Advances in Entrepreneurship, Firm Emergence and Growth: Volume 7


Table of contents

(12 chapters)

Arguably, one of the most unexpected findings of the Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics has been the discovery of higher levels of corporate entrepreneurship (CE) than expected. One entrepreneur in seven is starting a business for or with their current employers. Given the current numbers for independent start-ups, that rate translates into 150,000 corporate entrepreneurship efforts annually in the USA. Another way to think of it is that in terms of firms with employees, corporate entrepreneurial ventures represent one-quarter of new start-ups each year. Those efforts also potentially represent a disproportionate percentage of surviving efforts, because corporate entrepreneurial projects tend to have superior initial access to financial, human and organizational resources than the vast majority of independently started firms.

Environmental uncertainty, turbulence, and heterogeneity create a host of strategic and operational challenges for today’s organizations (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1998). To cope with the challenge of simultaneously developing and nurturing both today’s and tomorrow’s core competencies, firms increasingly rely on effective use of corporate entrepreneurship (Covin & Miles, 1999). These facts make it imperative that managers at all levels actively participate in designing and implementing a strategy for corporate entrepreneurship actions. The recent literature reveals that there is a general although certainly not a complete consensus around the position that successful corporate entrepreneurship (CE) is linked to improvement in firm performance (Ireland et al., 2001). Covin, Ireland and Kuratko (2003) suggest that corporate entrepreneurship is increasingly recognized as a legitimate path to high levels of organizational performance and that the understanding of corporate entrepreneurship as a valid and effective practice with real, tangible benefits is occurring across firm type and managerial levels. Other researchers cite corporate entrepreneurship’s importance as a growth strategy (Kuratko, 1993; Kuratko et al., 1993; Merrifield, 1993; Pinchott, 1985; Zahra, 1991; Zahra & Covin, 1995; Zahra, Kuratko & Jennings, 1999). As an example, Dess, Lumpkin and McGee (1999) note that, “Virtually all organizations – new start-ups, major corporations, and alliances among global partners – are striving to exploit product-market opportunities through innovative and proactive behavior” – the type of behavior that is called for by corporate entrepreneurship. Barringer and Bluedorn (1999) suggested that in light of the dynamism and complexity of today’s environments, “…entrepreneurial attitudes and behaviors are necessary for firms of all sizes to prosper and flourish.” Developing an internal environment that cultivates employees’ interest in and commitment to creativity and the innovation that can result from it contributes to successful competition in today’s competitive arenas. A valuable and appropriate internal organizational environment is a product of effective work (often within the context of corporate entrepreneurship) by managers at all levels (Floyd & Lane, 2000).

Few issues are characterized by as much agreement as the role of innovation and entrepreneurship for social and economic development. Schumpeter’s (1942) emphasis on the importance of innovation for the business firm and society as a whole is seldom disputed. Although entrepreneurship is widely recognized as a central dynamic in the startup of new small companies (e.g. Vesper, 1980), it is equally crucial to revitalizing and sustaining established companies and renewing their ability to compete in a dynamic and global economy.

Corporate entrepreneurship is a process of organizational change within established firms, which involves creation, transformation and/or the development of an entrepreneurial philosophy (Covin & Miles, 1999; Guth & Ginsberg, 1990; Schendel, 1990; Sharma & Chrisman, 1999; Zahra, 1993). Researchers and executives alike emphasize the importance of change in corporate entrepreneurship. According to Stevenson and Jarillo-Mossi (1986, p. 14), “If a company wishes to continue to be entrepreneurial, it must convince everyone that change is the company’s overriding goal,” or, as stated by Michael Dell, “The only constant in our business is that everything is changing” (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1998, p. 1).

Zahra and Covin (1995, p. 46) report that “the current interest in corporate entrepreneurship arises from its potential usefulness as a means for renewing established organizations and increasing their ability to compete in their chosen markets.” In addition, a number of researchers support a contention made by Schollhamer (1982, p. 82), that “corporate entrepreneurship is a key element for gaining competitive advantage and consequently greater financial strength” (Covin & Slevin, 1991; Peters & Waterman, 1982; Zahra & Covin, 1995). Interestingly, however, other researchers argue that corporate entrepreneurship can be risky and may be detrimental to a firm’s short-term financial performance (Burgelman & Scales, 1986; Fast, 1981).

Research on corporate entrepreneurship (CE) has grown rapidly over the past decade (for reviews, see Dess et al., 2003). This interest in CE stems from rising international competition, requiring companies to learn new skills and develop new competencies (Eisemhardt & Santos, 2003). These competencies enable companies to compete in new market arenas both at home and internationally, creating value for shareholders (McGrath, MacMillan & Venkataraman, 1995). With more and more companies focusing on international expansion, recent research on CE has focused on examining international issues. Though most past research is comparative in nature, some has investigated companies’ international expansion as a forum within which CE activities unfold (Zahra & Garvis, 2000).

Entrepreneurship is an emerging and evolving field of inquiry. Entrepreneurship research has been expanding its boundaries by exploring and developing explanations and predictions of entrepreneurship phenomena in terms of events such as innovation, new venture creation and growth as well as characteristics of individual entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial organizations. The largest institutionalized community of entrepreneurship scholars – the Entrepreneurship Division of the Academy of Management – has developed an entrepreneurship specific domain that incorporates the creation and management of new businesses, small businesses and family businesses, and the characteristics and special problems of entrepreneurs; it has further identified major topics such as new venture ideas and strategies, ecological influences on venture creation and demise, the acquisition and management of venture capital and venture teams, self-employment, the owner-manager, management succession, corporate venturing, and the relationship between entrepreneurship and economic development. One growing entrepreneurship research sub-field is corporate entrepreneurship (intrapreneurship), i.e. entrepreneurship in existing organizations. Emerging in the past two decades, the initial research in corporate entrepreneurship focused on new business venturing, i.e. the formation of new ventures by existing organizations, mostly corporations, and the focus on the entrepreneurial individual inside a corporation – this focus was then extended to include entrepreneurial characteristics at the organizational level. Corporate entrepreneurship research has evolved into three focal areas. The first area of focus is on the individual intrapreneur (Jennings, Cox & Cooper, 1994; Jones & Butler, 1992; Knight, 1989; Lessem, 1988; Luchsinger & Bagby, 1987; McKinney & McKinney, 1989; Pinchot, 1985; Ross, 1987; Souder, 1981), mainly emphasizing the intrapreneur’s individual characteristics. The recognition and support of entrepreneurs in organizations is also a part of this focal area. The second area of focus has been on the formation of new corporate ventures (Burgelman, 1985; Carrier, 1994; Cooper, 1981; Fast & Pratt, 1981; Hisrich & Peters, 1984; Hlavacek & Thompson, 1973; Krueger & Brazeal, 1994; MacMillan, Block & Narasimha, 1984; Szypersky & Klandt, 1984; Vesper, 1990); this area’s primary emphasis is on the different of types of new ventures, their fit with the corporation, and their enabling corporate internal environment. The third area of focus is on the entrepreneurial organization (Burgelman, 1983; Drucker, 1985; Duncan et al., 1988; Hanan, 1976; Kanter, 1984; Kuratko et al., 1993; Merrifield, 1993; Muzyka, de Konning & Churchill, 1995; Pinchot, 1985; Quinn, 1979; Rule & Irwin, 1988; Schollhammer, 1981; Stevenson & Jarillo, 1990; Stopford & Baden-Fuller, 1994), which mainly emphasizes the characteristics of these organizations.

This chapter follows two previous chapters on the nature of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship scholarship that have been presented in this book series (Davidsson, 2003; Venkataraman, 1997). Both of these chapters are key works in the field, and they both provide critical contributions to our understanding of what entrepreneurship is, as a focus of scholarship, and how entrepreneurship should be studied. My intention for this chapter, therefore, is to offer some thoughts that, I believe, are complementary to the insights offered by my colleagues. My approach to considering the questions of “What is entrepreneurship?” and “How might entrepreneurship be studied?” is to offer some thoughts about the “community of practice” (Latour, 1987, 1999; Sargent, 1997; Wenger, 1998) that currently exists in the academic field of entrepreneurship, and to propose some suggestions for how academics might practice different ways of entrepreneurship scholarship. (This will beg the question of whether a “community of practice” can remain a community, if the practice, itself, changes).

The study of entrepreneurship in the twentieth century can be characterized as the import era: psychological trait theories (Brockhaus & Horowitz, 1986; McClelland, 1965; Powell & Bimmerle, 1980); psychological cognition theories (Busenitz, 1999; Katz, 1992); strategy theories (McDougall & Robinson, 1990; Sandberg, 1992); finance theories (Brophy & Shulman, 1992; McMahon & Stanger, 1995); marketing theories (Hills, 1981); population ecology theories (Aldrich, 1990); sociological network theories (Aldrich & Zimmer, 1986; Birley, 1985) and creativity theories (Long & McMullen, 1984) among others were imported to shape the development of entrepreneurship as an academic discipline. Thus far, the results of this prodigious effort are ambiguous at best; findings warrant continued effort in each stream but have to produce consequential insights into the nature, process, and dynamics of entrepreneurship. Why this may be so will be considered later. However, such a track record should prompt considerable reluctance to heed McMullen and Shepherd’s (2003) suggestion to import yet another theory – signal detection – rather than approach the study of entrepreneurship directly. Based on their exposition, such reluctance would be well founded except for the rather exciting fact that the framework has the potential for consequential insights if applied in another way. The purpose of this commentary is to critically evaluate the authors’ conceptualization and outline the alternative.

Gaglio’s work on opportunity recognition (Gaglio, 1997; Gaglio & Katz, 2001) represents an important contribution to the literature and has generated considerable scholarly attention. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that we respond to her commentary on our recent chapter (McMullen & Shepherd, 2003). Central to Gaglio’s commentary is a discussion about the appropriateness of our critique of the literature and a proposed alternate use for signal detection theory in building entrepreneurship theory. Responding to this commentary provides us the opportunity to better articulate our main arguments and to build on Gaglio’s ideas for an alternative application of signal detection theory.

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Advances in Entrepreneurship, Firm Emergence and Growth
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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