International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 6 March 2009



Jones, O. (2009), "Editorial", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 15 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijebr.2009.16015baa.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: Editorial From: International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, Volume 15, Issue 2

The future of entrepreneurship research?

The papers in this special issue were all presented in the Entrepreneurship Track at the 2007 British Academy of Management (BAM) conference held at Warwick Business School. During the annual general meeting of the entrepreneurship special interest group (SIG), I suggested that a selection of papers be published in a special issue of IJEBR. After some discussion it was decided that the special issue should be devoted to those at the early stages of their academic careers and that senior members of the community should act as mentors to each of the authors. There were two advantages of this arrangement: first, it provided young and less experienced researchers with expert guidance in developing their work to a publishable standard. Second, the papers may provide some insight into the way the field is likely to develop over the next few years. I would like to thank those who gave up their valuable time to help the authors develop their papers: Andrew Atherton, Ted Fuller, Lynn Martin and Eleanor Shaw.

The first paper in the special issue by Michele O’Dwyer (co-author Ann Ledwith) investigates the new product performance of 26 small firms in Ireland (mentored by Lynn Martin). Competitor orientation and proficiency in product launch were strongly linked to product and organizational performance. It is suggested by the authors that their research indicates very clearly that large firm models of product innovation are not applicable to SMEs because of the lack of links between new product performance and customer orientation and inter-functional coordination.

Lindsay Stringfellow (co-author Eleanor Shaw) develops a conceptualization of “entrepreneurial capital” in the performance of small professional firms (mentored by Ted Fuller). Stringfellow and Shaw argue that it is difficult to identify the impact of various forms of capital on the performance of smaller firms. The conceptual model incorporates human, social and financial capital from a processual perspective incorporating three stages: nascent, start-up and established. As the authors point out, the model demonstrates the dynamic nature of the various forms of capital and the range of outcomes.

ThuyUyen Nguyen also presents a conceptual paper, which looks at the adoption of IT in SMEs (mentored by Andrew Atherton). Based on an extensive review of the literature Nguyen distinguishes between internal (technology push) and external (market pull) pressures for IT adoption. Key internal factors include organizational factors include culture, top management, employees and absorptive capacity. Perhaps the most important barrier to the adoption of IT is the owner-manager’s human capital (their experience and education).

The paper by Stephanie Macht (co-author John Robinson) examines the extent to which business angels are of benefit to the companies in which they invest (mentored by Eleanor Shaw). Business angels can provide a range of resources (financial, human and social capital) which can are often lacking in entrepreneurial businesses. Based on an in-depth study of nine angel-funded companies the authors attempt to establish how small firms can benefit from external expertise. Business angels help overcome funding gaps by identifying sources of finance as well as providing a wide range of knowledge and experience.

Finally, Ioannis Katsikis and Lida Kyrgidou present a categorisation of entrepreneurship research based on the concept of teleology (mentored by Oswald Jones). The authors present a typology of various forms of entrepreneurship (corporate, strategic, social etc) based on the underlying assumptions related to subject, object and process. The central element of the paper is the authors’ concern for the nature of “teleology” which focuses attention on entrepreneurial outcomes such as wealth creation, strategic renewal and innovation.

Clearly this small selection of papers presented in the 2007 BAM conference are unlikely to be representative of research being undertaken by those at the early stages of their academic careers. However, what the papers suggest is that the field is growing in an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary, manner. The topics of all five papers would be familiar to anyone with even a relatively superficial knowledge of the entrepreneurship and small firm literatures. This is not intended as a criticism of the authors – there are a number of strong institutional reasons why really radical research is unlikely to be undertaken by those engaged in doctoral study. Institutional concern with completion rates means that PhD students have become subject to increasing levels of bureaucratic control. I believe that this means there is less opportunity for students to undertake what are seen to be “risky” research projects.

When I was studying for my own PhD at Manchester Business School in the late 1980s I spent a lot of time reading a ground-breaking PhD written by Gibson Burrell (which formed the basis of an extremely influential book: Sociological Paradigms and Organizational Analysis, Burrell and Morgan, 1979). The first half of Burrell’s PhD was a conventional analysis of trade union power and the propensity of workers to strike. The second half was an extensive “auto-critique” of conventional research methods and the underlying philosophical assumptions adopted in the study of “behaviour in organizations”. I was inspired by Burrell’s work and intended to include a more modest auto-critique in my own PhD. I was discouraged by my supervisor “because it will identify weaknesses to the external examiner”. The “chapter” was eventually published as my reflections on difficulties of undertaking doctoral research (Jones, 1995).

I believe that the following is a question needs to be addressed by all those concerned with the development of entrepreneurship research: to what extent does the community encourage radical thinking amongst those beginning their academic careers? For example, Scott Shane (with various collaborators) has been at the forefront in attempts to develop a more effective theory of entrepreneurship based on disequilibrium and entrepreneurial opportunities rather than psychological approaches involving the search for entrepreneurial traits or economic approaches relying on the concept of equilibrium (Eckhardt and Shane, 2003; Shane, 2000, 2004; Shane and Venkataraman, 2001). Shane’s ideas have been in the public domain long enough for his work to have been extended or challenged by able PhD students. It may be, of course, that this conservativeness is symptomatic of the field as a whole as entrepreneurship academics seek to become part of the academic mainstream. In fact, this is the very point made by the editors of a recent special issue (Welter and Lasch, 2008) who suggest that “maturity” is associated with a convergence towards quantitative methods and a loss of “scientific curiosity and openness”. In acknowledgement of this conservativeness, the authors of an earlier special issue in ETP call for more “alternative” views in the entrepreneurship field (Jennings et al., 2005). Steyaert (2007) suggests the concept of “entrepreneuring” as one way of responding to the “methodological individualism” which typifies research in entrepreneurship. To summarise, my point is that senior members of the academic establishment need to encourage younger researchers – particularly PhD students – to challenge received “wisdom” about entrepreneurship and accepted ideas of what actually constitutes a PhD.

Oswald Jones


Burrell, G. and Morgan, G. (1979), Sociological Paradigms and Organizational Analysis, Gower, Aldershot

Eckhardt, J. and Shane, S. (2003), “Opportunities and entrepreneurship”, Journal of Management, Vol. 29 No. 3, pp. 333–49

Jennings, P., Perren, L. and Carter, S. (2005), “Introduction: alternative perspectives on entrepreneurship research”, Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 145–52

Jones, O. (1995), “No guru, no method, no teacher: a critical view of (my) managerial research”, Management Learning, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 109–27

Shane, S. (2000), “Prior knowledge and the discovery of entrepreneurial opportunities”, Organization Science, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 448–69

Shane, S. (2004), A General Theory of Entrepreneurship: The Individual-Opportunity Nexus, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham

Shane, S. and Venkataraman, S. (2001), “The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research”, Academy of Management Review, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 13–16

Steyaert, C. (2007), “Entrepreneuring as a conceptual attractor”, Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp. 453–77

Welter, F. and Lasch, F. (2008), “Entrepreneurship research in Europe: taking stock and looking forward”, Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 241–8