Actualization theory of entrepreneurial opportunities

The actualization theory of entrepreneurial opportunities introduced by Ramoglou and Tsang (2016) is intended to bridge the gap between discovery and creation theories of entrepreneurial opportunity.

The discovery perspective views entrepreneurial opportunities as existing out there in objective reality waiting to be found and exploited by entrepreneurs. This implies that if an opportunity does not exist, then no amount of effort to exploit it will be fruitful. One would be spinning their wheels! Denying the objective existence of opportunities is a bit like arguing that if Edison had died early, we might not have the electric world we current experience as perhaps only he could subjectively construct the notion of electric light. Clearly it is a stretch to have so little faith in multiple independent invention.

The creation perspective takes the opposite view, suggesting that opportunities do not exist outside of entrepreneurs themselves and are created by their cognitions and actions. This view suggests that Edison could have succeeded in any field of entrepreneurial endeavor had he directed his efforts there. There is some evidence that he dabbled in obscure technologies, but all seem to be uses of electricity, which is the general purpose technology. This is also a bit close to the great man theory.

Actualization theory takes the middle ground, proposing that opportunities are real, but that they are mere propensities that are worthless unless they are found and exploited with the right care and skill (Ramoglou and Tsang, 2016).

Like flower seeds hidden under the surface of the ground, they may remain unborn for some time before the conditions are just right. The entrepreneur comes around to find the seed, water it, and ensure it receives adequate drainage and light.

Thus, the important distinction appears to be that although opportunities may seem to exist objectively, it is not clear if they will be exploited at all and if so well enough to eventually turn them profitable.

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Other discovery theories of entrepreneurship that might interest you:

Sources:

Ramoglou, S., and Tsang, E. W. (2016). A realist perspective of entrepreneurship: Opportunities as propensities. Academy of Management Review, 41(3), 410-434.


Since the name of the theory is inspired by Maslow's self-actualization theory: