CfP for entrepreneurship and innovation tracks at IFKAD 2015

There are a number of entrepreneurship and innovation related tracks (and one on economic and financial networks) at the forthcoming 10th International Forum on Knowledge Asset Dynamics (IFKAD) 2015, to be held in Bari, Italy, 10-12 June 2015, including:

  1. Culture, Innovation and Entrepreneurship: challenges in the creative industries 
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  2. Project and Knowledge Management, a shared approach, to improve the enterprise innovation 
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  3. Culture, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in tertiary higher education: connecting the knowledge dots 
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  4. Culture, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in a gendered perspective 
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  5. Innovation networks, clusters and ecosystems: managing the dynamics of intangible assets in open innovation contexts 
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  6. Managing Knowledge for Innovation: the role of Culture and Cultural Diversities 
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  7. Why bother about culture in SMEs and micro firms? Innovation, culture and entrepreneurial dynamics in regional development 
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  8. Places and Spaces for Value Creation by Organizations in Cities: The Past as Short-Cut to the Future 
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  9. Is bigger always better? Examining the value and needs of independent freelancers and micro businesses as a key element in the global creative and cultural sector 
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  10. Collective Intelligence Systems for Technology Entrepreneurship 
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  11. Creativity and innovative mindset for entrepreneurship: enabling factors, processes and environment 
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  12. Sustainability as a driver for different forms of innovation 
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  13. Crossing the language and cultural barriers: Innovative approaches to blending academic and entrepreneurial knowledge 
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  14. Innovation and cultural entrepreneurship – the core of a knowledge society 
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  15. Innovation Ecosystems: concepts, models, and knowledge practices 
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  16. Innovations in corporate disclosure 
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  17. Sustainability entrepreneurship – the role of culture in searching for innovation opportunities 
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  18. Exploring the Drivers of Complexity in Economic and Financial Networks: Models and Empirics 
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  19. Knowledge, Cooperation and Innovation in the Wine Sector 
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  20. Business Models Innovation in Creative and Cultural Organizations 
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CfP: Creating Opportunities through Innovation

The deadline for ISBE 2012 Conference Abstract submission has been extended to Monday April 23rd.

Creating Opportunities through Innovation: Local Energy, Global Vision

DUBLIN, Ireland. 7th-8th November 2012

www.isbe.org.uk/ISBE2012

Call for papers

We invite you to submit an abstract and share your research, thinking and findings. We welcome Academic Research Papers (either refereed or working), Practitioner Papers and Case Studies for presentation at the conference in the following tracks:

·         Business Creation, Resource Acquisition & Business Closure

·         Business Support Policy and Practice

·         Creative Industries Entrepreneurship

·         Critical Perspectives on Entrepreneurship

·         Entrepreneurial Learning in Organisations

·         Enterprise Education

·         Entrepreneurship in Minority Groups

·         Family Business

·         Finance, Venture Capital, Taxation & Regulation

·         Gender and Enterprise

·         ICT, IT and E-Business in the Small Firm Sector

·         International Entrepreneurship

·         Networks, Innovation and Resource Acquisition

·         Rural Enterprise

·         Science and Technology

·         Social, Environmental and Ethical Enterprise


The Entrepreneurial State

I was half-listening to BBC News 24 a few minutes ago when I overheard a commentator say some interesting things about the role of government in the rise of Silicon Valley. She also mentioned that she had just written a book called The Entrepreneurial State, so I quickly googled it. It turns out the book is a Demos publication (with the PDF freely available) and the author is professor Mariana Mazzucato. It looks like a very interesting book indeed, making a case for an entrepreneurial state that is an active driver of the national system of innovation. This has moved to the top of my reading list…

The case that is made in these pages is that the role of the government, in the most successful economies, has gone way beyond creating the right infrastructure and setting the rules. It is a leading agent in achieving the type of innovative breakthroughs that allow companies, and economies, to grow, not just by creating the ‘conditions’ that enable innovation.

Rather the state can proactively create strategy around a new high growth area before the potential is understood by the business community (from the internet to nanotechnology), funding the most uncertain phase of the research that the private sector is too risk-averse to engage with, seeking and commissioning further developments, and often even overseeing the commercialisation process. In this sense it has played an important entrepreneurial role.


Seminars on anthropology of enterprise and innovation

A free seminar series on enterprise creation and innovation from an anthropological perspective at University of Liverpool between 1-4 November 2011. Hat tip ISBE. Register here.

From Lucy to Language to a Culture of Enterprise and Innovation

 This exhibition is inspired partly by the BBC’s popular History of the World in a Hundred Objects. We take a selected series of objects from the times of human origins up to the modern age, and explore their themes – stone technology, fire, cave art, and complex worlds – and add to these seminars on key aspects of enterprise and innovation. The exhibits show how objects are at the very core of what it is to be human, and integral to the networks of relationships we call communities, societies, organizations and enterprises. Rarely are social networks simply that – they are more truly sociotechnical. They are enabled and held together by invented and engineered artefacts. Every artefact, invention or artwork, or corporate brand logo embodies an opportunity to learn about culture at the level of nation, region, or even an individual enterprise.


Entrepreneurship and sex

Now there is an interesting topic! The reason I’m bringing this up is not to raise the issue whether becoming an entrepreneur leads to having more or less sex (although who knows, maybe there is something to it). It is also not about entrepreneurship in the adult industry. It’s not even about entrepreneurship and gender. Rather, what got me thinking about entrepreneurship and sex is this BBC News article about recent research on how “worms’ sex life yields advantage over parasites.” The article claims that this is the first convincing evidence on why reproducing sexually has an advantage over asexual reproduction:

Worms forced to reproduce asexually succumbed to a nasty bacterial infection and died.

The researchers say the results are the most convincing evidence to date for a key theory in evolutionary biology.

The theory holds that sex evolved because it lets organisms reshuffle their genes into new combinations to stay a step ahead of parasites.

Reproducing asexually – where organisms clone themselves – makes much more sense; there is no need for an organism to search and seduce a mate, fight off competitors, or risk contracting a sexually transmitted disease. (…)

And yet sex exists; the vast majority of animals and plants reproduce this way.

The link to entrepreneurship and actor-network theory–our main interests on this blog–lies in evolutionary theory. Schumpeter drew on biological evolutionary theory for his definition of entrepreneurship as the creation of new combinations. Latour also described himself as a Darwinian philosopher at the February 2008 Harman Review event. In The Science of Passionate Interests, Latour and Lépinay cite Tarde’s critique of Darwin’s evolutionary theory:

His mistake […] seems to me to have been in relying far more on the struggle for existence, a biological form of opposition, than on cross-breeding and hybridization, biological forms of adaptation and harmony. […] And […] a fertile hybridization, as an exception, is far neater than a hereditary accumulation of small advantageous variations, through competition and selection, to explain the formation of new types of life. (p. 36)

Later on Latour and Lépinay provide another Tarde citation:

And, certainly, it is good that Darwin’s genius pushed this paradox to its limit, for, at present, it is still established that natural selection, that excellent agent of purifying elimination, does not create anything and posits that which it claims to explain–living renovations–in the form of individual variations, and that the secret of these creations of life are hidden from our eyes in the depths of the fertilized egg instead of consisting in the outer shock of organisms fighting each other… (p. 44)

It does sound like the above research findings about the sex life of worms justify Tarde’s insight. What does all this mean for entrepreneurship though?

Schumpeter makes a sharp distinction between entrepreneurship as innovation (the creation of new combinations), and the mere reproduction of existing business models. Using the biological metaphor, it seems entrepreneurs producing innovations are reproducing sexually, while managers who replicate existing business models are reproducing asexually. Who or what would be though the parasites that infect non-innovative firms?

The problem with making this sharp distinction between differentiating and reproducing firms, as I’ve suggested in earlier posts, is that it ignores the fact that for the innovation to survive it actually needs adopters, those that ‘merely’ replicate the innovation (which is of course unlikely to be just a mere adoption and is probably more like an adaptation of the innovation). Although one could argue that adopters of an innovation are part of the overall wave or network of innovation, and therefore they are also guests at the sex party. Who are then those unfortunate asexually reproducing firms then, and what sort of parasites are causing their demise? How to identify both?

Maybe this is not as difficult as it sounds. Even from a pop culture point of view, entrepreneurial ventures and entrepreneurs are celebrated as sexy (Just think of Richard Branson’s Virgin, a company name that is almost an ironic reference to the sexy nature of entrepreneurship). Working for a start-up is risky and dangerous but also exciting and sexy, as opposed to working for a boring firm that is engaged in the repetition of formulas. Still, don’t we need boring firms and asexual reproducers as well to maintain and sustain the stability of the economic environment, which then creates the conditions for sexy entrepreneurship?

(In any case, I do hope all this talk about sex is not going to result in an orgy of spammers.)


Conference on Entrepreneurship, Innovation and SMEs

The 1st International Conference in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and SMEs on 3rd and 4th of November 2011 at the Ecole de Management de Normandie, Caen, France will have a track that might be interesting to researchers of the social aspects of entrepreneurship. It’s the one called “Entrepreneurial organizing: Projects and processes” [PDF].

In this stream we will focus our attention on studies of how entrepreneurship is organized in practice. Our primary interest is neither in individual entrepreneurs nor in sociocultural settings, but rather how entrepreneurial work are expressed on a day-to-day basis in sociocultural settings.

(…)

Theoretically, we build this upon a process ontology implying a view of entrepreneurship as something constantly in emergence through series of social events. It is not a predictable and controllable series of events, however, it is rather a ‘never ending story’ of interactions that may take any imaginable or un-imaginable direction.

(…)

A core metaphor in the study of entrepreneurial processes is the notion of projects, i.e. entrepreneurial processes seen as time-limited, team-enacted series of events. What we want is to be able to view entrepreneurial processes as discontinuous, discernible and disaggregated series of events – as co-constructed by involved actors as limited in time, scope and social involvement.

(…)

Consequently, one important aspect of our suggested perspective is to study entrepreneurship as temporary organising processes.

(…)

Based on this, we invite papers relating to entrepreneurship in terms of processes, projects or organizing. Topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Empirical studies of innovative projects
  • Teamwork in entrepreneurial settings
  • Critical Management Theory perspectives on entrepreneurial organizing – The planning – creativity dilemma in entrepreneurial projects
  • Entrepreneurial leadership in interaction
  • Gendered practices of entrepreneurship and project

Even the term “actor network” gets a mention somewhere in there…


Definitions of entrepreneurship

In The Handbook of Economic Sociology, Howard E. Aldrich has a good summary and evaluation of various definitions of entrepreneurship, most of which have also been alluded to on this blog already. According to Aldrich, there are four competing definitions of entrepreneurship:

  1. The setting up of high-growth and high-capitalisation firms (as opposed to low-growth and low-capitalisation ‘lifestyle’ businesses);
  2. Innovation and innovativeness leading to new products and new markets (the Schumpeterian tradition);
  3. Opportunity recognition (the Kirznerian tradition);
  4. The creation of new organisations.

According to Aldrich there are problems with all four of these definitions. There is a strong selection bias with the first two. Whether a firm has high growth and had introduced an innovation can only be established retrospectively and high capitalisation is no guarantee of high growth or innovativeness. I would add that the political consequences of these definitions are also far-reaching, as they may lead to government policies favouring firms that are already in a privileged position, rather than provide support where it’s more needed.

The second and third definition according to Aldrich also suffers from the problem of being applicable to a wide range of situations, with entrepreneurship just being one. The effect of that is most evident e.g. in the afterlife of Schumpeter’s concept, which became more popular in the theory of the firm as a way of describing the R&D function, corporate venturing and intrapreneurship, than new venture formation in entrepreneurship studies. According to Aldrich, entrepreneurship studies had forgotten Schumpeter.

The adoption of Kirzner’s notion of “opportunity recognition” also had a particular disciplinary effect: because “opportunity recognition” has to do with an entrepreneur’s alertness and alertness seems to be a something that happens in the mind, this stream of research turned entrepreneurship into a problem of cognitive psychology, preoccupied with the figure – but especially the mind – of the entrepreneur.

The problem with the fourth definition according to Aldrich is that it is difficult to delineate when actually new organisations emerge as new social entities. It is both a philosophical problem and a methodological problem. Nevertheless, this last definition has been gaining support in entrepreneurship studies and Aldrich also picks it as the one to zoom in on in the rest of his chapter.

What can we make of these rival definitions and corresponding theories and their consequences from an STS/ANT perspective? The problem of selection bias in the first two definitions makes them interesting candidates for considering the political consequences of those theories, and the current work-in-progress UK government policy of channelling support away from ‘lifestyle’ firms to those perceived as ‘high-growth’ firms provides an excellent case study.

At the same time Schumpeter’s theory of innovation/entrepreneurship as “the creation of new combinations” deserves renewed attention. An argument could be made for disentangling these two concepts and clarifying their relationship, bringing into the picture those new firms as well that adopt the “new combination” but in themselves may not fit the “high-growth” and “innovative” label. In effect I’m arguing about establishing a link between definitions 2 and 4 that would not be subject to the selection bias (i.e. empirical work would focus not only on the innovating firm that is already in a high-growth stage with its innovation in diffusion but on any enterprise that participates in some form in the adoption or distribution of the innovation, even if it’s a low-growth ‘lifestyle’ firm and therefore seemingly only a consumer or repeater of the innovation). The Schumpeterian concept of “new combinations of resources” also offers an opportunity to examine the nature and origin of those resources (both human and nonhuman) that are being combined, as well as the very activities and practices that are needed for creating a new combination.

Kirzner’s thoughts on entrepreneurship could also be revisited from a ‘new’ new economic sociology perspective. However, rather than focusing on the thought processes of the entrepreneur, it might be more interesting to focus on the aspect of Kirzner’s theory that deals with the relationship between the entrepreneur and the market and considers the entrepreneur as a market participant.

The fourth definition is of course naturally attractive to an STS-inclined researcher, considering that the emergence of new entities has always been a core interest of STS and ANT studies. When it comes to entrepreneurship however, it would be important to consider the same point as with the Schumpeterian theory, namely that the role of seemingly repetitive or imitative venture creations should not be disregarded in favour of the highly innovative or controversial ones. Perhaps a Gabriel Tarde quote can be helpful here:

The problem can be summed up as follows: to grasp as closely as possible the genesis of inventions and the laws of imitations. Economic progress supposes two things: on the one hand, a growing number of different desires, for without a difference in desires, no exchange is possible, and, with the appearance of each new, different desire, the life of exchange is kindled. On the other hand, a growing number of similar exemplars of each desire taken separately, for, without similitude, no industry is possible, and, the more this similitude expands or prolongs itself, the more production is widened or reinforced. (Psychologie économique, cited in Latour and Lépinay, p. 35)