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To understand entrepreneurship as an activity To suggest an important part of entrepreneurship is understanding and conveying entrepreneurial ideas or meanings to others To put forward a range of approaches examining the importance of engaging others through language in the entrepreneurial venture. To illustrate this approach through recent research on the concept of entrepreneurial maturity To examine what this means for the development of entrepreneurs


Previous unit - entrepreneurship as process rather than special ability Entrepreneurial activities emphasised finding resources, planning effectively, using network, managing risk etc. These activities involve effective decision-making and convincing others of the legitimacy of business How do entrepreneurs make decisions and convince others in highly uncertain conditions? Need to examine how entrepreneurs make sense of these environments and convey these meanings to others.


Ambiguity, adaptation and improvisation characteristic of the entrepreneurial process. Entrepreneurs dont have pre-determined goals, they generate goals as they interact with external environment which restricts their action. Goals conceived through understanding what is possible for entrepreneur to achieve, using experience and social networks (Sarasvathy, 2003). Goals remain fluid and changing, reflecting the entrepreneurial position where change is constant and meanings continually adjusted. Entrepreneurs take action based on the meanings they can make from this context.


Entrepreneurs exist in contexts where past histories might constrain but dont predict future events. Entrepreneurs work on the edge of what they do not know (Hill & Levanhagen, 1995). Must be able to convince others of the legitimacy of their venture e.g. bank managers, venture capitalists and gain support of employees. How can they convince others when they are often unsure of the form, shape and utility of the business venture themselves? Must examine how entrepreneurs give meaning to others in context in order to engage them in an uncertain venture.


One recent attempt at enhancing our understandings is Sarasvathys (2003; 2004) work on effectuation Entrepreneurs are designers of firms, who see possibilities rather than opportunities and work to embed their ideas in the world around them. This is a process of engaging others in new meanings, requiring some level of imaginative action. Entrepreneurs connect with others, create new realities and enable action through language & images A number of examples exist in the entrepreneurship literature, which aim to account for linguistic aspects


Cohen & Musson (2000) studied construction of identity of GPs and female entrepreneurs. Enterprise discourse entered into both the GPs and the female entrepreneurs talk allowing them to make sense of their activities. Majority of female entrepreneurs did not identify with the term entrepreneur, relating it to exploitative entrepreneurs of the 1980s and Thatchers Britain. Fournier and Lightfoot (1997) studied how people make sense of being a family business owner. Entrepreneurs use discursive strategies to combine family and business, creating coherent and contextualised accounts of action.


Others have examined stories that entrepreneurs use to make sense of the life-business-narratives (e.g., OConnor (2002) entrepreneurship as a series of stories She found entrepreneurs used a range of intertwining and changing narratives to:

justify their goals in founding the business, persuade others of its legitimacy to control and make sense of the ambiguity inherent in the environment. founding, visionary, marketing, strategy, historical and convention,

She identifies six basic narrative types

Narratives variously applied depending on situation


Steyaert (1997) conceptualises entrepreneurial process as embedded in a paradigm of becoming Creators of new realities walking on the boundary between existing situations and actualising implicit possibilities into new contexts (Steyaert, 1997). Conceptualises entrepreneurship in a problematic vocabulary Focuses on dilemmas within the entrepreneurial environment, Argues we should understand how entrepreneurs talk about and negotiate action through situations that are inherently dilemmatic


Pitt (1998) explored the personal theories of action of two entrepreneurs, treating their conversational narratives as quasi texts These texts are seen to contain implicit, personal theories of managerial action Entrepreneurs draw on literary concepts, and model their personal theories as multi-element scripts that evolve and change These changes offer insights to researchers aiming to understand how entrepreneurs negotiate meaning in uncertain contexts. Experientially grounded texts permit some degree of systematic access to entrepreneurs theories of action


Hill and Levanhagen (1995) highlight metaphor Metaphors essential to communicate abstract concepts and in situations where new and innovative approaches are needed. Dodd (2002) also found entrepreneurs reached for a range of metaphors, around dynamic and difficult human activities to give meaning to their lives. Included war, passion, journey, and other activities where the outcome was often unknown and potentially dangerous. Entrepreneurs used these metaphors to make sense of their actions and activities and express this meaning to others around them.


Nicholson and Anderson (2005) describe entrepreneurship metaphors presented in a British broadsheet newspaper. They propose the sense-making role of figurative language is important because of the problems in defining and describing entrepreneurial phenomena. Myth and metaphor in newspapers helps define the entrepreneurship in the world around us Images of male entrepreneurs as wolfish charmers, supernatural gurus, successful skyrockets or community saviours and corrupters. These myths and metaphors change over time depending on social context


Think of some metaphors that are used about entrepreneurs in the media e.g. gladiator, hero etc. Do you think metaphors are a useful way of making sense of entrepreneurial activities Make a list of entrepreneurial metaphors with others in your group What are the similarities/differences between them?

Clarke, Gold, Holt, Thorpe, (2007)

"What is Enlightenment?, IMMANUEL KANT, 1784 Immaturity and Maturity Different Life Views Immaturity - inability use own understanding Maturity - defy rules, formulas and guardians Public use of critical reason (autonomy)

Unprejudiced thoughtnew ideas not just what others have done Enlarged thoughttake account of others views Consistent thoughttolerance for ambiguity

Spread ideas, be own guardians, urge others to think for themselves.

Clarke, Gold, Holt, Thorpe, (2007)

Building on linguistic understandings we argue that goals are conceptualised by entrepreneurs in imaginative and metaphorical form Investigate the images entrepreneurs use to convey their business goals Explicitly investigating how entrepreneurs envisage their business goals in the form of a verbal image Use of a postcard methodology Builds on previous metaphorical studies in the entrepreneurship domain


Most prevalent image throughout analysis was of a landscape, some examples are outlined below. Unprejudiced thought suns or flaming suns life-giving entity, creation, independence. Enlarged thought Angel of the North the open arms of the angel suggest the acceptance of multiple perspectives consulting others and blending different activities and attitudes. Consistent thought working the land on a small holding in Ravello on the Amalfi coast in Italy content even when future is uncertain. These images express imaginatively entrepreneurs goals and ambitions for their business


What do these images mean for you? Are they useful to understand entrepreneurship? What do you think they suggest about the entrepreneurs goals and ambitions for the business? Discuss these ideas with your group.


If entrepreneurship is a process of meaning-making what does this mean for entrepreneurship education Entrepreneurs should be aware of their language and how this can impact on success or failure of venture Entrepreneurship not a special ability but having effective interpersonal skills and being able to engage others in the venture. Some theoretical input outlined in previous sections, the other units will be more practical, however, we can now approach them with the understanding that entrepreneurship skills may be developed in a range of individuals.