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Elements of Entrepreneurial Expertise

Saras D. Sarasvathy

To effectuate is to engage in a specific type of entrepreneurial action. It has special importance for situations where the future is truly unknowable or human agency is of primary importance. In Effectuation, Saras Sarasvathy explores the theory and techniques of non-predictive control for creating new firms, markets and economic opportunities.
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Chapter 3: Interpreting What I Found

Saras D. Sarasvathy


In interpreting the results of the empirical analyses and drawing useful conclusions, we can use one of two philosophical approaches: a strict positivist stance, which seeks rigorous tests of the theory; or a more radical pragmatist rethinking of what we think we know about entrepreneurship. My empiricism, as I have earlier confessed, began more with Carnap than Popper, but my theoretical journey, as I shall elaborate here, became more pragmatist than positivist. This does not preclude ongoing empirical work from drawing upon both perspectives. Choice of perspective itself is a design decision for each project rather than an a priori ideology. This chapter discusses limitations and ongoing work from a positivist perspective before embarking upon a pragmatist interpretation of the results. 3.1 FROM A POSITIVIST PERSPECTIVE The primary problem with the study from the point of view of positivist rigor is the lack of a control group. At the time of designing the original study, it was not clear what group to use. I considered three possible groups: 1. 2. 3. Unsuccessful entrepreneurs Experts in areas other than entrepreneurship Novice entrepreneurs. Unsuccessful Entrepreneurs 3.1.1 Using unsuccessful entrepreneurs as a control group assumes that expertise guarantees or is congruent with success. As I explained in Chapter 1, this is simply untenable. Moreover, classifying entrepreneurs as successes and failures is a hazardous undertaking. Even classifying specific firms as successes or failures is not always an easy task. Entrepreneurs who have founded successful firms may later start ventures that fail. And vice...

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