Digital Social Innovation

New co-authored article on digital social innovation and physical distancing.

Some highlights:

  • Physical distancing constraints promote digital brokering and digitized services.
  • New entrepreneurial actors engage in improvised venturing to create social innovation.
  • Existing ventures engage in rapid pivoting and pro-social product extension.
  • Social innovation in response to crisis can be ephemeral or enduring.

Abstract: As physical distancing is a core measure of containing the spread of COVID-19, this pandemic is a crisis that has uprooted social interaction. While current research mainly focuses on crises as a challenge for entrepreneurial ventures and potential regulatory response mechanisms, we complement this research by addressing the question of how crises in general—and COVID-19’s physical distancing measures in particular—shape entrepreneurial opportunities for social innovation. Based on two rounds of data collection—desktop research mapping out 95 entrepreneurial activities in Germany and four focus groups—we find first that entrepreneurs are proactive agents in alleviating the negative consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. They do so by creating two types of digital social innovation: digital brokering and digitized services. Second, we note that negative societal consequences of crises can be buffered by shifts in entrepreneurs’ strategic orientation through improvised venturing, rapid pivoting and pro-social product extension. Third, we note variance in the persistence of changes with consequences for entrepreneurial opportunities and social innovation: Whereas some social innovation are rather ephemeral, others might endure and promise long-term impacts. We offer key insights for the literature on crisis, social innovation and hybrid organizing as well as on the implications for entrepreneurship practice and policy.

Hybridity & Liability of Novelty

In this new piece co-authored with Michael Smets, we explain that ventures may face not only a liability of newness but also a liability of novelty. The legitimacy threshold for ventures that are institutionally novel is higher than for those that are merely organizationally new. This is because they face both additional descriptive and evaluative liabilities. A new organizational form can be both “not understood” & “not accepted”.

Inclusive digital platform innovation in the face of COVID-19

Numerous digital platforms have emerged as a go-to response to the Covid-19 crisis – building on conventional platform characteristics, but using alternative, more inclusive organisational models.

Platforms face opportunities of market, motivation & momentum to address spatial, social & scale/speed challenges.

By offering the innovations that people most need right now, more inclusive platform alternatives may now have an opportunity to step up and secure a more significant role in the platform economy of the future.

The article is co-authored with Nicolas Friederici and Philip Meier.

Inhibitors to entrepreneurial competencies

Delighted to announce that the article “Individual and organizational inhibitors to the development of entrepreneurial competencies in universities” co-authored with Thomas Bohné finally got published at Research Policy.ResPolThe article:

  • Studies inhibitors to nascent academic entrepreneurs’ development of entrepreneurial competencies.
  • Classifies inhibitors into relational, structural, and cultural-cognitive categories.•
  • Shows that inhibitors exist both at individual and organizational levels.
  • Advances theoretical understanding of the interrelated and multilevel functions of inhibitors.
  • Suggests as policy implications a comprehensive yet decentralized approach for the development of entrepreneurial competencies.


Unpacking entrepreneurial opportunities

The paper “Unpacking entrepreneurial opportunities: an institutional logics perspective” has just been published in Innovation: Organization & Management. The article can be found here.

Abstract: Taking into account the institutional context, I refine and broadenRIMP the concept of entrepreneurial opportunities by introducing micro-level evaluative criteria based on underlying macro-level institutional logics. The existing focus on so-called lucrative opportunities, which is implicitly based on a market logic, narrows the overall actual set of potential opportunities, and neglects what I call the opportunity–entrepreneur desirability nexus. Enterprising individuals evaluate and pursue entrepreneurial opportunities based on various and frequently combined underlying institutional logics. The extensive institutional theory literature on managing diverse and sometimes contradictory institutional demands, for instance in the pursuit of hybrid ventures, thus offers theoretical insights that are appropriate and expedient for the analysis and theoretical advancement of the entrepreneurial opportunity notion.

Foreword: Entrepreneurship & Management in an Islamic Context

The book “Entrepreneurship and Management in an Islamic Context” is now available. I was asked to write the Foreword, which I am happy to share here:

I am honored and humbled to write this Foreword for a handbook that presents a comprehensive overview in an emerging area of research offering manifold insights for theory and practice. The oeuvre in front of you reaches across space from Ghana, Jordon, Lebanon to the UAE; across time from early Islam to the present; across categories such as ethnicity, gender, nationalities and age; and across topics from Islamic Entrepreneurship, Finance, Leadership to Management. It also tackles both text and context: from sacred scripture up to profane practice.

While religion matters in entrepreneurship and management practice, its theory and theorization is dominated by a sacralized secular hegemony. Yet, religion is a social fact that matters in and around organizations; and the social sciences explain – not prescribe – reality. Islam specifically is the second largest religion in the world with a growing number of adherents. Religion in general and Islam in particular thus warrants much more critical engagement and analysis through management scholars. Such scholarly pursuits connect work with worship to examine what I call ‘wor(k)ship’, whereby religious people wish to do well while adhering to their faith, rather than compartmentalizing their lives into different spheres.

The false dichotomy between the public and private, the professional and the personal underlies a deep desire to structure and categorize, to identify and delineate boundaries in a complex modernity. These socially constructed boundaries enable and constrain us concurrently. They are double-edged swords. The predominant scholarly pursuit for parsimonious explanations as well as the increase of scholarly specialization has lead to jurisdictions within our very own professional communities and the partitioning of the objects of inquiry. This handbook, in contrast, offers an interdisciplinary approach that bridges rather than reinforces artificial boundaries.

Even more so, I believe that, unfortunately, the theoretical partitioning has permeated the very phenomena to an extent that theory does not simply explain, but rather forms reality. Academics may wish to restrain the world through theory and thus fall trap to the attempt to create a world according to their sometimes too simplistic imagination, rather than depicting the richness of reality. The handbook at hand offers a counterpoint. This may also help bridging what is sometimes called in the Christian faith the Sunday-Monday divide and whose equivalent may be the Friday-Saturday or Thursday-Friday divide for Muslims. The handbook thus offers practitioners a mirror to their religiously shaped intent, rather than to their learnt and potentially unintended practices.

I am grateful to the editors Veland Ramadani, Léo-Paul Dana, Shqipe Gërguri-Rashiti and Vanessa Ratten and the many contributors that they have taken upon themselves to push our knowledge frontier forward – in a realm that (still) faces many challenges. Religion is an integral part of our social and societal spheres, i.e., our soci(et)al context; yet largely absent from our literatures. This work is a significant step to counter that neglect by zooming in on the Islamic context. It remains for me to say to the reader that I wish this to be an illuminating, thought and practice challenging and changing read.