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New research: understanding entrepreneurial opportunities through metaphors

An important process that occurs at the nexus of entrepreneurship and family is the creation of new opportunities for one’s self and one’s kin. But this is not an easy task. There are many challenges that come with facing this unfamiliar and uncharted territory. For this reason, it makes sense that the journey be narrated in the form of metaphors embedded in family discourse. Yet, little is known about how these narratives are constructed or used.

Co-authored research from the House of Innovation explores how metaphors provide a way for families involved in entrepreneurship to build a shared understanding of opportunities and challenges. The study examines which metaphors specific entrepreneurial families use when they talk about future opportunities.

According to the research, metaphors provide meaning to entrepreneurial families in three dimensions: a factual one (relating to facts about the world, such as the creation of a new venture), a social one (related to social bonds), and a temporal dimension (related to the ‘before-after’ aspects of opportunity creation). The study supports the conclusion that metaphors are developed and used to nurture entrepreneurship across generations by building bridges of understanding, factually, socially, and temporally.

Further, the research contributes to family entrepreneurship theory by demonstrating how metaphors of entrepreneurial opportunity are shared with and ‘imprinted’ on family members. More practically, this study suggests that through metaphors, family members in business may be able to simplify approaches to entrepreneurial opportunities and make them familiar over generations. Metaphors can evoke the same impact as a fully fleshed out narrative because they are reminders of such stories which are already familiar and embedded in the minds of the entrepreneurial family.

The main contribution of this research is in establishing the link between metaphor and family entrepreneurship and in opening up new possibilities for future studies in the field.


Allan Discua Cruz
Department of Entrepreneurship and Strategy, Lancaster University management School

Eleanor Hamilton
Department of Entrepreneurship and Strategy, Lancaster University management School

Sarah Jack
House of Innovation, Stockholm School of Economics

House of Innovation Entrepreneurship Family economics Literature Article Journal Publication Research