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Research on entrepreneurship
Howard E. Aldrich has been a considerable influence on the topic of entrepreneurship. In his Organizations Evolving (1999) he makes the point that:
'Organizational scholars have done an excellent job in explaining how things work in organizations that have been around for a while, but not how they came to be that way. In contrast, I am interested in the genesis of organizations, organizational populations, and communities. Even really large organizations started small, usually, but the absolute miracle of their creation does not seem to interest most organization theorists. It should.'
He advocates an evolutionary approach to the emergence and change of organizations. Using Darwinian language he describes the creation of new organizational structures as variation, the way in which entrepreneurs modify those structures and use resources to meet changing circumstances as adaptation, the circumstances leading to survival or extinction as selection, and imitation of successful concepts by other entrepreneurs as retention.
Aldrich points to the weakness of traditional (romantic) views of the entrepreneur, when most are only modestly successful and that success is often dependent on others. He draws attention to the issue of the 'nascent entrepreneur', someone who initiates a series of activities that are intended to result in a business start-up (Reynolds, 1994). Every year, between 4 and 6 per cent of working Americans embark on actions aimed at a business venture - 40 per cent of Americans do so at some point in their adult lives, according to Reynolds and White (1997).
Aldrich (2000) summarizes international research on entrepreneurship:
* Entrepreneurship research, while improving, is still of limited topical concerns and value to entrepreneurs.
* Research on entrepreneurship has developed in partial isolation between Europe and North America. Surprisingly, government and foundation support has been greater in Europe.
* Research on both sides of the Atlantic have a strong normative and prescriptive orientation. European researchers focus on fieldwork while North American researchers prefer survey methods. But North American researchers tend to assume that their findings have universal applicability whereas European researchers show an awareness of national differences.
* Entrepreneurship as a research field includes scholars of many different disciplines and each view entrepreneurship from their own academic perspective.
Aldrich observes that entrepreneurship research in both continents has four common features:
1. Research on entrepreneurship and research on organizations has developed separately to a considerable extent, so that similar disputes have been repeated between the two sets of researchers in both cases.
2. The strong normative and prescriptive approach has meant that they have kept in close touch with practitioners and policymakers.
3. They have concentrated on description rather than hypothesis testing although there is now a trend towards model building.
4. There has been a focus on established businesses to the neglect of the start-up and growth phases.
Aldrich observes that organization studies in North America had moved from Sociology and Psychology departments into the Business Schools by the 1990s.
Starting your own business
Aldrich, H. E. (1999), Organizations Evolving, Sage.
Aldrich, H. E. (2000), 'Learning Together: National Differences in Entrepreneurship Research' in D. L. Sexton and H. Landstrom (Eds.)The Blackwell Handbook of Entrepreneurship (Blackwell Handbooks in Management), Blackwell.
Reynolds, P.D. (1994) 'Reducing Barriers to New Firm Gestation: Prevalence and Success of Nascent Entrepreneurs', paper presented at the Academy of Management, Dallas, Texas.
Reynolds, P.D. and White, S.B. (1997), The Entrepreneurial Process: Economic Growth, Men, Women, and Minorities, Greenwood Publishing Group.
The Entrepreneurial Process: Economic Growth, Men, Women, and Minoritiesby Paul D. Reynolds, Sammis B. White Entrepreneurship is an extremely important, but little understood, component of the U.S. economy. This book aids that understanding by exploring the challenges and outcomes of the start-up phases of new firms. This is the first detailed, large-scale, longitudinally-based analysis of the entrepreneurial process. Three representative samples of new firms and two representative samples of nascent entrepreneurs (those attempting to start new firms) are used to consider a variety of factors that affect successful completion of the major transitions in the life of new businesses: conception, birth, and early development (survival and growth). Surprisingly, a substantial minority of start-ups become operational new firms. Among the many lessons the authors learn are that although new firm growth appears to reflect many factors, initial size is of special consequence. Not only are many general insights for entrepreneurs revealed, but the authors also pay special attention to the involvement of women and minorities in entrepreneurship and suggest effective government policy for different stages in the entrepreneurial process.
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