Frank Knight and the cognitive diversity of entrepreneurship

Malte F. Dold, Mario J. Rizzo

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In Risk, Uncertainty and Profit (RUP), Knight (1921) develops a theory of the firm that stresses the important role of entrepreneurial judgment for a firm's success. For Knight, entrepreneurial judgment is first and foremost the selection of 'proxy entrepreneurs' who are capable of making good judgments under uncertainty. In this sense, entrepreneurial judgment is essentially 'judgment of judgment'. An overlooked implication of Knight's position is the fact that it leads to an endorsement of distributed entrepreneurship and responsibility. We deem this a very modern idea that challenges a completely hierarchical understanding of the firm. Knight himself does not thoroughly examine the institutional implications of the analytical framework he sets up in RUP. In this paper, we summarize the 'philosophical vision' of Knight's framework and illustrate his rationale behind the distribution of entrepreneurship. We conclude the paper with a discussion of potential institutional implications by referring to the danger of monocultures, the additional value created by cognitively diverse teams, and the effectiveness of venture capitalists.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)925-942
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Institutional Economics
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Dec 19 2021


    • Cognitive diversity
    • Frank Knight
    • entrepreneurship
    • judgment
    • uncertainty

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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