A Complex Ecological Worldview Of Entrepreneurship

The right worldview is a necessary precondition for sustainable and effective design. If the world view is reductionist or simplistic, ignoring important unknowns, the design will reflect this weakness. As entrepreneurship is a naturally complex system, it is necessary to study entrepreneurial phenomena by applying the frame of complexity science. Despite this reality, most entrepreneurship models and perspectives are reductionist in their origin, prescription, or omission. To solve this weakness it is necessary to adopt an ecological worldview, i.e a complex, dynamic, connected, and evolving ecology.

In order to understand the ecological view, let’s first go through some of the possible world views or alternatives. After that, I will try to highlight how an ecological view is different from other world views.

1. Single Model world view: 

This is the world view based on a single model, tool, or method which assumes superiority over all others. This can be equated to what Charlie Munger calls, “Man with a Hammer” syndrome, which is the idea that if an individual has only one tool or model(e.g. hammer), he’ll approach all of his problems with the same solution, i.e. a hammer. For a man with a hammer, everything around him will seem like a nail. Most models in entrepreneurship come under this category. They are proposed as solutions for the problems of the existing one and are pitched as better than the previous one. E.g. Lean startup Vs Business planning or any other model that is proposed as vastly superior to others. 

2. Multiple-Model Ensembles: 

This worldview suggests the complementary use of multiple models or methods. This is the same idea as suggested by Scott Page(2018) and the ensemble forecasting model (Leutbecher and Palmer, 2008) used in weather prediction. In entrepreneurship, multiple model worldview can be found in many scholarly works. For e.g. Sarasvathy(2001) stressed the importance of both effectuation and causation. Mansoori and Lackéus(2019) and Grichnik et al. 2017 suggested using multiple methods complementing each other. This worldview is by default inclusive of the previous one. A very commonplace in which multiple models are used in this way is the university curriculum. 

3. Cognitive-Diversity world view: 

This world view suggests using not only formal models or methods but all kinds of cognitive diversity. E.g. Models, methods, theories, heuristics, etc. Scott Page defines Cognitive Diversity as “Differences in information, knowledge, representations, mental models, and heuristic, to better outcomes on specific tasks such as problem-solving, predicting, and innovating (Page, 2017,14-15)“. To me, the weakness of this view is in its cognitive reductionism. Even though this world view is by default inclusive of all the previous ones, any cognitive alone worldview can be criticized for lack of ecological basis (Gibson, 1979; Varela et al., 1991; Clark, 1997).

4. Holistic Diversity worldview:

 Apart from cognitive diversity, Page(2017) also talks about identity diversity, i.e. the differences in race, gender, age, physical capabilities, and sexual orientation. There are other frames to view diversities like; Biodiversity, which can be defined as variety in all forms of life—from genes to species to ecosystems; Cultural diversity, which can be defined as differences, such as in language, religion, dress and moral codes that exist between people according to race and ethnicity. Tool diversity suggesting for the use of multiple tools for the same task to increase output accuracy by reducing systematic errors. Artifact diversity refers to the number of different classes of artifacts and their relative proportions. In short, this world view suggests the existence of not only Cognitive-Diversity but also, all other kinds of diversity, i.e. diversity in people, biology, identity, networks, information sources, relational-expertise, institutions, culture, location, specialization, artifacts, tools, etc. This world view is by default inclusive of all the previous ones.

What is Ecological Worldview

Ecological View to me includes a continuous effort to capture the true ecological reality in its dynamics. In addition to the previously listed holistic diversity, this view is inclusive of realities like complexity, dynamics, evolution, connectedness, interaction, etc. Complexity involves features and interactive dynamics as in a complex adaptive system. The idea of evolution suggests that existing elements interact, evolve, co-evolve into new diversities, variations, etc. It must also involve cumulative cultural evolution(and intelligence) as proposed by human cultural evolution studies (Tennie et al, 2009; Mesoudi and Thornton, 2018). In addition, an ecology is connected, hence no clear local-global separation is possible. This is particularly significant in human social ecology. Finally, the ecological view involves the use of contextualized sense-making that suggests that every human context is an emergent property and hence each context has unique types of characters.

This ecological worldview is by default inclusive of all the previous ones.

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