Our research, published in Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, advocates for a shared conceptualization of rigor, which helps close the gap between scholars and entrepreneurs.
How Scholarly Concepts Fit with the World
Traditionally, entrepreneurship scholarship view concepts as mirroring or corresponding to some entrepreneurial phenomenon in the real world. We can think of this fit as a concept-to-world direction of fit. For example, scholars use the term effectuation to describe the behavior of individual entrepreneurs as they develop goals, create networks and manage investment. In this view, scholarship is rigorous when descriptions correspond to the real world, and less rigorous when concepts have little empirical backing. If a scholar makes a mistake in what happened in the real-world, the scholar can change the account to match what had actually happened. Much of the peer-reviewed publishing process aims to establish this correspondence by ensuring rigor, and thus has been a linchpin in establishing entrepreneurship research as a legitimate social science domain.
Entrepreneurs too need to be rigorous. When they make mistakes, unlike the scholar, they cannot simply change their account, they need to change to world to match their intentions.
Alternatively, we argue that rigor can also be seen through a world-to-concept direction of fit. This view recognizes that entrepreneurs too need to be rigorous. When they make mistakes, unlike the scholar, they cannot simply change their account, they need to change to world to match their intentions. In this direction of fit, scholars are guided by the entrepreneur’s intention, aiming to explain and improve performance in the light of it. Hence, scholars can seek to aide entrepreneurs in improving their performance in order to generate the desired facts.
Discrepancies Between Entrepreneur’s Intention and Outcomes
Because a concept-to-world direction of fit is past-looking, scholars often forget that, for entrepreneurs, their entrepreneurial performance is still unfinished and ongoing. Because concepts are fitted the world, scholars view outcomes as related to performance and judgement only. However, when we adopt a world-to-concept fit, discrepancies between entrepreneurial intention and desired outcomes can be due to (1) a mistake or error in performance (2) an error of judgment in choosing the performance context (3) an error of judgment in acting (4) the entrepreneur changing their mind, and (5) discrepancies can be due to ‘‘bad luck’’. Errors of judgment, importantly, only exist if the entrepreneur had known beforehand what eventually transpires, which, more often than not is not the case.
Furthering Rigor and Relevance
We believe that scholars should adopt a stance of world-to-concept fit, which can assist in improving the rigor and relevance of research. In particular, we suggest future research further both rigor and relevance by (1) paying greater attention to entrepreneurship-related practices (speech acts, performances, reproductions, transformations, and relations), (2) adopting a future-focused research orientation, and (3) strengthening relevance by supporting moments of co-creation between scholars and entrepreneurs.
Scholarly concepts can also be active interventions that can be picked up by entrepreneurs to help achieve their intentions.
A world-to-concept fit focuses scholars on the practices being conducted that underlie entrepreneur’s intention and action. Yet, rather than stop there, scholars need to recognize their abilities to create new concepts to shape future practices. In other words, scholarly concepts can also be active interventions that can be picked up by entrepreneurs to help achieve their intentions. To do so, scholars will need to adopt a future-focused stance in research, in which they propose concepts that can be utilized for ongoing or future entrepreneurial performance. A good example of this is the Business Model Canvas, which was developed by Alex Osterwalder from his 2004 PhD thesis titled ‘‘The Business Model Ontology: A Proposition in a Design Science Approach.’’ Osterwalder did not merely develop a theoretical model of business in a past-oriented, correspondence sense, but put forth new concepts (“Canvas”) that opens toward the future so as to become practically useful. Rigor pertains to the extent to which such concepts are meaningful and actionable from a practitioner point of view. Finally, a renewed focus on practices and their diversity suggests that entrepreneurs and scholars might collectively conceptualize and execute research projects.
Rigor pertains to the extent to which such concepts are meaningful and actionable from a practitioner point of view.
There are several methodologies already existing that are currently unused in entrepreneurship studies, for example, collaborative ethnography (Fisher & Nading, 2022), ethnotheatre (Saldana, 2016), pop-up laboratory (Staunæs & Kofoed, 2015), serious games (Susi et al., 2007), walking methods (Springgay & Truman, 2017), participatory video-making and diagramming.