Research Handbooks in Business and Management series
Edited by Helle Neergaard and Claire Leitch
Chapter 7: Researching the entrepreneurial process using the critical incident technique
The critical incident technique (CIT) was first used in a scientific study over half a century ago (Flanagan 1954). The significance of this time span is that then the assumption of a functionalist or positivist approach to social science investigations was largely unquestioned. It was the dominant paradigm in the social sciences as it was in the natural sciences (Burrell and Morgan 1979; Pittaway 2000). However, in 1998 I began to consider how CIT might be utilized from a phenomenological perspective (Chell 1998, 2004). This means that there are two variants of the CIT, each to be applied to the research problematic as appropriate. In this chapter I revisit and update my thinking on the use of CIT both in theory and practice. In my previous application of the CIT, I focused on understanding those critical issues that impacted strategic decision-making for business development at any stage of the development process. An important consideration was to understand the circumstances, context and situation that led to crystallization of the decision. This is still an important part of the research. However, in this chapter I intend to narrow the use of the CIT so that its use for theory building and testing is clarified. To achieve this objective I shall apply the technique to investigating the entrepreneurial process of opportunity recognition (Shane and Venkataraman 2000; Chiasson and Saunders 2005; Sarason et al. 2006; Chell 2008).
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