IC TIG Week: Bernadette Wright on A New Method to Increase Success in Entrepreneurship

I’m Bernadette Wright, founder of Meaningful Evidence, LLC. As an entrepreneur, I noticed a proliferation of books, papers, courses, and other sources espousing conflicting ideas of how to succeed in business and entrepreneurship. For evaluators who are building independent consulting businesses, this makes finding the best ideas for our business difficult.


In my and Dr. Steven E. Wallis’s recent research on entrepreneurship, we found a frequently mentioned problem was a lack of agreement on what entrepreneurship means. Some sources portray entrepreneur as those who start ventures, generally small businesses. Others present entrepreneurship as about being innovative, pursuing opportunity, or filling a need.

Several studies discussed the need to integrate theories of entrepreneurship across disciplines and across levels of analysis (e.g. individual, organizational, and market levels). Studies have also recommended coordinating entrepreneurship theories across research, education, and practice. A 2006 U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) white paper titled Are We Teaching Small Business Management to Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship to Small Business Managers? recommended making teaching more consistent with the literature. However, the fragmentation of theories makes choosing the best theories to teach and apply difficult.

Integrative Propositional Analysis (IPA) is an emerging method to analyze and integrate theories across studies, strategic plans, and other documents. IPA draws on a long research stream related to systems thinking. This scholarship indicates we can improve a model by understanding its structure and making it more inter-connected. We can use IPA combined with empirical data and feedback from stakeholders to assess plans before we implement them.

IPA is a six-step process. For details, see our white paper on “The Science of Conceptual Systems.” Benefits for business leaders include:

  • Lets you choose theories that are more likely to work in the real world (as compared to in the academic world)
  • Gives you more “structured” knowledge, which research indicates increases managers’ chances of success
  • Supports communication, collaboration, and shared understanding
  • Avoids unanticipated consequences

Rad Resource: “A Revolutionary Method to Advance Entrepreneurship Theories” by myself and Steven Wallis. In review, draft available upon request. Discusses our study on using IPA to integrate and improve entrepreneurship theories.

Rad Resource: Casson, M. Entrepreneurship and the theory of the firm. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2005. This study creates an integrated theory combining insights from management and economics.

Rad Resource: “Strategic Knowledge Mapping: The Co-Creation of Useful Knowledge,” by Steven Wallis and myself. Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, 2015. Introduces a gamified version of IPA.

Where do you find business/entrepreneurship information to consider for your business? How might your firm benefit from using theories that are measurably better than your competitors’?

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating IC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Independent Consulting Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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