Imagined Future(s)

Prospects of innovation and future in established entrepreneurial groups

Beyond doubt, innovation is an important feature of the modern society (Innovationsgesellschaft) and a cornerstone of a wealthy economy.

The uncertainty of future and the ability of creating and narrating imagined futures (Beckert) are amongst others important sources for the different actors in the innovation processes/systems.

Entrepreneurial groups (Ruef), and mainly their innovation activities, are of paramount importance for the creation of newness. An entrepreneurial group is constituted by a small number of individuals who contribute with time, effort, capabilites and/or money to a joint project. Thus, I follow the recent streams of research, that see entrepreneurship as a collective activity, rather than the work of a lone entrepreneur.

In this dissertation project, my main goal is to investigate how fictional expectations and prospects of innovation are influenced and negotiated in established entrepreneurial groups.

My starting questions are: How are new ideas discovered, generated, evaluated and negotiated in entrepreneurial groups? How are members convinced of an innovative idea, or diverted fom it? Who tells what story, why and with what effect to whom? And what role play familiy and friendship ties (Granovetter) between the members and their personal history?

The core of my analysis are 15 in-depth case studies of entrepreneurial groups. The sample starts out with the artisanry (Handwerk), a traditional industry currently affected by digital changes, challenges and (innovation) chances. Then, I will compare different (rich in contrast) group compositions – varying in term of size, tie relations as well as founding contexts and industries. How are these differences connected with (different) innovative practices and to the group capability to innovate? Which similarities and patterns can be found?

I will conduct one group-discussion per case. There, multiple members of one entrepreneurial group are asked to imagine, narrate and discuss the future of their business. My goal is to see how are fictional expectations negotiated; as well as the dynamics and different roles within the group. To deepen the understanding, additional narrative interviews with group members are planned.

The overarching goal is to provide an insight into aspects of group dynamics which foster or hinder innovation. Looking beyond the founding of a company and avoiding a narrowed focus on innovative hightech companies, the expected findings also help to develop and adapt policy measures that nurture entrepreneurial activity over time and embrace different industries.

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