Random Thoughts on Strategic Entrepreneurship
| Peter Klein |
A few insights, interesting facts, provocative statements, and other things I managed to remember from the conference:
- As Nicolai mentioned in his post below, there is a lot of exciting work out there on the links between organizational design and characteristics (HRM practices, organizational culture, social learning processes, team characteristics, etc.) and entrepreneurial behavior. This is clearly a hot topic at the boundary of the strategic management, organizational behavior, entrepreneurship, and innovation literatures.
- This emerging literature is pretty eclectic, theoretically and empirically. The conference featured papers with formal models, conceptual theory papers, conventional econometric papers, simulation papers, and of course thought-provoking keynote addresses. The participants came from a variety of academic backgrounds and specialty areas.
- It’s a young field. The four keynote speakers (Mike Wright, Bill Schulze, Shaker Zahra, and Jeff Hornsby) are pioneers in the field, and not that old. (Shulze noted that he had been present “at the birth” of the modern entrepreneurship field, and he looks pretty spry and vigorous to me.)
- The empirical literature still struggles to operationalize entrepreneurship in a meaningful way. Despite various sermons about entrepreneurship being a generalized function, rather than a job description or firm type, most empirical papers use self-employment, management of particular kinds of firms, etc. as proxies. (I’m guilty of this myself, of course.)
- It occurs to me that many of the entrepreneurial capabilities we’re really interested in are latent, and best captured as residuals — e.g., something heritable and not explainable by other observables (the sort of idea in Nilsson, 2009). Mike Wright talked about mobility, both across firms or projects (habitual entrepreneurs, spin-outs) and across countries (immigrant and returnee entrepreneurs, transnational entrepreneurs). From the perspective of research design, some of these movements may be useful for isolating the “entrepreneurial” essence, such as it is.
- Many of the organizational design problems in entrepreneurship and innovation seem (to me) examples of more general architectural issues: For example, the allocation of resources among entrepreneurial projects (at the level of the small firm, the large firm, or the VC’s portfolio), the process of searching for profit opportunities, etc. are very close, analytically, to more general problems of capital budgeting (in the single-business or multibusiness firm), job-market searching, and other familiar problems. (See the conference papers by Lyngsie; Asmussen, Mudambi, and Andersson; Linder; and Baumann and Stieglitz, among others.) This is not meant as a criticism, BTW — I actually find it encouraging.
- My own paper, on entrepreneurship and ethics (with Harvey James and Desmond Ng; working paper not yet available, to be distributed soon) is undoubtedly brilliant, but needs a lot of work.
- Never use the term “exploratory study” in a paper. One important journal editor mentioned that he automatically desk-rejects papers containing this phrase, taking it as a synonym for “half-baked empirical paper.”