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A pragmatist perspective on entrepreneurial opportunities

Joseph Rubleske (Department of Business Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Kentucky, USA)
Nicholas Berente (Department of Management Information Systems, Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)

International Journal of Innovation Science

ISSN: 1757-2223

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




This paper aims at advancing a pragmatist perspective on entrepreneurial opportunities as an alternative to the traditional and predominant constructivist and objectivist perspectives. To this end, this paper advances a pragmatist definition of an opportunity and draws from empirical evidence to propose a pragmatist model of opportunity conception and exploitation.


A review of the entrepreneurial opportunity and pragmatism literatures yields a definition of an opportunity as a dynamic and unfolding experience which an entrepreneur conceives as a general market need to exploit it for financial or social gain. Drawing from this definition, and with the aim of developing a pragmatist model of an opportunity, a case study approach is applied to three radically innovative services conceived and developed by three high-performance computing (HPC) centers.


In each of the three cases, an entrepreneurial HPC center conceived a new, general market need (opportunity) and then acted to exploit it. Through its action, the HPC center learned something that enabled it to address barriers, develop an improvement or otherwise reconceive the opportunity. In turn, the HPC center learned more about and advanced the opportunity, and then acted again. After launching a new service based on the opportunity, the opportunity continued to evolve in response to the HPC center’s efforts and to market forces.

Research limitations/implications

The pragmatist perspective and model of an opportunity can serve as a foundation for future pragmatist research into entrepreneurship and innovation. To this end, future studies could extend the model by examining in greater detail the acting-learning-reconceiving cycle, by exploring how an opportunity evolves and is reconceived after market launch and/or by investigating opportunity conception and exploitation within other types of markets.

Practical implications

From a pragmatist perspective, an opportunity is not some discrete object to be discovered. It is emergent and dynamic, and to the extent that it is “created”, it is never complete or finalized. It is experienced by the entrepreneur, and it continues to evolve, even after it has been launched as a new good or service.


The paper proposes novel value by advancing a pragmatist perspective on entrepreneurial opportunities. Such a perspective is an alternative to the constructivist and objectivist perspectives that have framed research into opportunities. The paper also proposes novel value by drawing from case study findings to propose a pragmatist model of opportunity conception and exploitation.



Rubleske, J. and Berente, N. (2017), "A pragmatist perspective on entrepreneurial opportunities", International Journal of Innovation Science, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 121-136.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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