Cleveland State University


The Fulbright Program

Philippe W. Zgheib, PhD

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Assistant Professor, School of Business, American University of Beirut, Lebanon

Cleveland State University, Fall, 2004

Vita | Proposal

To what extent is personal and organizational autonomy a condition for entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship can be defined as the process of identifying, developing, and bringing a vision to life. This foresight may be an innovative idea, an opportunity, or simply a better way to do something. The entrepreneur, as for him, can be described as an innovator who implements change within markets through the carrying out of new combinations (Schumpeter, 1934) or as somebody who fills market deficiencies through input-completing activities (Leibenstein, 1968, 1979). The entrepreneurial path is appealing to "big picture" creative thinkers with a penchant for market strategy and a strong need for autonomy.

Three general questionscan summarize a large part of the research activities on entrepreneurship (Stevenson and Jarillo, 1990; Fayolle, 2002): a. “What”, studied by the economists and focused on the economic system, b. “how”, studied by the managers and centred on the process and c. “Who” and “Why”, studied by the psychologists and focused on the individuals.

In this paper, we would like to focus on the second and (still more) on the third level of questioning through the concept of autonomy. Indeed, the big question in the literature on entrepreneurship is “how can the performance dynamics of independent entrepreneurs be reproduced in dependent employees to become the driving force of a company’s production growth”? Is it possible to organize the company so that the employee’s highest concern is to solve the entrepreneur’s problems, in order to enable him to abandon his rather uncomfortable place between the two milestones which limit his autonomy : above him the prevailing conditions (competitors, shareholders, banks, customers, etc.), below him the workers? Different proposals co-exist such as replacing departments based on a command structure by partially autonomous units, which have to struggle for profit maximization. An another interesting suggestion  is to encourage employees not to react obediently but independently, i.e. not to do what the entrepreneur orders but rather by reacting autonomously, i.e. without coercion, to what he does.

[Read full proposal]

This definition is given by the Center at Miami University of Ohio.

Klaus Peters, Cogito, Cologne (The new autonomy at work, paper prepared for the DGB-Angestelltensekretariat)



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