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Faculty Spotlight: Daniel Lerner

Faculty Spotlight: Daniel Lerner | IE Business School

Meet one of IE Business School’s most influential thought leaders.

Students regularly rank Professor Daniel (Dan) Lerner’s classes among the best at IE Business School. He weaves together business, academic, and personal experience to focus on entrepreneurship, drawing on his professional experience in start-ups and consulting, as well as his PhD work in Strategic, Organizational & Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Colorado. Not only has he received numerous awards for outstanding teaching, but also for his research into entrepreneurial action and outcomes. His work bridges psychology, organizational behavior and strategy. Lerner has published in premier scientific journals including: Journal of Business Venturing, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, Academy of Management Perspectives, Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Annals, Small Business Economics, and others. Among his most well-cited works, Action! Moving Beyond the Intendedly-Rational Logics of Entrepreneurship was recently recognized as one of the “most cited articles from Journal of Business Venturing published since 2018.” His recent article examining rationality and psychiatric neurodiversity (e.g., ADHD, hypomania) in venturing was recognized as one of “the most downloaded articles from Journal of Business Venturing in the last 90 days.” In his free time, he volunteers worldwide for non-profit organizations.

Meet one of IE Business School’s top thought leaders.

Faculty Spotlight: Daniel Lerner | IE Business School

What brought you to Spain and IE? Where were you before? And what keeps you here?

Originally from the USA, study abroad (Erasmus-type exchange program) as an undergraduate first brought me to Madrid. I found it a fantastic place to be 20-something. I returned to USA to complete my studies, to work for and on start-ups, work for a business and engineering consultancy, and to do my doctorate. At IE, I enjoy a very collegial department and a diverse student classroom.


Have you ever had an a-ha moment while teaching that furthered your research? What was it?

It’s been more an ongoing experience. In the classroom (like outside of it too), I observed that some of the most entrepreneurial students – while insightful, action-oriented and highly engaged in the novel aspects of venturing – were quite the contrary when it came to the more traditional or mundane aspects of venturing. Concurrently, some very capable and rather different students, which would bring a lot to entrepreneurial endeavors, mistakenly thought venturing was just for creative, risky, visionary types. There is of course no single entrepreneur profile. Understanding our own proclivities and preferences, the reality of venturing (including basic business management and economic viability), as well as the importance of complementary others and design, enables far more grounded and effective approaches entrepreneurial endeavors (and work in general).


Please name one of your articles you feel addresses the most important issues in for IE alumni?

Connected to the prior, I’d recommend the Dueling Banjos: Harmony and Discord between ADHD and Entrepreneurship. The idea of it applies broadly to perceiving and pursuing opportunities, within business and not-for-profit enterprise generally. Also, while the article elaborates based on individual ADHD/disinhibition, the basic framework would apply to many other individual differences (including other forms of diversity). As such, it could be useful for IE alumni in various roles – involving (for example) change, teams, business development, strategy, innovation, or even general management.


What book do you wish your students would read before taking your class and why?

Good question. During my class I encourage students to find podcasts and books fitting their interests (e.g. involving a topic area, function, or industry). Books in audio format can be great. One useful book – with humorous yet pithy illustrations, and handy worksheets – would be Talking to Humans. In terms of podcasts, a few interesting ones, with broad applicability: TED RADIO HOUR, Changing Our MindsHIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST, Work 2.0: The Obstacles You Don’t See, and Rebel With A Cause.


What does Business with Purpose mean to you and how does it apply to your own work?

Business, for better or for worse, has a profound capacity to affect individuals, groups, and the environment. Entrepreneurial action, whether in relation to new venture formation or within existing organizations (of all types), is at the heart of progress and positive change.

Understanding and fostering the development of entrepreneurial thinking and skills, serves multiple ends. This includes empowering students for meaningful engagement in the 21st century work-environment – i.e., not just getting (or creating) a job, but in doing meaningful positively impactful work.


Tell us one personal thing about yourself that none of your students know. A hobby, sport or talent? Strange fact? Unusual interest? 

Hmmmm, as I ask and share something similar with my students at the beginning of the course, they already know of I enjoy playing bicycle polo and underwater hockey [yes, those are real sports]. Something they don’t know however is that I got in trouble in primary school for entrepreneurial activity. While still somewhat culturally and individual specific, I think the general receptiveness (or at least tolerance) for entrepreneurial endeavours is much better now.