Entrepreneurial Improvisation is Like “Jumping Rock to Rock Up a Stream”

HoppingCreekStones2010-10-04.jpg“Crossing the Sulphurous River.” Source of caption and photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/33506763@N00/211985842#/photos/sparlingo/211985842/lightbox/

In The Venturesome Economy book, and later (pp. 129 and 142) in the book quoted below, Bhidé describes the entrepreneur’s decision process as “improvisation.”

(p. 18) Entrepreneurs who start uncertain businesses with limited funds have little reason to devote much effort to prior planning and research. They cannot afford to spend much time or money on the research; the modest likely profit doesn’t merit much; and the high uncertainty of the business limits its value.

Sketchy planning and high uncertainty require entrepreneurs to adapt to many unanticipated problems and opportunities. One entrepreneur likens the process of starting a new business to jumping from rock to rock up a stream rather than constructing the Golden Gate Bridge from a detailed blueprint. Often, to borrow a term from Elster’s discussion of biological evolution, entrepreneurs adapt to unexpected circumstances in an “opportunistic” fashion: Their response derives from a spur-of-the- moment calculation made to maximize immediate cash flow. Capital-constrained entrepreneurs cannot afford to sacrifice short-term cash for long-term profits. They have to play rapid-fire pinball rather than a strategic game of chess.

Source:
Bhidé, Amar. The Origin and Evolution of New Businesses. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
[Note to self: the search phrase “jumping rock stream” seems most productive of relevant images]

Chris_and_Andrea_Jumping_from_Rock_to_Rock_Up_a_Stream.JPG“Chris and Andrea Jumping from Rock to Rock Up a Stream.” Source of caption and photo: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/Q-FvMT8GFG7kZdvUm8d_Jw

JumpingRiverRocks2010-10-04cropped.jpg

“Girl (10-12) jumping on rocks in river.” Source of caption and photo: http://cache4.asset-cache.net/xc/200447463-001.jpg?v=1&c=NewsMaker&k=2&d=B3B7071D257FC0393BFC8E309AE4811E35B7CE0CF91BE8709437A3EAE6A5D3E800123AA3B5A18ED0

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