The co-construction of entrepreneurial sensemaking: an empirical examination of socially situated cognitive mechanisms in entrepreneurial cognitive development

Gabi Anja Kaffka

    Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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    This dissertation focuses on the topic of entrepreneurial cognitive development during business opportunity development. Business opportunity development takes place in a social context and is affected by the entrepreneur’s (inter)action with relevant stakeholders (Clarke & Cornelissen, 2011). Entrepreneurial researchers acknowledge the socially situated nature of entrepreneurial cognition (Mitchell et al., 2011). The research question central to this thesis is the following: How do socially situated cognitive mechanisms affect entrepreneurial cognitive development during business opportunity development? To answer this question, we undertook four empirical studies among entrepreneurs who participated in an institutional incubation/acceleration program. Theoretically, our findings contribute to conceptualizing the co-constructed nature of entrepreneurial sensemaking. In particular, the results of our research show language enables (meta-)cognitive development of entrepreneurs by means of socially situated cognitive mechanisms and demonstrate how entrepreneurs develop (meta-)cognitive skills through communicative interaction. Furthermore, this dissertation contributes methodically: By employing the diary method, we answer to Shepherd’s (2015) call for methodological experimentation and modernisation in scientific entrepreneurship research. On a practical level, entrepreneurs can leverage the insights from the empirical studies to reflect on and become (more) aware of being a particular ‘type’ of entrepreneur, particularly related to their previous entrepreneurial experience and the type of opportunity they are developing. Entrepreneurs can be more intentional about the set-up of a ‘community of inquiry’ (Shepherd & Patzelt, 2017) in which they can engage in thought exchange and leverage feedback from relevant stakeholders that help to shape the business opportunity. Students and academic researchers can benefit from our findings as well. The socially situated cognitive mechanisms can easily be integrated into experiential learning approaches which put emphasis on the development of soft skills, presentational skills and interpersonal communication, and which are considered important for higher education in general (Kolb & Kolb, 2005) and in entrepreneurial thinking in particular (Krueger, 2007). This dissertation also provides useful insights for the design of business incubation/acceleration programs.. For example, policy-makers can leverage the conceptualization of the process and outcomes of stakeholder interaction offered in the empirical studies in order to develop indicators for monitoring and evaluation of the efficient use of both coaching and panel interactions.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Twente
    • Groen, Aard, Supervisor
    • Kraaijenbrink, J., Co-Supervisor
    Award date24 May 2017
    Place of PublicationEnschede
    Print ISBNs978-90-365-4320-0
    Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2017


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