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Bengt Johannisson

Some contemporary practice theories are not well suited to studying entrepreneurship as ongoing creative organizing. In order to catch the emergence of entrepreneurship, the scholar has to adopt a dwelling mode and immerse themselves into the concrete doings, the practices, of ‘entrepreneuring’, thus amalgamating the researcher and entrepreneur identities. Enactive research thus means that the scholar enacts a real-life venture and uses auto-ethnographic methods to organize the insights being gained. Two enacted, year long, projects, are reported in detail and the methods used and the findings from the research are reported in this thought-provoking book.
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Bengt Johannisson

Theorizing social phenomena, here entrepreneurship, has to relate to the contemporary world, which is, as Zygmunt Bauman puts it, ‘liquid’. The role of entrepreneurship is therefore not to trigger change but to enact ventures and environments that provide the temporary stability needed to create value. The processual features of the phenomenon itself however have to be recognized and accordingly addressed as ‘entrepreneuring’. The focus then moves to entrepreneuring as practice, a view implicitly proposed by Joseph Schumpeter and elaborated by Peter Drucker. The basic argument is that the search for a practice theory of entrepreneuring will only be successful if researchers also adopt the identity of entrepreneurs and personally immerse themselves in the realization of a venture. This approach is addressed as ‘enactive research’. The purpose is to develop and practise that methodology by enacting realities and to use the insights gained to propose a practice theory of entrepreneuring.

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Bengt Johannisson

Process philosophy, pragmatism and existentialism supplement social constructionism as the foundations of enactive research. Associated methodology cannot content itself with considering the researcher as a passive instrument in the knowledge-creation process aiming at theorizing entrepreneuring. Instead it is argued that the interests, competences and authentic involvement of the scholar in the enactment of a venture decide the quality of the research. These capabilities are mobilized in order to identify the formative dispositions of the entrepreneur that bring out the embodied knowing needed to enact the venture and its environment. Their interface is creatively organized and resourced by the entrepreneur’s personal network. Positioning a proposed image of entrepreneurship as practice against the general Schatzkian framework as well as approaches in organization theory, entrepreneurial practices stand out as dealing with incessantly produced internal and external ‘situations’. Agency is then ascribed to the dialogue between the situation at hand and human conduct.

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Bengt Johannisson

With its focus on hands-on practices, embodied knowledge and the personal commitment of the scholar, enactive research stands out in the family of interactive approaches inviting practitioners jointly with scholars to create new knowledge. This implies that the identities of researcher and entrepreneur are amalgamated into the hybrid identity of an ‘entresearcher’. The scholar thus engages in the organizing of an event that adopts its own action rationale originating in the formative dispositions of the entresearcher. This rationale frames the actions and interactions taken over the different phases of the enactment of a venture. These phases include 1) the entresearcher’s familiarization with the empirical context, 2) initiation of the venture, 3) its actualization, 4) the entresearcher’s separation from the context and 5) reflection on field experiences. Auto-ethnography as the general method being applied draws upon all three kinds of tales proposed by Van Maanen, i.e. realist, impressionistic and confessional tales.

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Bengt Johannisson

The scholar or entresearcher’s ability to practise enactive research is conditioned by her/his commitment to entrepreneuring, as a field of study as well as a practice. The entresearcher has to be familiar with both the general domain and the concrete setting of the enacted venture. Two such ventures, each covering about a one-year enactment process, are reported as chronological realist tales as well as kairotic impressionistic tales presented as vignettes. The latter are structured into ‘circumstances’, ‘predicaments’ and ‘interventions’ according to what control the entresearcher had over their emergence. Both ventures aimed at stimulating local or regional development with the university as a major contributor. The first venture, enacted in 1999, focused on the role of culture, while the second one, enacted in 2014, aimed at adding a social dimension to regional development. A systematic comparative analysis of the two entrepreneurial events is applied to expand the scope of both the methodology and the findings.

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Bengt Johannisson

The proposed action rationale for entrepreneuring includes the following formative dispositions: 1) considering change and experimenting as a natural state; 2) experiencing the personal network as a bodily extension; 3) recognizing venturing as a collaborative undertaking; 4) rationalizing and imputing agency to one’s own actions over random events; 5) safeguarding room for manoeuvring; and 6) regarding institutions as competitors, indifference as an enemy and resistance as an energizer. These dispositions encapsulate the entrepreneur’s personal relations, which provide the warp of the entrepreneurial career imagined as a rag-rug. Its weft is constituted by the resources (rags) that feed situated practices. In the venturing process these appear as prosaic everyday activities as much as they appear as dramatic events. The overall weaving process as a metaphor for the practice of entrepreneuring is guided by the duality of conscientiousness and grit, where as much attention is paid to details as to the crafting of an entrepreneurial career and identity.

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Bengt Johannisson

The hands-on involvement of scholars as producers of new realities certainly creates important ethical challenges that have to be actively dealt with. Nevertheless the enactive approach supplements scholars’ indirect impact on society through discursive approaches. Enactive research also offers a constructive way of including education in the making of entrepreneurial universities that recognizes their unique composition of research, education and outreach activities in the service of society at large. Today ‘entrepreneurial’ universities usually defer to major external stakeholders, mainly the business community. If it is recognized that each field should make its own contribution to social research at large, the enactive methodology appears as a unique contribution from the field of entrepreneurship. Although rigour and relevance will always remain important aspects of research quality, ‘originality’ in theorizing and modes of inquiring, which learns from entrepreneuring as ongoing change, should be considered an equally important aspect of quality in social research.

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Bengt Johannisson

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Bengt Johannisson