Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Defragmenting Definitions of Entrepreneurial Opportunity

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Defragmenting Definitions of Entrepreneurial Opportunity

Article excerpt

We examined 19 years worth of definitions of entrepreneurial opportunity and opportunity-related processes. We found 56 articles in six entrepreneurs hip-focused publications, with a total of 49 conceptual definitions and 32 operational definitions. Among those definitions, we identified 25 distinct conceptual and 12 operational elements of opportunity plus 48 conceptual and 39 operational elements of opportunity-related processes. We found considerable fragmentation across conceptual and operational elements. However, based on commonalities among conceptual definitions, we developed six composite conceptual definitions of opportunity and eight composite conceptual definitions of opportunity-related processes, which we hope will help reduce the fragmentation of the entrepreneurial opportunity literature.

Introduction

"Opportunity" is a word that has appeared frequently in the entrepreneur-ship literature, particularly since several seminal articles called attention to its importance in understanding entrepreneurship (Kirzner 1997; Shane and Venkataraman 2000; Venkataraman 1997). However, scholars have approached entrepreneurial opportunity from a variety of theoretical perspectives, which has led to inconsistent conceptual and operational definitions. Any examination of the entrepreneurship literature will quickly reveal that few scholars explicitly define opportunity and when they do, their definitions are often generated by themselves for the particular article. This leads to a second quick observation: when authors do define opportunity conceptually and/or operationally, they seldom follow previously published definitions. That is, if one were to select any conceptual or operational definition of entrepreneurial opportunity or opportunity recognition or opportunity identification, etc., then one would be hard pressed to find the same definition in another article. This makes it difficult to generalize about conceptual developments or empirical findings related to entrepreneurial opportunity and processes of opportunity recognition, identification, discovery, or creation (henceforth simply referred to as opportunity related processes). Theory" building is frustrated by the fact that these scholars were not all examining the same theoretic constructs. Thus the question: can one defragment the entrepreneurial opportunity literature to find some common threads? Answering this question would help researchers more accurately connect their findings to the appropriate stream of research within the entrepreneurial opportunity literature.

To help with this issue, we present results of an investigation of the entrepreneurship literature examining entrepreneurial opportunities. Specifically, we systematically examined the various conceptual and operational definitions of entrepreneurial opportunity and the various processes involving opportunity (e.g., recognition, discovery, and creation) and found enough similarity among disparate definitions to develop a set of composite conceptual definitions, one set for entrepreneurial opportunity and one set for opportunity-related processes. (1) The composite conceptual definitions and the associated research articles should be useful for researchers to more appropriately build on prior research of entrepreneurial opportunity by identifying the streams of research that are consistent with their own theoretical perspectives.

In the following paper, we first provide a brief review of the diversity of perspectives found in the literature along four approaches used to improve our understanding of the phenomena: conceptual and operational definitions of entrepreneurial opportunities and opportunity-related processes. We then describe the literature we examined and how we examined it. Next, we describe the method used to analyze our article database and develop composite conceptual definitions. Following that, we discuss findings from our analysis and the composite conceptual definitions we constructed. …

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