itself. Charismatic people can share their vision, inspire others, and thereby attract passionate followers. Through adept communication at various levels - verbal and nonverbal - others can be persuaded to internalize and share the vision and the values it contains.


describes the tendency to assert oneself in the face of others and to actively overcome resistance.

Individuals with high assertiveness tend to have a dominant demeanor and put their own needs above the needs of others in social situations.

For assertive people, success means removing obstacles. They want to achieve their goals against all odds - the greater the resistance, the greater the sense of achievement.

Unlike individuals who tend to be compliant, they are more competitive, do not avoid conflict, and are better at negotiating in their self-interest. They have a strong need for domi-nance and want to take on the role of "heroic leader" in the team.


describes the ability and willingness to approach the familiar in a new way.

Progress requires leaving behind familiar ways of thinking. In the process, boundaries are questioned and consciously transcended in order to gain a new perspective on the interrelationships. Innovative people think and act creatively, they act instead of react and actively initiate change.

The ability to think in a non-linear way is what distinguishes innovative people: While linear or "vertical" thinking proceeds step by step and is based on practiced patterns, innovative people question conventional thought patterns on principle. Situations and framework conditions are not accepted as unchangeable.

Locus of Control (LOC)2023-05-16T06:49:16+02:00

describes the belief that events can be controlled by one's own behavior.

People with a high locus of control (LOC) believe that success is determined less by external circumstances and is essentially in their own hands. Events are experienced as a consequence of one's own actions. A high locus of control also means that the reasons for failure are sought in oneself and that, as a result, the activity to achieve a goal is increased instead of giving up á la "There's nothing we can do".

The opposite would be an "external control belief" - the belief in pre-determination or external determination, which results in a felt helplessness and passivity due to a lack of influence. The model of chance, fate, or external control can be understood as a protective mechanism of the human psyche to maintain self-confidence in case of failure.

Propensity to act2023-05-16T20:55:32+02:00

Describes the realization of intentions to act - the willingness to actually seize entrepreneurial opportunities.

While others simply take note of their environment, those who are ready to act see it as full of opportunities and possibilities (opportunity detection) and are ready to take immediate action if they see it as worthwhile.

The tendency to act proactively plays a central role in all personality-theoretical approaches to start-up activity. According to J.W. Atkinson, the strength of the action tendency results from the product of the strength of the motive to want to succeed, the probability of success and the incentive to succeed. Thus, the higher the motivation and the conviction that high goals can be achieved, the more willing a person will be to take the initiative.

Need for achievement2023-05-16T21:02:11+02:00

describes the willingness to commit oneself to goals on one's own responsibility and to a high degree.

Achievement-oriented people have a desire to accomplish something important, to acquire certain skills, or to meet high standards. They set high standards for themselves and like to compete with others. Defeats challenge them to try even harder to ultimately achieve victory.

This is about performance per se, the pursuit of positive results. Financial success, power and status are not a motive, but merely a yardstick and confirmation of one's own performance.

Ambiguity tolerance2023-05-16T20:31:10+02:00

describes the ability to deal with contradictory, unclear, unstructured or ambiguous situations.

Tolerance of ambiguity or uncertainty is the opposite of stereotypical thinking and makes it possible to perceive circumstances in a differentiated, multi-layered and positive way. It is accepted that in some cases there are no clear classifications, clear answers and quick solutions.

People with a high tolerance for ambiguity are true improvisation talents: they are able to adapt quickly to complex and changing conditions while always remaining capable of taking action.

Anyone who decides against a linear career path and takes the plunge into self-employment is in itself demonstrating tolerance for ambiguity. Uncertain situations, challenges that don't fit into any pigeonhole, are encountered again and again in all start-up and growth phases. Those who can cope with this are at a clear advantage.

Stress tolerance2023-06-10T05:57:52+02:00

describes the psychological resilience or resistance to strain, stressful situations or sudden changes.

People with pronounced stress tolerance have a high degree of inner balance. They work with concentration even under pressure and keep a cool head in any situation in life. Stress-resistant people know that they have knowledge, tactics, skills and strategies to cope with crises.

Passion for what you do and good self-management are the best tools for dealing with stress: If you have your time and energy reserves under control, you don't reach the limit so quickly and are able to step up to three more gears if necessary.

Analytical skills2023-05-16T20:51:23+02:00

describes the ability to change perspective.

People who are strong in analysis do not just rely on what they (think they) know, what they have learned or what has worked so far. They question and - in contrast to people who merely want to have their opinions and world views confirmed - are prepared to change their previous views at any time and to reassess situations.

Analytically strong individuals are able to systematically adopt different perspectives of thinking and perceiving in relation to any given topic, which has strong implications for both creativity and communication skills.

EDD sheds light on three dimensions that have proven to be significant for successful entrepreneurship: The first is to determine how consolidated the individual personalities are - whether they are able to meet the challenges that come their way with confidence and solve problems efficiently. The second point concerns characteristics that have a direct impact on working methods and output, and whether the initial naturally high level of energy can be maintained over a longer period of time. And thirdly, it is a question of where this energy comes from: What motivates, what are the genuine, intrinsic goals and values of the actors?