Acting as If: Differentiating Entrepreneurial from Organizational Behavior

By Gartner, William B.; Bird, Barbara J. et al. | Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, Spring 1992 | Go to article overview
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Acting as If: Differentiating Entrepreneurial from Organizational Behavior

Gartner, William B., Bird, Barbara J., Starr, Jennifer A., Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

This paper suggests that entrepreneurship is the process of "emergence." An organizational behavior perspective on entrepreneurship would focus on the process of organizational emergence. The usefulness of the emergence metaphor is explored through an exploration of two questions that are the focus of much of the research in organizational behavior: "Whet do persons In organizations do?" (we will explore this question by looking at research and theory on the behaviors of managers), and "Why do they do what they do?" (ditto for motivation). The paper concludes with some Implications for using the idea of emergence as a way to connect theories and methodologies from organizational behavior to entrepreneurship.

"The details are not details. They make the product. The connections, the connections, the connections."--Charles Eames

The purpose of this article is to propose some relationships between the entrepreneurship and organizational behavior disciplines. We suggest that thinking of entrepreneurship as the process of "emergence" offers a very fruitful metaphor for relating entrepreneurship to other disciplines. This paper uses the emergence metaphor to explore how the organizational behavior area might be connected to entrepreneurship by thinking about the organizational aspects of entrepreneurship--entrepreneurship as organizational emergence.

Connecting entrepreneurship to a discipline that is inherently multidisiplinary (organizational behavior) in a special issue of Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice that is devoted to exploring how various disciplines might offer new theoretical insights into the nature of entrepreneurship presented us with some interesting challenges. One challenge involved specifying the unique aspects of organizational behavior (vis-a-vis the other disciplines) as a focus of study. As Pfeffer (1985) points out, organizational behavior borrows from sociology, psychology, economics, political science, and anthropology. Identifying organizational behavior's specificity is, therefore, problematical. Weick (1979, p. 31) indicates that "organizational behavior" is inherently ambiguous:

... one is never certain whether it means behavior that occurs in

a specific place, behavior with reference to some certain place,

behavior controlled by an organization, behavior that creates an

organization, or just what.

While Nord (1976) suggests that organizational behavior is connected to psychology and sociology, it is neither one nor the other. Organizational behavior is about organizations, a phenomenon that is not the sum of individual processes (e.g., need for affiliation), or the manifestation of a particular social process (e.g., transactions). Organizations are simultaneous individual and social phenomena (Katz & Kahn, 1966; Weick, 1979) that require a multitude of different disciplinary perspectives in order to see their natural complexities.

Besides the necessity of seeing organizations from a multitude of disciplines, another source of ambiguity stems from the multilevel nature of organizations; that is, talk about organizational behavior at any level of analysis (e.g., individual, group, organization, community, society) requires a recognition of the other levels as well.

In our review of the organizational behavior literature for ideas and methodologies that might lend more substance to the entrepreneurship area, we found that there is no dominant paradigm in organizational behavior, only a multitude of various perspectives and ideologies. Pfeffer concluded his review of the organizational behavior literature with the observation that organizational behavior was a form of "lay preaching" (Pfeffer, 1982, p. 293). If organizational behavior is, in fact, "lay preaching," it seems appropriate that this review be offered as a particular gospel about entrepreneurship: one of many possible sets of beliefs that might be true about entrepreneurship as a phenomenon.

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Acting as If: Differentiating Entrepreneurial from Organizational Behavior


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