Designing Organizations that Design Environments: Lessons from Entrepreneurial Expertise

Entrepreneurship has traditionally been viewed as an individual characteristic. Besides investigating personality traits and attributes, studies have examined gender differences (Carter, Gartner, Shaver, & J., 2003), risk aversion (Miner, Smith, & Bracker, 1994) and even sociopathy as possible traits or characteristics of entrepreneurs (Winslow & Solomon, 1987). Unfortunately, these efforts have returned little more than inconclusive results on what defines an entrepreneur and sustains him or her through a continuing career in entrepreneurship. But recently, there is a move to study entrepreneurship as expertise – i.e., a set of skills, models and processes that can be acquired with time and deliberate practice. Take for example, Mitchell (1997) that sought to understand the nature of entrepreneurial expertise in management; or, Reuber & Fischer (1994) that showed an empirical relationship between entrepreneurial expertise and firm performance. Expertise has traditionally been studied in cognitive science using protocol analysis (Ericsson & Simon, 1993). This method consists of having experts solve typical problems from their domain of expertise while continuously thinking aloud. The think-aloud protocols are usually recorded on tape and the contents of the transcribed protocols are analyzed in order to extract the baseline models used by the expert. Sarasvathy (1998) used this time-tested method on a subject pool consisting of 27 founders of companies ranging in size from $200 million to $6.5 billion to induce a baseline model of entrepreneurial expertise called “effectuation.”

Journal or Publication:
Organization Studies
Saras Sarasvathy
Stuart Read
Nick Dew
Rob Wiltbank
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