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New research: literature, fiction, and the family business

In recent years, scholars have become increasingly interested in understanding the challenges and opportunities of building entrepreneurial family businesses from different perspectives. Most researchers in this area tend to draw on insights from the management and economics disciplines for theoretical and methodological guidance. However, other subjects, like psychology, family sciences, and history, have also been emphasized – and now even the humanities.

New research from the House of Innovation shows how and why the humanities –specifically, literature and literary studies – is relevant for a deeper understanding of entrepreneurship and family businesses. This research focuses on two ways in which literary fiction can help us achieve this.

First, the research posits that text produced as literary fiction can help us capture and describe important entrepreneurship and family business phenomena that may be difficult to access through other forms of inquiry. And second, it posits that literary fiction may increase our understanding of human, social, and organizational development. This latter point reflects a strength of the humanities and literary studies that can be imported into family business research.

The humanities can help us to capture and account for the role of human, emotional, cultural, and relational experiences that make up the everyday life of family businesses and that constitute the essence of the priorities, interests, and values that guide their people’s and group’s entrepreneurial decisions and choices.

Holistic and multifaceted depictions

Literary scholars have argued that literature and fiction allow us to see holistic and multifaceted depictions of human and organizational affairs. This is because authors and fiction writers are often concentrated with the complex, the open, and the ambiguous rather than the reductive and the simple. This new research from the House of Innovation is important because it builds knowledge around how these depictions can be imported into entrepreneurship and family business education and research to empower it.

The research suggests that drawing on literature and fiction may deeply engage both scholars and practitioners to see research topics from new perspectives, and to embrace new ways of interpreting and making sense of the observations generated in business research.

”The intention of using literature and fiction in family business studies is to expand our ability to see more of the details, the complexities, and the richness of families and their businesses and entrepreneurial endeavors, and, through this greater depth and scope of vision, generate insights and understandings that will be valuable to all those who are a part of the entrepreneurship and family business community (e.g., scholars, owners, families, employees of family businesses, advisors, etc.).”


Mattias Nordqvist
House of Innovation, Stockholm School of Economics

William B. Gartner
Babson College

House of Innovation Entrepreneurship Family economics Literature Management Article Journal Publication Research