The human complexities of entrepreneurial decision making: a grounded case considered

David Douglas (Faculty of Business and Law, Staffordshire University Business School, Stoke‐on‐Trent, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Publication date: 1 December 2005



To provide a qualitative, in‐depth, naturalistic, empirical inquiry into entrepreneurial decision‐making, through the application of grounded theory methodology.


Application of original Glaser and Strauss grounded theory methodological approach and subsequent works are situated in the comparatively new context of entrepreneurship and small business management. Gathered data are iteratively analysed to produce emergent conceptual categories and their underpinning properties. Emergent substantive theories of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial decision making are discussed against existing decision and entrepreneurship theories.


First, the examination of the appropriateness of applying grounded theory to investigating complex entrepreneurship issues, as analysed through conceptual categories drawn from an empirical study. Second, the theoretical exploration of emergent entrepreneurship bounded practices and associated tasks of decision‐making. Finally, through the revelation of what is inductively achievable, what can be practically learned by researching naturalistic entrepreneurship.

Research limitations/implications

This process of iterative theory building, whilst grounded in a substantive inquiry, holds the capacity to generate further research questions and tentative explanations at broader formal levels. By cross cutting the boundaries of units of analyses – the entrepreneur or associated actors, for example – this results in the maturation of a complex web of human interactivities. From the research reported, questions beyond the substantive case can develop a broader theoretical and practical agenda. For example, issues such as: buying‐in to an established business, the managing of key skills workers in small enterprises, and, entrepreneurial decision‐making in conjunction with other actors’ involvement.

Practical implications

The application of grounded theory emergent research objectives, whilst originating from particular inductive investigations, can become foundations for better understanding broader entrepreneurship questions and practice‐based researched endeavours.


This paper contributes to the identified need for developing the stock of qualitatively bounded research within entrepreneurship and small business inquiry. It develops understanding of both the theoretical and practical nature of entrepreneurship, the managing of an enterprise and the synonymous task of making decisions.



Douglas, D. (2005), "The human complexities of entrepreneurial decision making: a grounded case considered", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 11 No. 6, pp. 422-435.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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