New research explores how entrepreneurship is anchored in well-being and agency
As a self-organizing act, entrepreneurship is a significant feature of and force within modern life that is intimately related to individuals’ growth, development, and well-being. New research, led by Dr. Nadav Shir at the House of Innovation, presents a dynamic perspective on entrepreneurship and well-being anchored in deeper philosophical views on the essence of well-being and entrepreneurship as a value-driven agency. This unique study is founded upon the claim that the life of enterprising—from deliberating over and setting the goal of starting a new venture to initiating first actions and striving for its realization—is dynamic and multifaceted, and linked to accompanying dynamics in individuals’ self-understanding and well-being.
By referring to entrepreneurship as a self- organizing act, this research emphasizes the active stance that individuals take in pursuing new business activities and the exploration of order through personal resonance that these activities permit.
As claimed by the researchers: “This approach enables us to regard entrepreneurship as a purposeful movement toward the realization of freedom through unique and rational self-expression, making entrepreneurship a crucial feature of modern life and engagement. What separates entrepreneurs from regular employees, then, is not simply that they are self-employed at a given point in time, but rather that they enact decisional rights in the continuous making and pursuit of a vision.”
The unique quality of entrepreneurship underscored by the self- organizing view is thus not the existence of opportunities to create profit, but rather that of opportunities for individuals to explore and exercise their agency—to set and strive for what they envision to be meaningful ends. Entrepreneurship, in other words, serves as a unique and crucial force of engagement that grants individuals the freedom to align their moral vision with the actions they take in the material world of the market. Given the increasing emphasis in modernity on individual authenticity, self-expression, and originality, entrepreneurship is uniquely positioned to fulfill peoples’ values and aspirations, expand their world, and provide opportunities to cultivate a unique and original personality.
The ideas developed in this study thus point ahead to broader questions about the true meaning of entrepreneurial success. Given its self-organized dynamics, the researchers conclude, entrepreneurship ought, crucially, to be seen not only as a process of business making, but also as a political, ethical, and communitarian force. When it is successful, it results in greater personal and social well-being, and contributes to our shared sense of security and the fundamental trust we have toward each other and the world.
Accordingly, the implications of this new understanding of entrepreneurship as a self-organizing act and its links to ethics and the good life are immense, spanning from a new understanding of how to measure and model entrepreneurship, to how we approach overall success in this domain.
This research also represents one of few times in the history of the field of business and entrepreneurship that a major social scientist – Professor Carol D. Ryff – contributes openly to the field. Professor Ryff is considered today one of the leading and most influential psychologists in the world and has pioneered the field of psychological well-being – with its inception in the 80's. Dr. Shir and Dr. Ryff have collaborated over the last few years to bring the fields of entrepreneurship and well-being closer, and to provide a rigorous theoretical lens by which future economic and social research can explore the unique contribution of entrepreneurship to modern life and engagement.
House of Innovation, Stockholm School of Economics
Carol D. Ryff
University of Wisconsin-Madison