Bricolage theory of entrepreneurship

What is the bricolage theory of entrepreneurship?

Bricolage theory is credited to Levi-Strauss (1962) who was a French anthropologist who introduced the concept of bricolage entrepreneurship as he tried to show that “savage” (aboriginal) peoples were just as entrepreneurial as “civilized” peoples. He compared the “bricoleur” to the “engineer” in his book entitled The Savage Mind.

Unlike the engineer, the bricoleur would “make do” with the material at hand to concoct whatever tools he/she needed to accomplish a particular project as it develops. By contrast, the engineer plans ahead, gains access to all that is needed to complete a project before starting. Thus, the bricoleur is seen as contrasting with the rational view as projects are accomplished by solving problems as they emerge, with whatever is available rather than what is really needed. The bricoleur practices radical experimentation rather than planning ahead.

Bricolage theory is mainly focused on explaining how entrepreneurship emerges in economically depressed, or resource-poor areas. The concept of making something out of nothing is the key driver of the theory. “Nothing” refers to under-utilized resources that can be recombined into productive resources. Baker and Nelson (2005) give the example of retrofitting machines or software to be used for purposes they were not intended for, with the creation of appendages and hacks.

Resources at hand are those resources that are readily available in the environment of the entrepreneur, such that their acquisition and use does not require great effort or extensive capital. Entrepreneurs that make use of resources at hand are viewed as individuals that refuse to accept the limitations of their environments. Instead, they act despite socially constructed limitations, and shun standards or traditional definitions of legitimate inputs.

Bricolage may be used in different domains such as physical inputs, human resources, markets, human capital, and institutional, however, there is limited empirical research examining the theory.

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Sources:

Lévi-Strauss, C. (1962). La pensée sauvage (Vol. 289). Paris: Plon.

Baker, T., and Nelson, R. E. (2005). Creating something from nothing: Resource construction through entrepreneurial bricolage. Administrative science quarterly, 50(3), 329-366.

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