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15 Typpologies Entrepreneurship Essay

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Published in Brauchlin E., Pichler, J.H. (Eds) (2000) «Unternehmer und Unternehmensperspektiven für Klein- und Mittelunternehmen», Festschrift für Hans Jobst Pleitner, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin/ St. Gallen : 163-172.


Louis Jacques FILION
Working paper no 2000-15
December 2000

ISSN : 0840-853X
Copyright © 2000 - École des Hautes Études Commerciales (HEC), Montréal. Tous droits réservés pour tous pays. Toute traduction ou toute reproduction sous quelque forme que ce soit est interdite. Les textes publiés dans la série des cahiers de recherche de la Chaire d’entrepreneurship Maclean Hunter n’engagent que la responsabilité de leurs auteurs


Whatever their field of study, researchers who wish to examine elements in more detail generally opt for a classification approach. One way of classifying elements is to establish typologies. Many such typologies are now available in the field of entrepreneurship. This working paper begins by addressing the origins of typological thinking and then goes on to consider some of its applications to entrepreneurship. The paper presents a summary of entrepreneurship typologies in table form, and examines the criteria most commonly used to develop entrepreneurial typologies. It ends with a discussion of the uses and utility of entrepreneurial typologies.

To study a subject – any subject – in depth, it is useful to classify information in order to achieve a higher level of understanding and learning. One way of classifying information is to establish typologies. This is a method that has been used extensively in the management sciences. The field of entrepreneurship now offers a plethora of typologies to researchers and students. This paper begins by examining the origins of typological thinking and then addresses its applications in the field of entrepreneurship. It is useful to begin by considering the meaning of the terms. The word typology has its roots in the Greek tupos, meaning, character or model, and logos, meaning discourse. Webster defines the word typology as “the study of types, symbols or symbolism”, while Oxford defines it as “the study of symbolic representation”. Interestingly, neither definition includes the notion of classification, which is covered instead by the term taxonomy: “the science of classification; laws and principles covering the classifying of objects” (Webster), or “that department of science, or of a particular science or subject, which consists in or relates to classification” (Oxford). Taxonomy comes from the Greek taxis, meaning arrangement, order and ordering, and nomos, meaning law or usage. Webster states that the term is used mainly in biology, to mean “a system of arranging animals and plants into natural, related groups based on some factor common to each”.

Webster defines a type as “the general form, structure, plan, style, etc. characterizing or distinguishing the members of a class or group” or “a kind, class or group having distinguishing characteristics in common”. Oxford gives this highly specific definition: “a person or thing that exhibits the characteristic qualities of a class; a representative specimen”. Clearly, then, the notion of classification is implicit in the word type, and the addition of the Greek suffix logy (meaning “department of study” (Oxford)) gives us the meaning of the term as it is currently used in the management sciences, namely the study of a class having distinguishing characteristics in common. There appears to be agreement that the term typology should be used to refer to classifications that are conceptually based, and taxonomy to refer to classifications that are empirically based, although the reason for this is not apparent from the etymology of the words. Management science authors have grouped their thinking on typologies and taxonomies together under the term configurations (Miller, 1996).

In the field of entrepreneurship, typology is the term generally used to describe classifications of types regardless of their basis (see for example Woo, Cooper and Dunkelberg, 1988 and 1991), and it is therefore the term that will be used in the remainder of this text.

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______________________________________________________________________________________ Following on from this brief incursion into semantics, it is also important to stipulate that, generally speaking, types are studied within a predetermined category, usually a professional category. For example, in entrepreneurship it is possible to establish and study different types within separate entrepreneurial categories, such as intrapreneurs, small business owner-managers, family business owner-managers, the self-employed, micro-enterprise owner-managers, entrepreneurs in general and entrepreneurs divided into more specific categories, such as technopreneurs (technological entrepreneurs), social entrepreneurs and collective or coopera...

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