Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

Revisiting Leadership, Organizing, Generating Change, Using Sensemaking, and Influencing External Perceptions

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

Revisiting Leadership, Organizing, Generating Change, Using Sensemaking, and Influencing External Perceptions

Article excerpt


The call for this special issue arose from the Sun-Break '98 Conference on Organizations held in February 1998 in Las Cruces, NM. The topic of the conference was to address issues of non-linearity in organization research and teaching. During the conference we discussed a wide range of topics which ended up centering on complexity theory as a way to understand the non-linear issues we are faced with in doing organizational research. This special issue represents some of the participants' thought along with others who responded to the special issue call. The thoughts were directed to the impact of non-linearity and complexity theories on entrepreneurship and our concept of entrepreneurship. Just as there are multiple perspectives in traditional entrepreneurship literature (as well as a wide range of theories grouped under the title of complexity theory), this collection of articles has a wide range of orientations. You will find some common themes of complex adaptive systems and how such systems impact their environment and organize/act to respond to that environment. Here is a taste of what you have in store as you go through the special issue.


Hench's article makes a fine initial piece. The reader is provided with a short history of one of the complexity theories, non-linear dynamical complex adaptive systems (ND/CA systems). It compares the Newtonian-mechanical perspective with the assumptions found in ND/CA systems. Hench includes examples of the metaphors found in each orientation. He presents several very useful tables. He does find distinct differences between the two sets of assumptions yet when the ND/CA system assumptions are compared to the description of entrepreneurs and their behavior, there is much more agreement than between entrepreneurs and the assumptions of the Newtonian-mechanical perspective. From this Hence continues on to note the implications for Management's actions given each set of assumptions. He concludes that the ND/CA assumptions imply that managers should experiment rather than only plan, should serve rather than lead, encourage and facilitate self-organization rather than organize, and support learning rather than providing control. He fruitfully argues that entrepreneurial behavior is closer aligned to the managerial actions implied from ND/CA system assumptions.

Noting that one of the efforts researchers use to bridge the gap between theory and practice is the use of metaphors, Hench next examines the metaphors associated with each perspective. He demonstrates again that entrepreneurial researchers' descriptive metaphors line up more closely with ND/CA system researchers. Hench thus concludes that ND/CA system theory can provide a theoretical basis for entrepreneurial research. He suggests that some new areas to explore include examining the self-organizing processes of perpetual novelty and the creating and dissolving of patterns in the marketplace. He also acknowledges the need for developing new tools to examine the propositions that may arise from NA/CA system assumptions.


The next article in the special issue, Bergmann-Lichtenstein, gets down to the nitty gritty of examining how entrepreneurs facilitate the emergence of new businesses. Bergmann-Lichtenstein uses the branch of complexity theory that addresses self-organization as his theoretical lens for this rich empirical case study. He provides a nice linkage between the existing literatures in entrepreneurship and organizational life cycle with those found in complexity theories. He also links to complex adaptive systems theory and thermodynamics. He finishes his theoretical foundations by examining the emergence of self-order within systems.

Bergmann-Lichtenstein applies this understanding to new ventures and moves into his case study. He links the acquisition of negentropy to the Weickian sense of organizing and emergence of a configuration of resources and processes. …

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