Saras D. Sarasvathy – Effectuation: Elements of Entrepreneurial Expertise


Published on: May 12, 2021
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This is an extraordinary book, the impact of which may not be recognized for a while. As an entrepreneur and teacher of entrepreneurship at the college level, I believe that there are two reasons why anyone interested in entrepreneurship (or how people behave and make decisions under conditions of uncertainty) should read this book. First, it provides an astute observation of what expert entrepreneurs actually do. Although we sense the way we make decisions and act, it’s fascinating to see this behavior put into words. Second, by understanding part of the process better, we can begin to think about its implications, such as how to be even more effective.

To effectuate is to engage in a specific type of entrepreneurial action. It has special importance for situations where the future is truly unknowable or human agency is of primary importance. In ‘Effectuation’, Saras Sarasvathy explores the theory and techniques of non-predictive control for creating new firms, markets and economic opportunities. Using empirical and theoretical work done in collaboration with Herbert A. Simon, the author employs methods from cognitive science and behavioral economics to develop the notion of entrepreneurial expertise and effectuation. Supportive empirical evidence is provided by the author’s study of 27 entrepreneurs as well as other independent studies.The book then traces the consequences of effectuation for business management, economics and social philosophy. The author finds that effectuators generate constraint-satisfying solutions rather than searching for optimal ones, make rather than find opportunities, and in a deep sense, convert ‘as-if’ propositions into ‘even-if’ ones. The way they accomplish this is the central discussion of the book. Students and scholars of entrepreneurship will find this path-breaking research of great value. The book’s conclusions will also be of interest to those in the fields of behavioral and evolutionary economics, cognitive science, marketing, applied psychology, sociology, business ethics, social philosophy, public policy, anthropology and political science.


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