“Entrepreneurship” can often seem like a buzzword.
Since the 1970s, there has been a strong narrative of the entrepreneur; a visionary leader, who is changing the way we live our day-to-day lives, and driving human innovation to the next level.
But amidst the glamour, and mythology, entrepreneurship also has a science to it. And the "scientist" that dissect and study the world of entrepreneurship are the focus of this series.
In this first episode, we will discover the origins of entrepreneurship research, where it started, and how - like entrepreneurship itself - it grew rapidly to become a vibrant field of study combining economics, sociology, and psychology, to better understand this phenomenon that is shaping tomorrow’s world.
You will meet our entrepreneurship research faculty at the Ivey Business School, and discover what drew them to this field, and how each of them are trying to draw a clearer picture of what entrepreneurship means to individuals, society, and place - all wrapped up in the human story.
The Entrepreneur Podcast is sponsored by Connie Clerici, QS ’08, and Closing the Gap Healthcare Group, Inc.
Key characters mentioned in this episode include:
- The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research
S Shane, S Venkataraman (2000), Academy of management review 25 (1), 217-226
- Discovery and creation: Alternative theories of entrepreneurial action
SA Alvarez, JB Barney (2007), Strategic entrepreneurship journal 1 (1‐2), 11-26
- How do entrepreneurs organize firms under conditions of uncertainty?
SA Alvarez, JB Barney (2005), Journal of Management 31 (5), 776-793
- How entrepreneurial firms can benefit from alliances with large partners
SA Alvarez, JB Barney (2001), Academy of Management Perspectives 15 (1), 139-148
- Entrepreneurship and Epistemology: The Philosophical Underpinnings of the Study of Entrepreneurial Opportunities
SA Alvarez, JB Barney (2010), Academy of Management Annals 4 (1), 557-583
- Organizing rent generation and appropriation: Toward a theory of the entrepreneurial firm
SA Alvarez, JB Barney (2004), Journal of Business Venturing 19 (5), 621-635
- The entrepreneurial theory of the firm
S Alvarez, JB Barney (2007), Journal of Management Studies 44 (7), 1057-1063
- Causation and effectuation: Toward a theoretical shift from economic inevitability to entrepreneurial contingency
SD Sarasvathy (2001) Academy of Management Review 26 (2), 243-263
- Effectuation: Elements of entrepreneurial expertise
SD Sarasvathy (2008), Edward Elgar Publishing
- Creating something from nothing: Resource construction through entrepreneurial bricolage T Baker, RE Nelson (2005), Administrative science quarterly 50 (3), 329-366
- Entrepreneurial action and the role of uncertainty in the theory of the entrepreneur
JS McMullen, DA Shepherd (2006), Academy of Management Review 31 (1), 132-152
Entrepreneurship can often seem like a buzzword. Since the 1970s, there has been a strong narrative of the entrepreneur; a visionary leader, who is changing the way we live our day to day lives and driving human innovation to the next level. While it's a tale that goes back to the Industrial Revolution, with names like the Rockefellers and Carnegie's the story, got an upgrade with the rise of the Internet, surf the web, and you will come across Steve Jobs quotes, right next to Martin Luther King, Julius Caesar, John F. Kennedy, and Oprah Winfrey. Entrepreneurs were the new heroes, explores the new philosophers. But amidst the glamour and mythology, entrepreneurship hasn't escaped our penchant for studying, dissecting, and understanding everything under and beyond the sun. Entrepreneurship has a science to it. And those scientists are the focus of this series. In this first episode, we will discover the origins of entrepreneurship research, where it started, and how, like entrepreneurship itself, it grew rapidly to become a vibrant field of study, combining economics, sociology, and psychology, to better understand this phenomenon that is shaping tomorrow's world. You will meet our entrepreneurship research faculty at the Ivey Business School and discover what drew them to this field. And how each of them are trying to draw a clearer picture of what entrepreneurship means to individuals, society, and place, all wrapped up in the human story. There is no better place for us to start this journey than with Dr. Eric Morse, who was the first full-time entrepreneurship faculty hired to Ivey in the early 2000s.
Yeah, so I was, you know, in many ways fortunate to be in the early days of entrepreneurship scholarship, it had come from many different disciplines that had been very much an economics kind of think of (Joseph) Schumpeter, (Friedrich) Hayek, (Ludwig von) Mises more on kind of private enterprise. But then it started to kind of take on a new life, people started looking at the importance of entrepreneurship and we started from economics, in some ways, finding out how many jobs were created by these entrepreneurial companies; where innovation was coming from... and people started to take more of a specific interest in the entrepreneurs themselves. And we started to see that come out, you know, much like the old leadership, where it was kind of this "great man theory," like, you had to be born into it, and all of that was disproved in the OB literature, but for some reason, then entrepreneurship, you know, grabbed on to that. And so I think about that time, there was a move in the field around well, maybe it's not, you know, the, the person with certain, you know, attributes that they're born with, but how they think about things. And so entrepreneurial cognition became a new area within the entrepreneurship space, and I was, you know, fortunate to be in, in that group where we we're looking really looking at well, do entrepreneurs look at the world differently? Are they are they seeing different cues, based upon their background or their schooling or, you know, just general experience that maybe others aren't? And that was kind of the the path that I pursued in my early days, cognition research.
Another scholar who was living through the emergence of entrepreneurship is Dr. Simon Parker. Parker is one of Ivy's most celebrated academics, and has recently been featured amongst the top 10% of most influential scholars in the field of business and management, according to research.com, which analyzes over 7500 scholars from around the world.
I was in an economics department, really, for most of the 1990s. And I wrote a paper on occupational choice, and it happened to be self employment versus paid employment, which was published in 1996. And this was really a very much an economics paper. It was a labor economics paper. Labor economics is about understanding how workers unemployment happens and how they interact and wage determination and other aspects of the labor market. And it very much fit into a growing interest in self employment at the time. Not really entrepreneurship. This wasn't really a word that economists used back back then. And I became increasingly interested in this group and I wrote some follow-up papers on them on self employed that is And then it just so happened that the economics department I was in, took over the business school in the university at that time, the University of Durham. And so I came into contact much more with management people. And it was the start, I didn't realize it at the time, it was the start of a long transition into business and management. And I was able to use my skills and training to add value as I saw it, for a different audience. And I began to just gradually find the questions, the methods and the open mindedness about questions that could be explored greater in management than in economics. And that that was really the beginning of my journey over towards looking at a more inclusive and expansive view about entrepreneurship. And finally, the the thing that really cemented this was, I wrote the first version of my book, The Economics of self-employment and entrepreneurship, which was published by Cambridge in 2004. And I did a lot of research for that starting in the late 90s and probably about four or five years of reading, not only economics, but I also found myself reading articles in Business and Management, and psychology, and sociology. And I didn't really want to exclude... there was some good work being done there. And that exercise, opened my eyes to what else was out there beyond economics. And I know that sounds a little trite or cliched, but actually, it was terribly important for expanding my view about what good research could be. And it made me more open-minded about continuing that journey into general management.
In the midst of this convergence, something bigger was gathering pace, the emergence of a new field. But as with anything in its formative years, there were a lot of ideas and perspectives that had to be tested in the fire of scholarly inquiry, and be ruled out.
People weren't happy with the idea that anyone could be an entrepreneur. People weren't happy with the idea that you could teach entrepreneurship. And so we did see this from other fields, who maybe didn't believe in the... in entrepreneurship as a legitimate domain of study, trying to figure out other ways to explain entrepreneurship. And so there was, you know, high testosterone studies, there were twin studies showing that it was, in fact, nature, not nurture. And so there was a lot of that stuff that went on. And, you know, you could find some of those studies that would say, wow, they can, they can account for a couple percent of why somebody is an entrepreneur. But when you look at the cognition work, and some of the other work, to be fair, you see numbers that are closer to 20-30%. So, you know, a lot of things go into it, obviously. But it's much more about your experience. You know, what, you know, who you know, and what you've seen in your lifetime.
Still, the rapid progress of the field was exciting, much like a high-growth startup. And scholars started cementing the field with a number of seminal works that form the bedrock of entrepreneurship research.
It's really been an incredible journey that's happened so fast. So back 20 years ago, there was a sense that entrepreneurship was a thing. It wasn't small business anymore. It really was entrepreneurship. There'd been a conference the Babson Conference that have been going really since the late 80s. There were two or three journals, small business economics was one of them. But that was more economics more in general management were two journals, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, and the Journal of Business Venturing. And these journals were recognized as by most general management scholars, as field journals that were "okay." You know, they publish stuff on entrepreneurship, they weren't really attracting much interest from elsewhere, especially sort of strategy, psychology, the these areas had their own OB, they had their own journals. And really, they didn't pay much attention to these other ones. Journalist Small Business Management was another one. The Entrepreneurship contingent, the division at Academy (of Managemet) was small. There were the usual suspects. They're the people that were involved in creating the field and popularizing the field in the 90s and early 2000s. Those people were driving growth, but this was all happening from the purview of somebody in general management , say strategy or marketing or something like that. This was really a this was not small potatoes, but it was not something that was really prominent yet. Fast Forward just 10 years and into the 2010s and the situation's completely changed. We've had some foundational papers in the 2000s. There, Shane and Venkataraman on the domain of entrepreneurship published in AMR in 2000. We've had the Alvarez and Barney papers in the early 2000s, as well. We've had the Effectuation paper by Saraswathy, and Bricolage with Baker and Nelson, this cluster... and entrepreneurial action McMullen and Shepherd is another one I put in that category. This cluster of papers, is carving out entrepreneurship as a distinctive phenomenon. And I would say by the 20... early 2010s, everybody is recognizing now that entrepreneurship is a legitimate new area of research, which is distinctive from, say, strategy. So strategy is about competitive advantage in established firms. But what about new firms? Where did those firms come from? What are the new firms that you eventually talk about strategy for? Well, that's where entrepreneurship comes in.
Parker, who is a field editor for the Journal of Business Venturing, notes that the acclaimed Financial Times top 50 journal publishes only 6% of all submissions. Those are quite the odds. But it also shows how quickly the field has developed into a respected member of the larger discipline of business.
And you've now got increasing prominence of those journals I mentioned earlier. So Journal of Business, venturing 10 years ago is now a serious heavyweight journal in terms of its citation Impact Factor. And in terms of the, the readership, it's, it's not just talking to a few people working in the era of start-ups or whatever, it's actually a journal that's being read and cited more widely across management. Fast forward 10 years to today, from 2012 to 2022. JBV is now the sixth most cited General Management Journal. So it's up there right at the top, and it has been for a while. And its impact is such that now it's attracting submissions from everywhere; attracting submissions from all over general management, and, and economics. And outside that area, too. And I think now that there can be little doubt that it's very well established as a legitimate academic field. And the conversation now has moved away from that, to look, what does, you know, where's it going next? How is it going to develop in the decade ahead, and it's a very exciting time to be in the field.
As the field fortified, it attracted a new generation of researchers. Some, like Dr. Dominic Lim are drawn in by their own entrepreneurial experiences.
I first majored in computer engineering, and I was a computer programmer for some time developing some IT systems for different corporations, etc. And then I started a business together with my colleagues. And that was actually through the Dotcom Boom, and subsequently, the bomb. But anyway, so we started a company. And we had a great people like so like, the programmers from the best computer science program in the country, probably in the word too. And the experience with companies like IBM and KPMG, and sort of wars, especially considering that this was before the bubble burst, we had tons of interest from the investors and clients and various different stakeholders, right. So everything was going very well. And I thought, we're all going to become billionaires. But then things didn't work out somehow. This is a long term story. But at the end of the day, the question that got into my head, was, we thought we had everything to make it really big. But then why couldn't we take advantage of all the opportunities that we had to whereas some others successfully made it big right? Even through the dotom bubble, and the.com burst, right? So there was a question that I took as I did my MBA in Cambridge, and Cambridge wasn't very Interesting experience as well, because Cambridge is known for its very strong science and engineering programs. And a lot of successful companies came out of Cambridge labs and like, scientific invasions, right. So we call that Silicon fen. Lots of exciting things going on. There was a right through the dotcom bubble, as well. So I had opportunities to observe many exciting, like enterpreneurial ventures coming out of the university. Right? And that, along with my experience, really got me into depression. I want to know more!
Dr. Daniel Clark has a similar story.
I was an entrepreneur. I did my MBA, we had one entrepreneurship class, I didn't particularly like it. And I had literally no interest in going into entrepreneurship. But I graduated from that program and took up work in quite possibly the worst environments in the last 50 years, which was the great financial meltdown of 2008 to 2012. And my job, which was supposed to be about growth, and developing new accounts, and so forth, work at Capital One, quickly became a risk management job, as it did for anybody who was working in the financial sector. I had no interest in risk management, I had literally no interest in figuring out how to get risk out of our portfolio and constrain risk. And within a year at working capital was like, I don't want to do this anymore. But the market was terrible, right? There were no jobs there. You know, anybody who was hiring was hiring pretty much in that capacity. And I was like, so what am I gonna do? And I was considering just about anything at that point, because I just had to get out of that environment. And what ultimately struck my chord was to open a restaurant because I loved cooking. I loved food, I loved that environment. I was obsessed with cooking shows, I watched the Food Network on repeat. So that was really what struck me in that it's got me into being an entrepreneur. And I saw entrepreneurship from a completely different light once I was an entrepreneur. Now, the long story short of being an entrepreneur was I liked thinking about entrepreneurship. I liked thinking about my business, I liked planning and strategizing. Far more than I actually liked running my business, which is a massive occupational hazard as an entrepreneur. So I was spending way too much time on that not enough time on the day to day minutia. And so within, you know, two years of being an entrepreneur, I was looking for an exit, I got out of my business in pretty good shape. And then it was like, Okay, what do I do now? And so decompressing what I really liked from that experience versus what I didn't. It culminated in it's time for me to do a PhD in entrepreneurship, and to really focus on those parts of entrepreneurship, I've found fascinating and enjoyable and challenging and interesting, which is ultimately what I did.
On the other hand, Dr. Laurel Steinfield was researching entrepreneurs for the Business Development Bank of Canada, or BDC, long before she entered the world of academia,
rather than take a job after graduating, and I did to become Honours at Queen's, I decided to go to South Africa on a internship sponsored by the Canadian government. And it was during this internship that I was really exposed to social enterprises at large and also to the challenge that organizations faced in trying to target and create products that could help entrepreneurs that were previously marginalized, or had faced discrimination, particularly women or female entrepreneurs. And so I had gotten into doing research with large institutions and also doing work with social enterprises. And it was through this whole process of numerous research projects that just kind of fell into my lap, that I really solidified my understanding and interest in entrepreneurship. In fact, one of the major projects that got me to eventually go and say, you know, I'm going to go and get my doctorate because I wasn't being paid very much and I wanted to be paid for my research was I was doing research with Harvard University that looked at trying to address the gap that existed with financial institutions failure to be able to provide financing for small and medium sized enterprises in Africa, because in a lot of emerging economies, there is a lack of collateral. And so how do you fund these or these these businesses? Is there was micro financing and there was financing for large organ, large, large companies. But there wasn't really anything for small and medium sized companies. And it was through kind of looking at entrepreneurship in a range of different countries in Africa, that I was able to also understand that culture is a really important element, but also that there are groups that are really still struggling to get funding and financing for entrepreneurship. And so their ideas tend not to actually become viable or grow. And so it was really through a number of different initiatives, and really opportunities that just presented themselves to me that I solidified my interest and also my research in entrepreneurship.
For Dr. Janice Byrne, there was a personal connection to what we might call the entrepreneurial spirit. After all, what could be more exciting than a field with tons of open possibilities, with many streams, and tributaries still left to be navigated
Entrepreneurship, it's about... so it's about new ideas. It's about making your own rules. It's about change. And I think I'm a creative, definitely divergent thinker. So I guess, I guess you could say, I'm quirky, so newness, doing things differently, freedom, the departure from the status quo, all of those were aspects that they're inherently enterpreneurship process, and they were intrinsically appealing to me. Because what it appears to me about entrepreneurship is not necessarily the possibility to scale and and to make a fortune, it's the potential that I'm engaging in entrepreneurship has to create something new, to change the world.
And the idea of changing the world isn't a throwaway line, as you will discover in our next episode. And then there's Dr. Larry Plummer, for whom it was anything but a direct path. Graduating from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science in television, radio and film production. Plummer started a freelance career working for every major US network, you could think of CBS, ABC, PBS, NBC, the Discovery Channel. He even played a dead body on television. Plummer eventually landed in a DC office that was helping with environmental policy, and environmental technology transfer in 10 Asian countries, and something dawned on him.
And that's when I started to recognize that a lot of the solutions that were being developed for improving pollution prevention, cleaner production methods, you know, finding ways to use alternative materials in production, and so on. A lot of that technology. And a lot of those ideas were being developed and offered by startups, they were actually being offered by new entrepreneurial firms. And so that's how I started getting interested in working with scientists and engineers who wanted to start their own companies that ended up morphing into a position that it's, it seems like a big jump, but it's actually not a big as big a jump as you think. But I ended up going to work for the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, which is the professional association of aerospace engineers. So if you have if you know, anyone who's an aerospace engineer, this is a Engineering Society for professional engineers in the aerospace industry. And I ran a program for them called the space business initiative, which in the late 1990s, was an effort to try to commercialize a lot of new satellite based technologies like GPS, you know, this was before this is about the time then we were starting to get, you know, Google Earth and the use of remote sensing and satellite imagery for a bunch of commercial applications. At the time, it only been, you know, like satellite imagery was only at the time being used by spy agencies, by ministries of defense and Departments of Defense. And that launched me into starting my own consulting firm where I was helping scientists, engine engineers try to start developing their own helping them develop their own entrepreneurial ventures. And that's when I started considering a career as an academic because I so going back to my public policy days, with the international consulting firm, I was doing a lot of writing a lot of thinking, and I was really enjoying that. So I was really enjoying the research component. I was enjoying working with other people and help them understand how to develop and start a business. And that's, you know, that's when I decided to apply for the PhD program in entrepreneurship at University of Colorado at Boulder. So that's what I ended up doing.
So now that we've met our group of researchers, what do their day to day lives look like? For all researchers, it's about the intriguing questions, but the Challenge often rests, not only in finding them, but also deciding which ones to pursue. And which ones as Dr. Byrne says, to say "no" to.
the life of a researcher in entrepreneurship is extremely like that of an entrepreneur in the ways that there's all these opportunities that are out there, you've to decide which one to tackle at different times, I'm very influenced by the passion aspect, which is that that excites me, which isn't that gets me. Wow, I love the look of that. It's about interacting with others. For me, the really difficult thing about my job is deciding what to say "no" to, and not about what it because it's just so many things I want to do so many people I want to speak with, and so many things I want to learn about. And, and teach about and interact with others to know more about like, it's just yeah, the life of an entrepreneurship researcher, I feel is just so many things we can do. It's difficult to say no. Busy, I think is the best word... to conclude there. Yeah.
At Ivy, all faculty are expected to balance their in depth research with dynamic teaching. It's a rare combination that sets them apart in the world of academia. But as Dr. Clark puts it, this act also requires balancing resources, including that most non-renewable resource, time.
there is an enormously practical component of it, right, there is a four month period of the year where I'm teaching, teaching, teaching, teaching. And so any research work I'm doing is, you know, you know, the house, the house, the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire, and I mean, so it's I've got, I have to get something done. And I've got to balance the two. Now I'm in this part of the year where my time is very much my own. It is figuring out what I want to work with me, this is my board of projects. There's a lot going on there. And so I have to be judicious about saying, Okay, what's the stuff that I need to work on? What do I want to start any new projects? What are those projects? How am I going to share the workload. And so it becomes this weird Nexus where, because here's the thing, if you if you're like, if you're a researcher, you are inundated with ideas, you can't walk down the street without another research idea coming to. And so you're heuristic ly saying, Okay, what are the good, good ideas? What are bad ideas? What are the things that are have impact where, and so and then you got and then it's just, it's a strict prioritization is you've got all the single most valuable commodity I have is my time, my energy, my effort, and my interest, I have to figure out where I'm going to deploy those research those resources. And those very constrained resources, because I have a wife and I have a daughter, and they want time, and they want my energy as well. So I'm in this offense for X number of hours a day. And that's my time to put my resources to work. And so you're juggling a lot of balls, you're trying to keep stuff going out the door. But you're also trying to keep feeding this grist mill of intellectual curiosity. Because once I've written a paper, it ceases to be interesting to me. It's just I gotta get published, which demands time demands energy demands, focus. But that's not interesting. That's not fun. The fun stuff is actually learning for your own purposes and finding out stuff you didn't know. And it's great to figure out how to put that in a package for dissemination. But once you've done that... everything else is just like stealing resources. So fundamentally, my job is about figuring out how to maintain my interest and curiosity. While there's enormous demand on very limited resources,
And that cliched bit about spending time in libraries, reading scores of papers, contemplating ideas in stillness is an important and unglamorous part of being a researcher as Dr. Parker reminds us.
Most of the work we do is actually much more solitary. It involves sitting in our offices and reading articles, retooling, learning about new techniques, gathering data, analyzing data writing, working with co authors, this is often done through Zoom these days or Teams. It involves thinking it involves cogitation, reflection, and sharing ideas. So these things are going on all The time they're going on year round. And they're not very spectacular because there isn't really a forum in which these are showcased. Where the work is showcased is in conferences. And ultimately, hopefully in a published article that appears in a in a good journal that's then read and starts taking his place in the, in the general stock of understanding and knowledge and then helps influence where subsequent work goes.
Those aforementioned conferences play a big part in bringing together researchers from across the world. They become annual fixtures in the lifecycle of a researcher.
There are certain deadlines throughout the year to submit and present papers at leading conferences, and as well as the Babson College conference which has been going on since the 1980s. And which is an annual event and it moves around in North America and elsewhere as well in the world. The the main one I would say is the Academy of Management Conference, the ENT division, the ENT division is now I think the fourth largest division in the whole of the Academy of Management. And so this is the biggest collection of entrepreneurship scholars, I would say on an annual basis that usually takes place in August. The deadline for submissions for that is usually January, the deadline for submissions for Babson is usually October or November, I think. And that conference is due. And conference season usually takes place in the summer months generally. So what happens at these conferences? Well, presenting the papers is usually actually the least interesting part, or reason for going. Not because the papers are bad necessarily, but because it's actually a great opportunity to meet up with co-authors, to meet up with journal editors, to enhance one's network, to keep an ear to the ground about what's going on in the field. Though the social side is actually really rather important at these events.
In our next episode, we will explore the very specific areas of research each of our faculty are working on and how their work is impacting founders and policymakers, while informing the growing body of scholarship around entrepreneurship. On behalf of the Morissette Institute for Entrepreneurship. This has been Melissa Firth for the Entrepreneur Podcast.
The Entrepreneur Podcast is sponsored by QuantumshiftTM 2008 alum Connie Clerici, and Closing the Gap Healthcare Group. To ensure you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player or visit entrepreneurship.uwo.ca/podcast. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.