Understanding Entrepreneurship

Guruprasad Madhavan (School of Management and Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science, State University of New York, Binghamton, New York, USA)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 13 June 2008




Madhavan, G. (2008), "Understanding Entrepreneurship", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 259-260. https://doi.org/10.1108/13552550810887417



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Business magnate Sir Richard Branson once noted that “business opportunities are like buses, there's always another one coming”. There is a challenge embedded in this thought, a challenge that tests our abilities to cultivate a spirited practice to identify and innovatively exploit opportunities. Peter Drucker and his distinguished predecessors have, above all, advocated such a developmental mindset to systematically appreciate entrepreneurship and galvanize our “creative knowledge” economies. As part of our efforts toward this objective, Björn Bjerke, a Swedish educator and practitioner, has now set out to comprehensively understand the role of entrepreneurship as depicted by his book title.

Bjerke starts off by revisiting a number of important residual questions including the most challenging “how can we convert a large a number of all kinds of people into entrepreneurial champions?”, and goes on to conceptualize entrepreneurship as a mechanism to create new user value, akin to the concept of marketing. Following his introductory remarks, the reader is transitioned to a weighty philosophical account on a range of topics including positivism, hermeneutics, phenomenology, ethnomethodology, and social constructionism. Quite tactfully, Bjerke applies this material to establish an analytical framework, one that is successful in clearly extricating the notions of “explaining” and “understanding” in the context of entrepreneurship. “Explaining” as a model, Bjerke argues, employs logical reductionism and falls short in comparison to “understanding,” an approach to be preferred for holistic interpretation and “sensemaking.”

Building on this argument, Bjerke offers us a glimpse of some traditional reasoning approaches and how they inadequately paint the portrait of entrepreneurship. Critiquing classical theories and thoughts stemming out from economics, social psychology, and behavioral sciences, Bjerke skillfully cobbles his international experiences and mild sense of humour to support his perspectives. A noteworthy instance is when Bjerke shares his intent to quickly avoid certain types of entrepreneurs such as a “planning fanatic” or a “patent genius,” a “gambler” or the “over‐skilled,” and a “security seeker” or the “egocentric.” Is “avoiding” a solution?

Subsequently, Bjerke wields his lens to more seriously understand entrepreneurship through a social construct aimed to creatively describe entrepreneurs as “sense‐makers,” “language‐makers,” “culture‐makers,” and “history makers.” These views are impressively weaved by wide‐ranging cross‐disciplinary citations, anecdotes, metaphors, and of course, Bjerke's own experiences. Using social entrepreneurship as an effective case in point, he clearly articulates the basis of some path‐breaking innovations and how “understanding” as opposed to “explaining” them is critical for future initiatives.

Understanding Entrepreneurship reaches its summit when Bjerke uses powerful concepts from network theory to outlay the morphological and structural dimensions of entrepreneurship. He extends this to richly discuss social capital and review personal, business‐based, virtual, and imaginary entrepreneurial networks. However, an already robust treatment of this subject matter could have further benefited had Bjerke included contemporary examples such as the Open Source movement and “Second Life”, the online virtual social and business network world that has spawned a new domain for entrepreneurial activity.

Beyond this section, the book disappointingly wavers and loses its momentum. Bjerke goes into some uninspiring theories of growth patterns, and uses perfunctory examples of how Silicon Valley clusters and locomotive industries vitalized economic development. But how translatable are these concepts to modern scenarios with emergent service and consumer product markets? This, hence, brings forth one of our critical educational challenges in keeping up with the theory and practice concerning the adaptive dynamics and unpredictability associated with innovation and entrepreneurship. Bjerke then contextually shifts the gear to conclude his book by focusing on challenges and approaches related to teaching entrepreneurship. But this chapter is so blasé and passé that hardly any new information can be mined. Then the volume abruptly ends without a summary chapter or an epilogue that could have been useful. Yet, despite these limitations, Bjerke makes a strong case for understanding entrepreneurship through a reasonably priced book for students, but mainly theoreticians.

Related articles