A Second Movements in Entrepreneurship Book
Edited by Daniel Hjorth and Chris Steyaert
Chapter 5: Storytelling to be real: narrative, legitimacy building and venturing
Ellen O’Connor INTRODUCTION Emerging organizations are elaborate ﬁctions of proposed possible future states of existence (Gartner et al. 1992, p. 17). Before a company exists, it is a story about an imagined future. As the company comes into being, it still remains largely ﬁctional although the entrepreneurs ‘act as if’ the imagined future is at hand (Gartner et al., 1992). But entrepreneurs are in the business of business, not storytelling, which depends on others’ believing and ‘buying in’ by investing money and/or other resources, for which they expect a return when belief becomes product and proﬁt. Sociologists and organization theorists describe this as a process of legitimacy building (Suchman, 1995; Aldrich and Fiol, 1994). Suchman (1995, p. 582) emphasizes that in order to provide legitimacy, accounts about a company’s activities ‘must mesh both with the larger belief systems and with the experienced reality of the audience’s daily life’. This chapter presents this ‘meshing’ as a verbal process of intertextuality (see below). Entrepreneurs operate in a world of long-standing conversations. To achieve legitimacy, their conversations must engage with these pre-existing, ongoing, and encompassing conversations. The study answers calls for research on (1) the earliest phase of venturing (Schoonhoven and Romanelli, 2001b, p. 403; Aldrich, 2000, p. 14; Aldrich and Fiol, 1994, p. 664); (2) knowledge about the entrepreneur’s day-to-day work (Gartner et al., 1992, p. 238; Aldrich and Baker, 1997, p. 394; Katz and Gartner, 1988, p. 433); and (3) the processes by which an entrepreneur makes meaning (Aldrich and...
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