To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

The kaleidic world of entrepreneurs: Developing and grounding a metaphor for creative imagination

Todd H. Chiles (Trulaske College of Business, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, USA)
Sara R.S.T.A. Elias (Trulaske College of Business, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, USA)
Tal G. Zarankin (Department of Management, College of Business and Economics, Radford University, Radford, Virginia, USA)
Denise M. Vultee (Department of Communication, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 18 November 2013



Austrian economics figures centrally in organizational entrepreneurship research. However, researchers have focussed almost entirely on the Austrian school's “gales of creative destruction” and “entrepreneurial discovery” metaphors, which are rooted in equilibrium assumptions and thus downplay the more subjective and dynamic aspects of entrepreneurship. The purpose of this paper is to question such assumptions, proposing instead a “kaleidic” metaphor drawn from the radical subjectivist strand of Austrian economics. The paper develops, grounds, and enriches the theoretical concepts this metaphor embodies in order to advance the general understanding of entrepreneurship as a radically subjective, disequilibrium phenomenon, as well as the specific knowledge of entrepreneurs’ career and venture experiences. In doing so, the paper highlights creative imagination as a wellspring of entrepreneurship.


The paper employs a case study design to inductively develop the theoretical concepts embodied in the kaleidic metaphor and deductively ground them in the accounts 12 entrepreneurs provided about their career and venture experiences. The paper employs symbolist methods to develop thicker descriptions, generate alternative understandings, and facilitate richer interpretations. Moreover, the paper adopts a reflexive approach in considering the study's implications.


The results suggest the kaleidic metaphor comprises five overarching ideas that resonate, often very strongly, with entrepreneurs.


The study is the first to theoretically develop and empirically ground the ideas the kaleidic metaphor embodies. The paper contributes to a growing body of conceptual work and joins a handful of empirical studies by organizational entrepreneurship scholars using the radical Austrian perspective.



The authors thank Daved Barry, Steve Cady, Peter Klein, Dan Greening and Alan Meyer for their helpful comments, and the informants for the generosity of their time. The authors offer special thanks to the action editor Karen Locke and the anonymous reviewers for helping them to improve the paper. The authors acknowledge financial support from the MU Trulaske College of Business, the MU Research Council, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.


H. Chiles, T., R.S.T.A. Elias, S., G. Zarankin, T. and M. Vultee, D. (2013), "The kaleidic world of entrepreneurs: Developing and grounding a metaphor for creative imagination", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 276-307.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited