Entrepreneurship- an evidence-based guide
Author: Robert Baron
Publisher: Edward Elgar 2012
This book is an ‘easy-read’, well written, presented and as the title suggests well researched. The introductory chapters are fairly descriptive on for example, what makes an entrepreneur, how do they react, are they different from ‘others’?
The author cautions a reader not to place too much emphasis on individuals recounting their tales of success, failings and ultimate success (very few books recount a series of failings or failures); such individuals may not recall a true and accurate account of events – hence the main approach of using published and peer reviewed articles to provide the necessary ‘evidence’.
There is a good chapter on how the rational brain gets interfered with: we humans are prone to a range of ‘cognitive errors’ e.g. our regular use of ‘heuristics’ or more simply rules of thumb for dealing with complex issues/huge information or data sets and a decision needed within a brief timeframe. It is one thing to accurately define these errors of rationality, describe when they likely to occur but quite a different thing to propose we can learn to lessen their hold on us.
Baron explores the concept of effectuation- in short, an entrepreneurial way of thinking (logic) and progressing our actions. Rather than thinking about cause and effect, an entrepreneur starts from the basic position of: what resources do I have at my disposal (or can get hold of) and so what is possible to achieve in the next step of development. He examines the notion of alertness as a precursor to opportunity recognition and pattern recognition as a mechanism to aid opportunity development. I found myself thinking that much of the research is rendered to tautological conclusions: people high in self-efficacy are high in alertness factors who are high in extraversion who are high in…I am quite sure that we were to survey any successful individual (artist/musician/sports person/engineer) they would score high in all the battery of items. What I am basically getting at is questioning the general validity of the research in entrepreneurship. In essence are the tools used in entrepreneurship research fit for the job?
There is a good exploration of the concept of affect (our emotions, feelings and moods). A first venture or taking an idea to market will undoubtedly provide the necessary challenges and blows to one’s affect. What is it like to be “running on empty” for long periods of time, to be left ‘high and dry’ by a middleman, to be running short of necessary cash. Entrepreneurs need this experiential learning to develop emotional intelligence. If you haven’t got it – the lesson is ‘earn it by living through it’.
There is a telling section in one part of the book (p114) : ‘Entrepreneurs are a ‘special’ group of people…they are a highly selected group: only persons who are attracted to entrepreneurship actually seek to engage in such activities and find that they are indeed suited to this role continue as entrepreneurs’ . This is a pivotal statement: what or indeed who makes entrepreneurship attractive in the first instance(s) and what are the key factors or components which determine one’s initial perception or experience? Are such initials perceptions open to change and who or what can change them – as an educator, I was searching for this interpretation and analyses.
There is however a comprehensive section on intellectual property; as always it is good to make sure that you have fully understood this vital aspect of taking your idea to market. As in other walks of life, make sure you are fully protected in this area. So in sum, a good book to flick through and keep as a general reference.
The book concludes with some basic guidance for would be entrepreneurs: to be able to distinguish between being an entrepreneur and entrepreneurship, that entrepreneurship is concerned with building relationships with others, with valuing and recognising this contribution. In summary, this is not a book for the beach I am afraid, but one which you can quite easily ‘dip in and out of’ and come back for future reference.
Dr Chris Loughlan BSc (Glas), Cert Ed (Lough), Dip Ed (Glas), MEd (Glas), PhD (Glas).
Chris studied at Glasgow and Loughborough universities; as an ‘eternal student’ he then returned to Glasgow University until there were no more relevant degrees to offer him. He has spent most of his work time in the public sector predominantly in the NHS both north and south of the border. In 2001, he spun a small e-learning company out from Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Since then the company has grown significantly to include research and evaluation consultancy with clients at regional (e.g. Health Innovation and Education Clusters), national (e.g. The Department of Health) and international levels (e.g. WSPA and Pearson). He became a fellow of the National Council of Entrepreneurship Education in 2010, presented in the ‘Festival of Ideas’ (University of Cambridge) and has since been invited to guest lecture on creativity, innovation and enterprise at a number of higher education intuitions and policy ‘think tanks’ in the UK and abroad