Discussion on Entrepreneurial Process

Entrepreneurial Process

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

1. Understand the constituent elements of the entrepreneurial process.

2. Gain appreciation for how the elements fit together to form a whole.

In this chapter, we examine the ways in which entrepreneurial ventures combine the classic

entrepreneurial process with sustainability concepts. This combination encompasses design

approaches and corporate competencies that generate new offerings that achieve revenue growth and

profitability while enhancing human health, supporting ecological system stability, and contributing

to the vitality of local communities. This chapter shows the interconnections across sustainability,

innovation, and entrepreneurship to give the reader greater understanding of a current global

phenomenon: the search for new products, technologies, and ways of conducting business that will

replace the old with designs intended to help solve some of society’s most challenging issues.

When products are designed and business strategies are structured around systems thinking that is

associated with sustainability, the outcome, as in any system composed of interacting and

interdependent parts, emerges as larger than the sum of its constituent elements. So we should keep

in mind, as we dissect the entrepreneurial process into its core elements, that we do so for analytic

purposes—first to understand the individual parts and then to see how they come together. Once that

picture is clear, the reader will have gained new insights into what entrepreneurs active in the

sustainability innovation space actually do. The Walden Paddlers case discussed in Chapter 4

“Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Innovation Analysis”, Section 4.5 “Adaptive Collaboration

through Value-Added Networks”, is a representative example of this approach.

Bear in mind that sustainability, innovation, and entrepreneurship are terms used to represent a wide

range of ideas, depending on the context. However, just because they have come into common use

and have been interpreted broadly does not mean they cannot be defined in focused and practical

ways to help guide entrepreneurial individuals in business. Individuals and companies are, in fact,

implementing sustainability designs and strategies through the use of innovative initiatives. At the

present time, these three terms—sustainability, innovation, and entrepreneurship—are our best and

 

 

most accurate descriptors of what is happening in the marketplace. No one term covers all the ground

required. In the following sections, we examine entrepreneurial process and then discuss

sustainability concepts to explain how the necessary parts merge to create a holistic picture.

Entrepreneurial activity can seem mysterious for those not familiar with the phenomenon. US culture

has created heroic myths around its most famous entrepreneurs, reinforcing the idea that

entrepreneurship is about individuals. As a consequence, many people believe those individuals are

born entrepreneurs. In fact, it is more accurate to talk about entrepreneurship as a process. More

frequently than not, a person becomes an entrepreneur because she or he is compelled to pursue a

market opportunity. Through that activity—that process—entrepreneurship unfolds. A typical story of

entrepreneurship is one in which the entrepreneur is influenced by his or her engagement with

favorable conditions, circumstances in which an idea comes together successfully with a market

opportunity. An individual has an idea or sees a problem needing a solution and generates a way to

meet that need. A new venture is initiated and, if successful, an ongoing business created. Thus

entrepreneurship—the creation of new ventures as either new companies or initiatives within larger

organizations—is about the process of individuals coming together with opportunities, resulting in

specific customers being provided with new goods and services.

For purposes of this discussion, entrepreneurship is not constrained to starting a company. While

that definition is commonly assumed, entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial innovation can occur in

a variety of settings including small or large companies, nonprofit organizations, and governmental

agencies. Entrepreneurship emerges under widely diverse circumstances, typically in response to new

conditions and in pursuit of newly perceived opportunities. We focus here not on the average new

venture set up to compete under existing rules against existing companies and delivering products or

services comparable to those already in the market. Rather, our focus is on entrepreneurial

innovators who forge new paths and break with accepted ways of doing business, creating new

combinations that result in novel technologies, products, services, and operating practices—that is,

substantial innovation.

In that regard, our approach is aligned with entrepreneurship as defined by twentieth-century

economist and entrepreneurship scholar Joseph Schumpeter, who pointed out that change in

societies comes as a result of innovation created by entrepreneurs. His emphasis was on innovation

and the entrepreneur’s ability through innovation to generate new demand that results in significant

wealth creation. Peter Drucker, a twentieth- and twenty-first-century scholar of entrepreneurship,

echoed similar ideas many decades later. Entrepreneurship is innovative change through new venture

creation; it is the creation of new goods and services, processes, technologies, markets, and ways of

 

 

organizing that offer alternatives with the intention of better meeting people’s needs and improving

their lives. Innovation encompasses the creative combination of old and novel ideas that enables

individuals and organizations to offer desired alternatives and replacements for existing products and

services. These innovative products and ways of doing business, typically led by independent-thinking

entrepreneurial individuals, constitute the substitutions that eventually replace older products and

ways of doing things. Sustainability entrepreneurship and innovation build on the basics of this

accepted view of innovation and entrepreneurship and extend it to encompass life-cycle thinking,

ecological rules, human health, and social equity considerations.

Understanding entrepreneurial processes and the larger industrial ecosystem at work requires that we

break down the subject matter into separate pieces and then recombine them. The pieces need to be

examined on their own merit and then understood in relation to one another. We start with

understanding the entrepreneurial process and move to examining the elements of sustainability

innovation. Each piece is a necessary, but not sufficient, part of the puzzle. By examining the pieces

carefully, we can see in Chapter 4 “Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Innovation Analysis”, Section


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