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Storytelling in the development of entrepreneurial identities
Universitat Ramon Lull.
Jönköping University, Jönköping International Business School, JIBS, Business Administration. Jönköping University, Jönköping International Business School, JIBS, Center for Family Enterprise and Ownership (CeFEO). Universitat Ramon Lull.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6186-0659
2013 (English)In: 5th Conference on Rhetoric and Narratives, ESADE, Barcelona, 25-27 March, 2013., 2013Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The notion that the development of an entrepreneurial identity in individuals has important consequences for their subsequent entrepreneurial intentions and behaviors has gained increased attention in the entrepreneurship literature (Fauchart & Gruber, 2011). Most of this emerging literature has hitherto focused on the relationship between an individual’s entrepreneurial identity, i.e. between people’s self-concepts based on some form of entrepreneurial role identity (Cardon et al., 2009), or an entrepreneurial social identity (Fauchart & Gruber, 2011), and a broad set of entrepreneurial processes and outcomes. The main idea is thus that if a person’s self- concept is aligned with what could be construed as an entrepreneurial identity, a set of predictions could be made regarding this person’s entrepreneurial motivations, intentions and behaviors, all of which has important consequences for the study of entrepreneurship.

But how does an entrepreneurial role or social identity develop in an individual? The literature has so far been rather silent not only on the antecedents of entrepreneurial identities, but also on the processes by which such identities develop over time. Theories of narrative identity and the psychology of life stories (McAdams, 2001), which posit that a person’s identity is an internalized narrative of the self that evolves over time, provide relevant insights for understanding where entrepreneurial self-concepts may come from and how they may develop. People construe stories to imbue their life experiences with meaning, and to integrate what could be disparate life episodes and events into a coherent life trajectory that can be understood by themselves and by others.

Hence, the development of an entrepreneurial identity could be conceptualized as a specific type of evolving self-narrative with a specific kind of meaning. This self-narrative should not only include the basic elements that would make it “entrepreneurial” in meaning, but it should also include the main elements that would make it a “story.” In this paper, we draw on narrative theories to make a number of propositions regarding what constitutes an entrepreneurial identity in terms of narrative structure, drawing on McAdams’ (2001) conceptualization of a life story as a narrative complete with setting, scenes, characters, plot and themes. We also draw on theories of entrepreneurship and develop propositions regarding what constitutes an identity with entrepreneurial meaning. Furthermore, we explain a number of mechanisms by which these elements may change over time, explaining why some individuals may develop entrepreneurial identities over the span of their life courses.

According to McAdams’ life story model of identity (2001), a person’s identity can be conceptualized as an internalized and evolving self-story that provides meaning to one’s experience. In other words, an individual’s identity can be thought of as a psychosocial construction (a construction that is coauthored by the person and its cultural context) that takes the structural form of a story. But what constitutes a story? And, more specifically, what constitutes a life story in terms of narrative structure? Drawing on McAdams’ (2001) model, we conceptualize a life story as a canonical type of narrative structure that includes the following components: (1) a set of identifiable themes that weave together (2) a plot line that is projected on (3) a character (or focal actor) that is embedded in (4) a social and cultural setting

Stories differ in their constitutive elements (i.e. themes, plot, characters and setting), so what is that makes a story an “entrepreneurial story? In terms of themes identified in the literature, a common thematic thread that weaves entrepreneurial stories is the creation and engagement with a new economic (and social) activity (Davidsson, 2004). This theme usually implies the arrangement of activities and motivations around identifying new means-ends frameworks and organizing and managing resources required for their execution (Chandler & Hanks, 1994). An entrepreneurial story can have many alternative plot lines. The plot line allows the storyteller to convey the significance of some events and not others, to elaborate on some events while omitting others, to draw connections between events that may not seem related, or to omit making connections between events that appear related. In short, the plot allows the storyteller to imbue meaning into a sequence of events and allows the audience to understand the significance of these specific events or, in other words, to make sense of the story. A narrative structure in the form of a story will thus contain “poetic tropes,” which are mechanisms aimed at linking the events of a story and to imbue them with meaning. Examples of these mechanisms are: attributions of causal connections, attributions of agency, attributions of responsibility, attributions of motives or attributions of emotion (Gabriel, 2004). A common plot line in an entrepreneurial story consists of the identification of a problem and the creation of a solution, resulting in a satisfactory outcome for both the entrepreneur and society (Bhave, 1994). This plot line represents a canonical type of cause-effect relationship expressed in the problem-solution dichotomy. The character of a life story consists obviously of the focal person in question and, in the case of an entrepreneurial story, the focal actor is the entrepreneur. Finally, an entrepreneurial story is embedded in a social and cultural setting that helps imbue it with meaning. An entrepreneurial story often invokes an individual’s human and social capital – the acquired knowledge and experience as well as social group membership (Stryker, 1980; Tajfel & Turner, 1985), as well as cultural norms that are proper and acceptable given a set of socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs and definitions (Suchman, 1995).

In short, in this paper we develop a series of propositions linking the key constitutive components of a life story to entrepreneurship constructs, thus offering a theoretical explanation of how an entrepreneurial identity, conceptualized as a specific type of story, comes into being. Furthermore, we theorize about how these elements may change over time and its impact on the emergence and development of an entrepreneurial identity over the life course.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013.
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hj:diva-29118OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hj-29118DiVA, id: diva2:895431
Conference
Rhetoric & Narratives in Management Research 2013: 5th Conference on Rhetoric and Narratives, ESADE
Available from: 2016-01-19 Created: 2016-01-19 Last updated: 2016-01-19Bibliographically approved

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Markowska, Magdalena

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