Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Business Administration

First Advisor

Nelson, Reed

Abstract

The purpose of this research project is to qualitatively investigate the patterns of activity (modalities) in which entrepreneurs engage to create value for their customers. Proceeding from observations made by Claude Levi-Strauss (1962), who identified distinct modalities in which people of all cultures interact with the world around them, which are engineering, art, bricolage, and to a lesser degree craft, this research uses grounded theory to build a typology of entrepreneurial work and investigates the relationship between entrepreneurial categories, financial performance, longevity of the created ventures, and organizational form. Based on interviews and extensive field work observing 23 entrepreneurs, this study found evidence to support the presence of the four original modalities as well as a fifth -brokerage. The results of this study support a new theory of entrepreneurial work that offers: a) a new five-category typology of how entrepreneurs pattern their work, specifically based on their use of methods, tools, and resources to create value for their customers, and b) propositions suggesting relationships between each of the five modalities, entrepreneurial success, and organizational form. The new five-category typology consists of: 1) art, 2) craft, 3) engineering, 4) bricolage, and 5) brokerage. Among the five patterns of entrepreneurial activity, engineering and brokerage were found to have achieved the highest levels of financial success; however, none of the modalities appeared to be related to the longevity of the ventures. The category of engineering also seemed to be the most closely associated with organizational growth and formal hierarchical structures, while entrepreneurs who relied exclusively on bricolage experienced little growth and flat organizational structures. The implications from these observations are that patterns of activity are consequential for organizational growth and that financial success, while helpful and desirable, is not necessary for entrepreneurial ventures to survive for long periods of time.

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